Ed Slater says he has been overwhelmed by the support of the rugby community after being diagnosed with motor neuron disease.
Former Gloucester and Leicester lock Slater announced his retirement from rugby three weeks ago with immediate effect.
The 34-year-old announced he has been diagnosed with the devastating degenerative disease that also battles former sports stars Doddie Weir, Rob Burrow and Len Johnrose.
Fundraising initiatives were launched immediately, with a JustGiving page recently topping £150,000.
And Slater and a group of current and former players arrived back at Gloucester’s site in Kingsholm on Wednesday after a 350-mile bike ride that lasted three days and netted a further £155,000.
Gloucester and Slater created the 4Ed campaign, which initially aims to raise awareness of his diagnosis, generate funds for his treatment and support his young family.
The route passed through Leicester’s Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium, Milton Keynes – Slater’s hometown – and Twickenham before heading back to the West Country, with Slater joined by the likes of Gloucester’s Lewis Ludlow, Billy Twelvetrees and Fraser Balmain.
They were greeted by around 250 Gloucester fans, family and friends, and an emotional Slater said: “I don’t know where to start. I had a little cry coming down Birdlip Hill (seven miles from Kingsholm).
“I’m just a normal guy from Milton Keynes who happened to play a bit of rugby and the way people have been supportive of me since my diagnosis means so much.
“The reception here is humbling and overwhelming. I’ve had incredible support from the club.
“Once I got the diagnosis I was in an extraordinarily dark place and they (Gloucester) got me out of there.
“I cried when we got to Gloucester because a lot has changed for me since being diagnosed. I had to give up rugby. I had to give up a lot.
“A lot of this challenge was about proving that I can still do something that was very difficult and it almost broke me.”
Slater, who has appeared in several England squads and represented England Saxons, joined Gloucester in 2017 after seven years at Leicester where he was club captain.
Reflecting on the past few weeks, he added: “I’ve just decided it (illness) is out of my control, there’s not much I can do about it.
“It’s not going away and it’s not going to change, and it certainly won’t if I’m sitting at home wallowing in self-pity. For me, I just have to keep doing things.
“You think you have a small friendship group of five or six people, then you get bombarded with messages and suddenly you realize that there are many people who care about you.
“I’m not going to help anyone by cooking at home – my kids don’t need it, my wife doesn’t need it, I don’t need it – so I’m committed to moving on and trying to keep that attitude.
“I’m in good headspace to be honest.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/ed-slater-gloucester-leicester-doddie-weir-rob-burrow-b2142655.html Ed Slater is blown away by the support after being diagnosed with motor neuron disease