I’ve been punched by Martin Johnson, elbowed and stamped on but nothing compares to being told I had MND

ND. I have taken some right old shots in my time – a punch from Martin Johnson, an elbow by Wade Dooley, a stamp by Marius Bosman which ended my Lions tour in 1997. But, let me tell you, nothing compared to that day nearly two years ago when my doctor uttered those three letters and told me I had Motor Neurone Disease.

One of the questions I have been asked most frequently since is ‘has your outlook on life changed?’ Well, I can honestly say that it hasn’t. It has brought us closer together as a family and it has made buttoning up a shirt a damn sight more difficult, but in terms of the way I have tried to live my life nothing much has changed. I still wear horrendous tartan suits, tell even more horrendous jokes and enjoy the odd beer or two.

I have never had time for regrets. I’ve always tried to say yes to everything. Do what you can today and then worry about tomorrow when it comes. This is a philosophy that goes back 27 years to when I was a lanky 19-year-old coming into a Scotland camp for the first time.

I remember how nervous I was to make a good impression. We had a fitness test early the next morning so I was tucked up in bed at 10pm with a cup of cocoa. Then Gary Armstrong, the great scrum half who was my roommate, comes in and says, “Night out. Let’s go.” Of course, the fitness test was horrendous but it was worth it. There’s no such thing as a bad party.

I don’t want to make light of MND, which is a cruel and horrific disease. Basically your brain signals can’t reach your muscles that causes them to waste away to the point of paralysis. It is a terminal disease with no cure and no timetable.

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