A DUNDEE footballer has admitted the sport he loves may have contributed to his terminal illness — but insists he doesn’t regret his choice to play.
Earlier this year, the Tele told how former Broughty Athletic centre half Lee Bertie had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) — an incurable muscle wasting condition.
Since publicly revealing his illness, Lee, 38, has been “humbled” by the support and kindness he has received from friends, family and people he had never known before.
Lee, who also played for Lochee United, struggled in the months following the diagnosis not to feel sorry for himself and bitter, but he has now bravely spoken out about how he deals with the condition so that others may learn from his experiences.
Lee, who now lives in Kirriemuir with wife Claire, 38, son Cole, 10, daughters Lois-Lily, seven, and 20-month-old Murran, said: “Farming pesticides, head trauma and athleticism are reported to be recurring features for MND.
“I was a centre half constantly heading the ball and I fractured my eye socket about 10 years ago from a head collision.
“I can’t say for sure that football caused this, but something like two per 100,000 people will suffer from MND in the general population, but if you play a contact sport the threat of getting it increases six or seven times. I wouldn’t change a thing though.”
Lee’s condition has inevitably deteriorated since the diagnosis last October. He said: “At the start I was really self-conscious going outside because of the way I looked when walking. In hindsight, I wasted a lot of time when I could have got out and done things while I still could.
“It took me months to speak to doctors asking for help with anxiety, which is understandably very common with this disease. My advice to anyone who has just been diagnosed, is to do as much as you can while you still can, and try to keep a positive outlook as much as possible.”
Lee is not yet wheelchair bound, but he struggles to get about and he receives ongoing help from his family, GP, MND nurse as well as many other specialists. He still works in IT and he said keeping busy is the best option as it keeps him focused.
He said: “Each time there’s something else I can’t do, I have to adjust to a new normal. You’ve got to keep focused on what you can still do, which is easier said than done a lot of the time.” How quickly MND takes hold varies from person to person and Lee doesn’t know how long he has left, but he wants to thank all those who have helped him.
He said: “Caltech donated and installed a stairlift in the house after reading about me on social media, so I don’t struggle up the stairs anymore. It’s been an absolute Godsend.
“Gordon Deuchars of Broughty Athletic along with my brother, sister and close friends organised fundraising events and there was a family fun day and dinner, and there has been lots of friends who have held various types of events in aid of us.
“We have been overwhelmed and humbled by the support, and would like to thank everyone who has organised, contributed, donated or attended any of these events.
“We’d like to make a special mention to my GP as well who has been amazing. There are just far too many people to mention.”
Lee, right, jumps for a header during a 2002 game.
Lee with wife Claire, son Cole, and daughters Murran (left) and Lois-Lily.
Trophy collecting with Broughty Athletic.