Ardee-born author Ruth Fitzmaurice appeared as a guest on The Late Late Show on RTE One on Friday night, speaking to host Ryan Tubridy about her life since husband Simon was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease – and the book she’s written about life since, I Found My Tribe.
Ruth, who grew up in Ardee but now lives in Greystones with her husband Simon and five children, wrote the book to detail her life dealing with Simon’s Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis. Writer and film director Simon was first diagnosed in 2008 and given three to four years to live – but he continues to live in the family home with Ruth and their four boys and one girl.
However, Simon has spent the last number of weeks in hospital, meaning he was unable to attend last night’s live broadcast of the show.
“We were smuggly in love,” she said. “There’s a level of complacency in that, I think. We thought we were amazing. The idea that something bad could happen wasn’t on the cards. There was a huge level of disbelief.
“MND is diagnosed in the absence of other things. It was a long time worrying. It’s a stark diagnosis, only three or four years to live.”
Nine years later, Simon is sill very much with Ruth and her five children Jack, Raife, Arden and twins Sadie and Hunter. Their Greystones home is usually full of nurses and a hive of activity – even before you bring the care of five young children into the equation. Ruth explained that initially, the diagnosis was hard to take.
“It was a lot of shock. Total shock. You have young children so you’re in the day to day,” she said. “You get through the day and then you hold onto eachother at night and cry a lot. It felt like an alternate reality.
“Simon wants to focus on being alive. He doesn’t want to think about dying. That’s what he’s been doing since the start.
Ruth spoke to Ryan about the decision to have a fourth baby in 2011, three years after Simon’s diagnosis. “For me, it was a no-brainer. It was continuing our family and celebrating the fact that he was home. We didn’t think we’d end up with two of them, but we did!
Sadie and Hunter joined the family at that stage and with a big family to look after, she could be forgiven for having bursts of semi-controlled anger on occasion – as she hilariously described on last night’s programme.
“At a certain stage, there is a bit of an angry phase you go through. I’d say there was a year there where I was a mad angry woman.” Ruth told Ryan and the audience of a brilliant story of taking out her anger on a rude motorist on one particular occasion. “I kicked the shit out of his car – it seemed like a good idea at the time!”
She also discussed how swimming at the Cove in Greystones has come to play a huge part in her life, and form much of the basis for the book. “Often times, it’s the best part of my day. Mostly it is the best part of my day.
“There’s something addictive about the cold water, it shocks your body and resets your mood,” Ruth continued. “No matter how crappy I’m feeling, I know I’ll feel better when I get out of the sea. That obviously has an addictive quality.”
Ruth joined actor Tom Vaughan Lawlor (Nidge from Love/Hate), broadcaster Vanessa Feltz and tennis legend Martina Navratilova on last night’s show. You can watch Ruth’s complete 17 minutes interview on the RTE Player by clicking here. I Found My Tribe was released in the summer and quickly became the number one bestselling book in Ireland, with Ruth travelling across the UK and Ireland on a comprehensive and exhaustive press tour.
A native of Ardee, Ruth is the daughter of David and Pat O’Neill. She grew up in the family home on the Carrick Road, where her father operated the doctors’ surgery before it moved out to a standalone premises.