Shaun Udal tries to remain upbeat but the former England off-spinner admitted to facing “some really dark days” as he adjusts to living with Parkinson’s disease.
A month before turning 50, in February 2019, Udal was informed by post he had been diagnosed with the degenerative and incurable condition which leaves him with pain in his muscles, more acutely at night.
While the charitable arm of the Professional Cricketers’ Association has been a comforting and ever-present help, Udal’s resolve has also been stretched by the loss of his mother during Covid, followed by the sudden deaths of his brother and then his close friend and ex-Hampshire team-mate Shane Warne.
“There were some really dark days, some horrible thoughts went through my head, that obviously glad that I never did, but I’m not ashamed to say that – it was bloody tough,” the 54-year-old said.
“Within the space of a year I had my diagnosis, my mother passed away during Covid, my brother very unexpectedly passed away as well and my great friend Shane Warne passed away as well.
“Shane was totally unexpected, just as I was getting over my mum and brother, then that happens and that knocked me back again.”
Udal – whose playing career started in 1989, ended in 2010 and included four Test and 11 ODI caps for England – gave a small insight into how the condition was impacting his day-to-day life.
“The pain just grips your body, the muscles go very tense and very painful and your thought processes go very down in the dumps and it affects your mood,” he said.
“You go to bed and you can’t go to sleep because of the pain from the muscles is just too great. You take painkillers and sleeping tablets, the pain is still there and you wake up after an hour’s sleep.
“It’s changed my life, it’s changed my wife’s life and my family’s life but I’ll keep going for as long as I can and I’ll keep going and try to fight it.”
The ongoing care of the Professional Cricketers’ Trust has been described as “astonishing” by Udal, who has not only received help for his condition but also counselling to help him come to terms with the bereavements of loved ones.
This weekend’s Vitality Blast Finals Day is in aid of the Trust, a worthy cause according to Udal, who played in the first ever professional T20 in 2003 and was a winner of the competition with Middlesex in 2008.
“The period of diagnoses was something that I could handle and manage but what happened to my mum, my brother and my great mate Warney (the Australia great who died in March last year, aged 52) I had no control over and didn’t see any of it coming,” he added.
“It’s been incredibly difficult, all three off them passing so quickly but I can’t emphasise enough how important the support network has been around me.
“When you’ve got other horrible thoughts going through your head and thinking who would come to my funeral, would they come to my funeral? I’m not too ashamed to admit that those thoughts happened.
“If I didn’t have the support from the Trust at the start, it’s a big thing to say, but I don’t think I’d be here. I think those dark thoughts would have manifested themselves and it would have been too late to turn anything round.
— Vitality Blast (@VitalityBlast) July 15, 2023
“Having gone through what I went through, I dread to think what could have happened.
“It’s so important to have these people around and the Trust especially I knew were there for me and I knew where to turn. The more awareness the Trust can get the better.”
:: Vitality Blast Finals Day 2023 is supporting the Professional Cricketers’ Trust. The players’ charity provides life-changing and often life-saving support to past and present players. Text TRUSTTEN or TRUSTTWENTY to 70085 to donate £10 or £20 or visit justgiving.com/campaign/blast2023 to find out more and make a donation.