THE legendary Sean Kelly, one of Ireland’s greatest ever sportsmen, performed the official launch of the Saddle Up For Epilepsy charity cycle which takes place from Breaffy Sports Arena on Saturday, February 27.
Now in its second year, the event primarily aims to raise awareness about epilepsy and how sufferers can live normal lives. The cycle has an option of two scenic routes to choose from (68k or 128k) and every euro raised will be donated to Epilepsy Ireland services in the west.
Event founder Brenda Quigg, a native of Breaffy Road, Castlebar, raised €15,000 last year for Epilepsy Ireland with the help of her team of volunteers, cyclists, sponsors and event partners. Such was her passion for the cause, she organised the first cycle in less than three months.
Speaking at the launch, she said Saddle Up For Epilepsy is a very important cycle for everybody to support as it aims to raise awareness about epilepsy and the repercussions that stress has on triggering the condition.
Brenda had her first ever simple partial seizure in 2009. She revealed: "At first I choose to ignore it, hoping it would go away. But over the next few years the seizures began to grow in both frequency and intensity, as did my work-related stress.
"I started to suspect something wasn’t right but continued to deny the symptoms to myself. It was in November 2012 after a noctural grand mal seizure that I was diagnosed with left temporal lobe epilepsy.
"Although I was delighted to learn that my scan results were clear, I was then left questioning why did I have a seizure.
"The first step to any recovery is acknowledging to oneself there is a problem. It took me a long time to accept how much stress I was actually under. Neuroscientists have now discovered how chronic stress and cortisol can damage the brain over time.
"I am sure everyone can identify with stress at some time in their lives but if it goes on for too long, like me, you just hit a wall.
"Mine was epilepsy. So that is why this year’s cycle is about raising awareness of one of the biggest triggers of all to epilepsy, stress.
"The science is clear. There is an invisible cost to all our success and achievements. Our physical, emotional and psychological health take a beating over time and sometimes there’s no return.
"Never underestimate the power of the mind. Mindfulness is my therapy and it’s my only protection."
This year Brenda has managed to successfully enrol a number of supportive partners, 13 in all, and seven sponsors. The partners are International Elilepsy Day, Epilepsy Ireland, Sean Kelly Butchers, Breaffy House Resort, The Connaught Telegraph, Fit Science, Cashin Print, Cycling Ireland, Cully & Sully, Learn to Exhale, Cornmarket, the Breadski Brothers, The Bike Clinic, Beaumont Private Ambulance Service and Bosh Bar and Restaurant.
The sponsors are Baxter, Lionbridge, Cashin Print, For Goodness Shakes, Henaghan Health Food, The Breadski Brothers and Banking & Payments Federation Ireland.