Former Gloucester rugby star Ed Slater opens up on MND diagnosis

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Ed Slater was diagnosed with motor neuron disease last month.

Slater didn’t think much about it initially until it started happening around the clock and affecting his strength.

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Speak with BBC Breakfast’s Sally Nugenthe said, “I didn’t want to accept that there was anything wrong at that point until I started to lose strength in my arm and hand.”

Slater visited a neurologist earlier this year, who originally ran tests and scans to look for possible injuries, but they found nothing.

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“It was month after month, my arm got weaker and weaker, my grip got weaker and I went to Oxford and was diagnosed with MND,” Slater said.

“A part of me had prepared for it, partly because of the weakness and partly because of the symptoms.

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“I know very close friends of mine who have lost a family member to it, I was able to talk to them about his experience and that’s how I prepared.

“I’m not saying that makes the diagnosis easier – it absolutely doesn’t – but in a way it’s been 11 months of agony, different symptoms, not knowing, searching for different reasons and a definitive diagnosis – sounds strange to say that – but at least it gave me an answer.”

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Slater is one of several former athletes to have been diagnosed with MND in recent years, with former rugby league player Rob Burrow revealing his diagnosis in 2019.

Elsewhere, former Scottish rugby union lock Doddie Weir and former footballers Stephen Darby and Len Johnrose also suffer from the degenerative disease.

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MND affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing weakness that worsens over time – making it a very difficult diagnosis for Slater’s family and wife Jo.

Adjusting after the news, the couple received advice on how to live with it, and Slater took steps to record his voice when his speech is affected.

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“It was almost like a line was drawn in that moment that I hadn’t prepared for,” Slater said.

“Suddenly time had gone faster and that was the hard part, but in a way it gives me a focus on how to help the family and create as little work for them as possible when things change.”

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Slater enjoyed a five-year residency in Gloucester and was considering moving into coaching with her academy even before his diagnosis.

However, he has now had to completely change his plans and tries to take each day as it comes.

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“I feel like I’m fighting something that’s progressing,” he said. “But I have to be aware that I don’t wake up every day looking for something worse.

“I have 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.”

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Following the news of Slater’s diagnosis, Gloucester Rugby launched a Just Giving page to raise money for Slater and his family.

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