Michael Conway (50), from Renfrew, is remembering his father on the 15th anniversary of this death. Michael’s father, Alexander Conway, lost his battle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) on 11th February 2002.
Alexander was a signwriter/painter who lived in Port Glasgow with his wife Joyce (now 71), and their children Michael and Christopher (who passed away, age 21 in November 1993). Alexander was diagnosed with the terminal illness, MND, in December 2000.
Michael, the third generation of shipbuilders in his family, is married to Carol Ann and dad to Matthew (21) and Rachael (25). He said “We first noticed something was wrong when he started dropping things all the time, especially in work. He was a painter and sometimes dropped his brushes and paint pots.
“When we found out it was MND we were obviously all very worried for him. We had never heard of MND before.
“His symptoms did get much worse very quickly and it became dangerous for him to work. At the time he was working on the ship and he was falling a lot. People in work used to tell me they were worried about him.
“He had to retire due to his MND, during early 2001, and lost his battle a year later when he was 58 years old.
“My dad died on a Monday night and I raced back to Port Glasgow as soon as I heard. The kids were with him (thankfully) on the Friday night before that, so they saw him just before he passed away.”
Michael himself was diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) – a metabolic upset determined by a genetic abnormality present from birth - in May 2016 and his wife, Carol Ann, has been battling breast cancer since October 2015.
“The ALD was thought to be MS at one time, but the final diagnosis came after many MRI Scans, lumbar punctures and other tests. It was spooky because I took my dad to the Southern General Hospital for his first lumbar puncture to help diagnose his MND, where I went for my own, 15 years later to help diagnose my ALD!
“Now my balance is very poor and my memory is bad. There is no medication or cure for ALD. I just have to get on with it.
“Carol Ann is trying her best to cope with her own diagnosis of breast cancer. She had her annual mammogram before Christmas and is doing well. She is on the right track. Unfortunately, she had a suspected stroke two weeks ago and is resting at home at the moment. So, it's been a bit of a challenge in our family at the moment. It just reminds me of our own mortality.
“However, I am focusing on my dad right now because of his anniversary. It was a pleasure to know him and to be his son. I want to remember him by raising awareness of the devastating illness he had.
“I have missed my dad being there and it was all the more painful as he was a very talented sign-writer and painter, with excellent brain to hand co-ordination. Normal kids had wallpaper in their bedrooms – we had giant Disney murals! My children have missed out on having a grandfather and I am taking this time to remember how wonderful it was to have him in our lives, though he was taken far too early.
“I was also talking to my mum recently about Gordon Aikman. She had been on holiday and missed that sad story. He was such young man and raised so much awareness of the disease; he inspired me to share my story and experience too.”