Ed Slater: Gloucester helped me out of 'dark place' after motor neurone disease diagnosis

·4 min read
Ed Slater: Gloucester helped me out of 'dark place' after motor neurone disease diagnosis - GETTY IMAGES
Ed Slater: Gloucester helped me out of 'dark place' after motor neurone disease diagnosis - GETTY IMAGES

Ed Slater has praised Gloucester for lifting him out of a dark place after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

The former Leicester Tigers and Gloucester lock completed a 350-mile cycle which started and finished at Kingsholm raising more than £300,000 for the 4ED campaign. The money will go towards raising awareness of MND while also generating funds for his treatment and supporting his young family.

Slater announced his retirement from the game last month after being diagnosed with the devastating degenerative condition.

“After receiving the diagnosis, I was in an extraordinarily dark place, and they [Gloucester] have lifted me out of that. I have got to thank the club,” said the 34-year-old.

“It’s not been easy for them with this life-changing news, but they’ve been great. In some ways, it is a bit of a sliding doors moment for me.

“I am not going to play, the season is going to start soon, I am pulling myself away from the club slowly because I don't want to interrupt George Skivington's plans. It is a real range of emotions.

“I am sure when I get home and everything is quiet, it will be quite sad in some respects, but that will disappear and be proud of everything I have done. When I moved to Gloucester, you are aware of the history and the support, and I remember my first game still.

“We beat Exeter at home in the last minute, and the noise from The Shed blew me away, and it continues to do that.”  There were hundreds in attendance to welcome Slater back to Kingsholm with the bike ride having taken him to Welford Road in Leicester, his hometown of Milton Keynes, and Twickenham before finishing back in Gloucester.

Slater was joined on the ride by Gloucester stars Billy Twelvetrees, Fraser Balmain, Lewis Ludlow along with former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton, and England wing Charlie Sharples. The reaction when Slater arrived back at Kingsholm was heart-warming, and he admits he was left overwhelmed by the support he has received since his diagnosis.

“I can’t believe the reaction of people to turn out like they have,” he said. “The noise when we arrived was amazing.

“I had to keep the tears in to be honest with you. I did have a cry when we came into Gloucester because a lot has changed for me since the diagnosis.

“I’ve had to give up rugby. I’ve had to give up a lot of things.  A lot of this challenge was about proving I could still do something which was very difficult, and it nearly broke me.

“I’ll be honest it nearly broke me but I got through it. That’s why it is so emotional to get back to Gloucester.”

Slater first started experiencing symptoms 11 months ago when he started feeling muscle twitches in his arm, and the MND diagnosis was eventually confirmed by a neurologist after his symptoms began to worsen. The former England Saxons star is being supported by his wife Jo, and his mother Jo along with his three young children.

MND is a degenerative condition which affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord. There is currently no cure, but Slater is determined to raise awareness, and funds in the hope of fighting this illness.

“I’m very aware and lucky in my position that these guys have rallied round me and backed me,” he said.

“I’m also aware that there’s people who’ve got this disease I’ve been diagnosed with and they don’t have the same support.

“We can fundraise for those guys or the Government can pledge £50 million, I don’t think they’ve seen a penny of it yet.

“I’d like to add my voice to that. The money that’s been raised by Doddie Weir which has been amazing in research and development and trying to push drugs to find something that can either slow this down or ideally find a cure.

“That’s everything I aim to do.”