By C-J Green, group HR director at Servest
At 9.30am on the 10th July this year I received a call from Arthritis Research, letting me know I that I had secured a charity place with them for the London Marathon.
Arthritis Research is close to my heart because I contracted chronic juvenile arthritis when I was just 14 months old. It developed from a virus, and in my early years my mobility was restricted. I attended a school for disabled children and had to relearn to walk.
Fast-forward to 2012 and I decided to take part in the gargantuan challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro with some of my colleagues at Servest. In preparation, I set foot in a gym for the first time ever. And promptly fainted. The trainer had to put my feet up on a Swiss ball, while people in the gym looked on at me. Though I was really embarrassed but I didn’t let it stop me.
A few months and a lot of training later, we flew to Tanzania to start the climb. For four days, we walked up the ‘hill’ at a snails pace and did our final ascent in the pitch black of night.
Early morning of the 25th October 2012 we arrived at Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro. It was a tough night and I was really struggling with my joints. But the feeling of making it to the top is like nothing I have ever experienced, I was overwhelmed with an enormous sense of pride for having made it. Standing above the clouds looking at the whitest of snow at the peak remains one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
I had travelled to Africa and walked up that mountain with two letters in my possession. One from my son Toby, who was just eight-years-old at the time, and one from my partner Frazer. They had told me not to open them until I reached the top.
Once we were at the top, I settled down to open them. The letter from Toby said he was proud of me and loves me. The letter from Frazer was a marriage proposal. Luckily we were travelling with a satellite phone so I was able to call Frazer from the top of Kilimanjaro to accept his proposal. We were married in August 2014.
So what was it like climbing Kilimanjaro with arthritis? I am fully mobile but I have good and bad days. Climbing a mountain was a struggle. And I will confess to having a cry a few times due to the pain, but that view from the top was worth it!
It is trickier if I suffer from a cold or I am under the weather, but most people would not be aware that I have an issue. Periodically my husband has to carry me upstairs or lift me out of my chair or bed, but these days we have this thing nailed and I consider myself very lucky.
I am writing about all of this because Kilimanjaro taught me one very crucial thing. If you want something enough, anything is possible. I take this with me on my London marathon journey.
The coming months are going to be hard work. There will be days when I can’t face training and there will be times when the pain may dampen my spirits. But I keep imagining the moment when I will cross the finish line. I will be able to look back on another extraordinary moment of my life and know that I made it.