200 days

200 days

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200 days.

Being a perfectionist, of course, it had to be precisely 200 days.

Six months and nineteen days between my first multiple sclerosis symptoms and its very diagnosis.

Little did I know that it would eventually transform my life.

It was September 2004, and I had just dropped off my mother at Dublin Airport for her return to Belgium. On the way home, a strange sensation took hold of the left side of my face, as if it had been injected with thick rubber. Thinking nothing of it, I went back to bed to catch up on lost ZZZs.

I slept for hours.

And hours. Continue reading “200 days”

13!

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Thirteen years ago today I moved to Ireland. A teenage dream turned reality.

Little did I know that 2,5 years later, my life would be transformed in a way I had never imagined. Still, there are no regrets, and where anger could have resided, none is left for two chronic illnesses that could easily have been my downfall.

Not one to dwell on issues past, I never allowed myself to live in Oscar Wilde’s famous gutter for a long period. When he said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” I realise I still am that stargazer, that dreamer, that person who loves Irish history and sociology, nature and literature, photography and psychology.

I am also still that believer in historical and moral justice, a dreamer who wants to see eight centuries of domination over Ireland undone, but knowing all too well that from a political and royal viewpoint, this is dream one dream too many. Continue reading “13!”

Kick-Ass Ireland

Sliabh Liag image
Sliabh Liag, County Donegal

Some days I sit still and think about how my life became a dream full-circle.

There’s William Butler Yeats, James Joyce and Brendan Behan.

Seamus Heaney, Jonathan Swift, Colm Tóibín and Samuel Beckett.

Patrick Kavanagh, George Bernard Shaw and Lady Augusta.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree, Land of Heart’s Desire and Yeats’s grave.

Dubliners, Ulysses and Bloomsday.

The mountains, lakes, Dublin, Sligo and the Shannon.

Brú na Boinne, Corcaigh, Beara, Daingean Uí Chúis, Zú Bhaile Átha Cliath, craic agus ceol.

Brian Ború, Michael Collins, Theobald Wolfe Tone and Daniel O’Connell.

Seven hundred years of cruelty, yet still able to endure hard times.

Writers, dancers, taps, tin whistles and uilleann pipes.

Books, almighty libraries and small bookshops selling secrets.

Friendships gained, lost and renewed.

New alliances forged in foothills and strengthened on mountain tops.

“You, the Irish” becoming “Us Irish”.

Utter dedication, loyalty, heartfelt passion and amazement.

Innate decency, long chats and fickle fiddlers, the smallest dance floors filled to the brim.

Haunting voices singing songs at night, softer voices talking about Irish history near the open fire.

Family falling for that Irish dream and character, its people and its truth.

Twelve and a half years of dreaming, believing, seeing and becoming.

Twelve and a half years and counting.

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About Willeke

Neurologically challenged by MS and personally by her will to succeed, Willeke is a disability awareness advocate seeking to improve neurological/MS services in Ireland. By highlighting difficult issues that come with such a diagnosis, she hopes her tenacity can bring some dignity to people most in need of a modern, inclusive healthcare system that looks after every aspect of life.

©WVE and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Irish public transport: access all areas?

The-new-footbridge-was-built-in-2004Ah, public transport in Ireland… Two-track train stations without elevators or escalators. Buses with seats for supposedly elderly or people with disabilities. Crutches or walking sticks that should indicate some form of disability…

People with disabilities have all been there. Literally too tired to walk another mile, they find steep, rusty, wet and windy staircases over train tracks instead of escalators and/or elevators in train stations. Absolutely, public transport in Ireland is slowly moving into the 21st century, with new footbridges being built with elevators inside them, but still… constructing and/or adapting them is not happening fast enough. Continue reading “Irish public transport: access all areas?”

EMSP Spring Conference 2014, Dublin

emspThis year is the European Year of the Brain, and 2014 also marks the 25th birthday of the EMSP, the European MS Platform.

Unequivocally and visibly astonished, that’s what I am right this minute. The quality of yet another MS organisation and the hard work they do, makes me want to jump up and down. Digging deeper into the work of the EMSP because of their upcoming two-day conference in Dublin, I can only say one thing: ‘People with MS are in very, very good hands, with people with- or without MS standing up for them wherever they are.’

Continue reading “EMSP Spring Conference 2014, Dublin”

Caged

In a recent visit to Dublin Zoo, I sat next to a snow leopard who seemed to be contemplating life. It was still early morning, and nobody was around. I sat down right next to the snow leopard for about five minutes, although it could have been longer.

We were taking in each other’s presence and it was a fantastic, soul-searching experience. While sitting there, I thought that so many bad people still roam around freely, creating problems with or for other people who mean well. On the other side of that coin, so many fantastic animals like the snow leopard only seem to have a future on Planet Earth when they’re protected and looked up behind a fence or a window. Continue reading “Caged”

MS Ireland National Meeting Day 2013

Last September, I was invited by the Irish MS Society to take part in a panel discussion at their National Day in Galway. I happily accepted because we all know that I never say no to having a good chat.

The topic of the National Day was ‘being active and interactive’, and the panel discussion covered employment, exercise, being online and volunteering. Trevis Gleason, well-known in the MS stratosphere and a newly addition to the Irish population, interviewed four people with MS: Grace, Anne-Marie, Mark and myself.

These are the videos covering above topics. We were all a bit nervous (no, really?! :)) because of being filmed, but we all did very well. Continue reading “MS Ireland National Meeting Day 2013”

Dublin Speaks No Language

Dublin speaks no language I cannot hear with my heart.

Sings no songs I cannot feel by their touch on my lips.

Holds no love I cannot embrace with my thoughts.

Dublin listens quietly,

Unconditionally.

©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte, 2013

©WVE and Ireland, MS and Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WVE and Ireland, MS and Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

11 years!

Sliabh League, County Donegal
Sliabh League, County Donegal

There aren’t many things in my life that have outnumbered my years in Ireland as I celebrate my 11th anniversary of living in Ireland today. Once again I had to pinch my arm, making sure that I woke up in Clonsilla, Ireland instead of Belgium. Eleven years indeed. Dreams do come true if you want it badly, if you work at it and if you don’t lose focus. Eleven years. Eleven. Eleven. Yes, Billie, eleven!

Love for family and friends obviously outnumbered all the years living in Ireland. Likewise for pets come and gone, as well as my addiction to books, libraries, history and all things Irish. Continue reading “11 years!”

Irish skies

For me, flying is being released from life, on earth and in my mind. Wonder about how people are able to create machines to take you abroad in no time, takes over. Freedom is life. I would rather be free and ill than being stuck in a bad relationship and healthy. Flying and seeing Ireland beneath me time after time is proof that dreams do come true. Seeing Ireland below me is release enough for me to be happy for the rest of my life.

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

Wales from above Continue reading “Irish skies”

Dublin, my Dublin

Pictures of Dublin, my Dublin. Almost 11 years in Ireland, I still consider it a dream come true, a life less ordinary and simply… Ireland: the love of my life.

(Apologies if images are grainy, some were taken with an old-fashioned camera)

Continue reading “Dublin, my Dublin”

So many books, so little time!

Yesterday morning – rain, wind, slight chill in the air – I walked totally wrecked and at snail pace towards the bookshop. Voucher in hand, lots of titles written down on paper, just in case my memory checks out on me again.

For a while now I had been looking at certain books, longing to buy them someday. That day came yesterday. Proud as a turkey all dolled up, I went upstairs to the second-hand part of the shop. As I left the elevator, right in front of my eyes stood Friedrich Nietzsche.

Just as proud he looked, and slightly cheaper than me, I ran towards him and took him with me. Although thrice known for having chosen the wrong man, I decided to take a chance on dear Friedrich… you know all that jazz about living a wild life? That time had now arrived. Continue reading “So many books, so little time!”