South West Coastal Path Challenge – In memory of Christine Guest Blog by Rebecca Watson Hi Everyone, my name is Rebecca. Last summer my partner Krishan and I completed a 163 mile walk along the South West Coastal Path, raising over £3,300 for NRAS. I am incredibly grateful to NRAS for giving us this opportunity to share our story. My Mum (Chris) was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in 1981 when she was just 22 years old. It was sudden and unexpected and the treatments available at the time were not as effective as they are today. Mum, who was working as a qualified nurse at the time, was told she would never work again because she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the physical demands of the job. She was not willing to accept this, and she retrained as a social worker and continued working for a further 35 years. Mum had one of the most severe cases of RA in the country and, over the years, took part in many clinical trials and tried many pioneering treatments, as she was determined to make sure people in the future would have better treatment options and outcomes than she did. Mum was the type of person who believed in living life to the full and we were so lucky to be able to travel around the world and continue having incredible experiences despite all the challenges. We went up mountains, into jungles, across national parks and even across the cobbled streets of Cuba, places that are not at all accessible… but we made it anyway. “We went up mountains, into jungles, across national parks and even across the cobbled streets of Cuba, places that are not at all accessible… but we made it anyway.” Throughout my life, I was aware of some of the effects RA and it’s treatments can have on the body, but I’m not sure I was aware of its effect on every organ system, including the heart. In August 2019, Mum had a heart attack and tragically she passed away a few days later, aged just 61. It was not a position I ever thought I would be in, losing my mum at just 24. Me and Mum were so close, and I felt like my world had collapsed around me and my family had shattered. Over the following two years, with the help of a wonderful family, friends and wider support networks I tried to find ways to honour Mum’s memory and simultaneously bring about positive change for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I know that Mum benefited from RA support groups, treatment trials and therapies and that’s why I wanted to raise money for NRAS. Mum loved the sea, and always wanted to be near the coast, so the idea of walking along the South West Coastal Path was born. We mapped out the route, starting from Jennycliff, in Plymouth, near where Mum grew up, and finishing at Land’s End in Cornwall, passing through many places in Devon and Cornwall that Mum had mentioned were important to her while she was growing up. We worked out that we would be able to complete the 163 mile distance in 10 days, walking between 16 and 17 miles per day. What we didn’t fully take into consideration was quite how steep the path would be for the entire duration, so looking back – we probably should have given ourselves a little longer. However, we wanted to finish the walk on the second anniversary of losing Mum, so extending the trip was not an option, and we made it work. Throughout the walk we passed through many incredible places, such as: Fowey, Marazion and Lizard Point to name just a few. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who stopped us and asked about our story along the way. Everyone we spoke to knew someone who had been affected by RA and wanted to support our cause, and their words of encouragement really helped push us through the difficult points in the walk (particularly the times when it was raining so heavily and with every step we could feel the water pooling around our toes!). In some very remote parts, the path was so overgrown that we had to fight our way through the vegetation and, in other parts, it seemed to be only a few centimetres wide, so I had to face my fear of heights head on. However, we are very grateful to the South West Coastal Path Association who work non-stop to keep the path safe for walkers. On Day 10, when we finally stumbled across the finishing line, and reached the Land’s End sign, we were rewarded with so much love and support and now, six months later, our feet have finally made a full recovery. Rebecca and Krishan at the Land’s End finish line! We couldn’t have done it without my Dad (Geoff), Auntie Maggie and Uncle Jake, Uncle Pete, Michael, Caroline, Andy and Trish and the rest of the family who worked as our support team throughout this adventure. I would also like to thank everyone who donated. Mum would have been amazed at how much support we have received. I would like to encourage anyone who is thinking of raising money for NRAS to do so; whatever challenge you choose, big or small, will make a huge difference. Rebecca. Feeling inspired and want to follow in Rebecca’s footsteps? Check out our events page for all our upcoming challenges you can do for team NRAS. Alternatively, get creative and create your own and share it with us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.