Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, Christiane Brew, 40, struggled to even climb the stairs of her Cambridge home. But thanks to clever surgeons who gave her bionic feet she's now scaling incredible heights. Here she shares her inspirational story...
When my left big toe joint first swelled, I dismissed it as a bunion. Slowly, it grew increasingly misshapen, painful. Then my right foot followed it, and my wrists swelled. In 2008, tests revealed I’d rheumatoid arthritis.
Just climbing upstairs in my Cambridge home was painful. Doctors at Bury St Edmunds Hospital scheduled operations where they’d insert metal pins.
In early February 2012, they fixed my left foot first, then, two weeks later, operated on my right foot. Seeing the post-op X-ray, my bionic feet were impressive!
Laid up during recovery, I talked to a friend online who was planning to climb Everest.
‘Impossible for me!’ I told him, explaining about my diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis and my ops.
‘Anything’s possible,’ he said to me in reply.
And he was right. Maybe not Everest – but I would climb mountains… Doctors warned me not to run but advised me to listen to my body. And they’d said I’d need a wheelchair one day so I’d need to start climbing soon. I’d no time to lose.
I decided to tackle Snowdonia first, and when I’d recovered in June 2012, I did it!
Later that summer, I moved to Tokyo for work. So, in November, I climbed Kita-Dake, Japan’s second-tallest mountain at 3,192m. Next I wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Friends and family sponsored me, and I managed to raise £500 for Arthritis Research UK.
Swimming four times a week, I increased my stamina. On 13 February 2013, I arrived in Africa ready for the six-day hike to the top, with a team of six. It was tough going but I felt invigorated as my new feet powered me on.
On 20 February, we made the final five-hour climb to the 5,895m summit.
Arriving at sunrise, it was a magical moment. ‘These feet are the business!’ I declared, feeling ecstatic.
The impossible became the possible!