Former Gloucester lock Ed Slater has opened up weeks after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).
The 34-year-old was forced to retire from rugby union with immediate effect almost a year after he first began to feel muscle twitches in his arm.
Slater didn’t initially think much of it until it started happening 24/7 and affecting his strength.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast’s Sally Nugent, he said: “I didn’t want to face up to the fact that something could be wrong at that point, until I started to lose strength in my arm and my hand.”
Slater visited a neurologist at the start of the year, who originally did tests and scans to look for potential injuries, however they found nothing.
“It was month after month, my arm got weaker and weaker, my grip became weaker and I went to Oxford and was diagnosed with MND,” Slater said.
“Part of me had prepared for that, partly because of the weakness and partly because of the symptoms.
“I know very close friends of mine who have lost a family member to it, was able to speak to them about his experiences and so I prepared myself.
“I’m not saying that makes it easier when you’re diagnosed - it absolutely doesn’t - but in some ways it had been 11 months of torment, different symptoms, not knowing, looking for different reasons, and to have definitive diagnosis - it sounds strange to say this - but at least it gave me an answer.”
Slater is one of a number of former sports persons to be diagnosed with MND in recent years, with former rugby league player Rob Burrow revealing his diagnosis in 2019.
Elsewhere, ex-Scotland rugby union lock Doddie Weir and former footballers Stephen Darby and Len Johnrose also have the degenerative condition.
MND affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord that causes weakness that gets worse over time - making it a very difficult diagnosis to accept for Slater’s family and wife Jo.
The couple have had to adapt following the news and were given advice on how to live with it, as well as Slater taking steps to record his voice for when his speech becomes affected.
“It was almost like in that moment a line had been drawn which I hadn’t prepared for,” said Slater.
“Suddenly time had sped up and that was the difficult bit, but in some ways it gives me a focus how I can help the family, create as little work as possible for them as things change.”
Slater enjoyed a five-year spell in Gloucester and was already considering moving into coaching with their academy before his diagnosis.
However, he has now had to completely change his plans and is trying to take each day as it comes.
“I feel like I’m fighting against something that is progressing,” he said. “But I’ve got to be conscious not to be waking up each day looking for something to be worse.
“I’ve got to take each day as it comes but there are signs. When I spoke to the players here [at Gloucester] I said I need normality. I won’t shy away from it but at the end of the day I’m a normal person.”
Following the news about Slater’s diagnosis, Gloucester Rugby started up a Just Giving page to raise money for Slater and his family.
You can donate here.