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A crowdfunder for former rugby league star Rob Burrow has raised more than £60,000 in less than 24 hours after it was revealed that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).
Leeds Rhinos great, Burrow, spoke on Thursday about his shock at being told he had the degenerative condition for which there is no known cure.
He also thanked fans for their messages of support.
“Today has been a big day for me and my family but I would like you all to know I have read every message and post,” Burrow said on Twitter.
“I can’t explain how overwhelmed I am at the reaction I have had from people throughout our amazing sport. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart!”
MND impacts the brain and nerves causing weakness that worsens over time, according to the NHS.
There is currently no cure and it can shorten life expectancy. However, some people can live with it for many years and treatment can help reduce its impact.
Burrow told The Guardian on Thursday that he was coming to terms with things after his initial shock at the diagnosis. He said he was “fine with dying” but was more worried about the the thought of not being able to watch his three young children grow up.
Yet speaking to the BBC, the 37-year-old also said that he was up for facing the condition head on.
"Maybe it's the athlete in us all, we don't want to lie down and just take it, we want to compete.
"I'm going to get stuck into it, a bit like my career I was doubted and written off a few times so I'm really positive, taking the challenge and that's the best way to be.
"It was a numbing moment, but a week further on [from the diagnosis] I'm in a decent place."
Burrow retired in 2017 after a trophy laden career that saw him play 492 times for Leeds Rhinos as well as being capped 15 times by England.
He is currently the the Rhinos reserve team coach after leading the club’s youth team for the previous two seasons.
Rhinos director of rugby, Kevin Sinfield said that “the news has been a massive shock” for Burrow’s “many former teammates, friends and fans in the game.”
Sinfield added that the Rhinos “will be developing ways we can best support Rob and his family in the future over the next few weeks and will be hoping to announce plans as soon as possible in the New Year.”
Burrow also revealed he had spoken to and received support from former Scotland rugby union international Doddie Weir, who was diagnosed with MND in 2017.
Weir was presented the Helen Rollason Award, which recognises outstanding achievement in the face of adversity, by Princess Anne at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday.
He has also set up the My name’5 Doddie foundation which aims to help improve the lives of those living with MND.
Weir tweeted on Thursday that he had offered Burrow “whatever help and support he might need at what is a difficult time for him.”
Meeting another sportsman suffering from MND had also strengthened his “resolve to help find a solution to this condition,” Weir added.