Rachel conquers physical disabilities to climb Great Wall of China

Rachel Turner after climbing The Great Wall of China.

Rachel Turner after climbing The Great Wall of China. - Credit: Archant

A former Cromwell Community College student has conquered a lengthy battle of living with physical disabilities by climbing the Great Wall of China.

Rachel Turner climbing to the top.

Rachel Turner climbing to the top. - Credit: Archant

Rachel Turner, who grew up in Chatteris, became ill seven years ago and after several months was diagnosed with having M.E and chronic fatigue syndrome.

But despite being “stuck in a wheelchair” and having to learn to walk again soon after, Rachel, now 21-years-old, found herself at the top of one of the world’s most famous monuments this month.

“I’ve never been more proud of myself and what I have achieved,” she said, beginning to detail the effect disabilities have had on her.

“About five months into my illness it started to become painful to walk. It felt like running through water; that dragging feeling that you have to push through, the mental feeling of being three steps in front of your actual body.

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“Simple things became a struggle and I was in constant pain. That’s what it started like… then it slowly evolved.

Rachel climbing to the top

Rachel climbing to the top - Credit: Archant

“I would, and sometimes still do, feel my muscles scrape against each other; it’s an ache that shoots across the nerves and seems to echo in the bones.”

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Rachel, who became wheelchair-bound, says it was “one of the worst experiences in the world.

“It can sometimes mentally destroy you and I’m not ashamed to say I was one of those people who just was not strong enough.”

To prove herself wrong, Rachel set herself a goal: to walk for prom.

“I did it. When I went to the University of Leeds, myself and my family thought that physically it was the best I would ever do.

Rachel's stunning view.

Rachel's stunning view. - Credit: Archant

“I know many people with my illness that didn’t manage to achieve it. But within my second year of university I became involved in a project to combine Tang ZenXu and Shakespeare, which included the possibility of a tour around China.”

Rachel is now spending a year studying at the Shanghai Theatre Academy.

“It’s amazing. I study traditional Beijing opera, as well as intercultural communications and teach English on the side.

“It’s meant I’ve done amazing things like walking along the bund each morning, climbing the wall, and chilling out at the Dali Lama temple.

“I’ve pushed myself above and beyond my limits because I can’t imagine a life without adventure and exploration - although my doctors are slightly less happy about my escapades.”

Rachel with her friend, Terri Hyde.

Rachel with her friend, Terri Hyde. - Credit: Archant

Rachel’s will to push herself hasn’t been easy though. She still has weekly hospital appointments and needs regular codine to function.

“I live in constant pain and have to fight through a sea of tiredness. Most people with my illness do, and I want people to realise; to some people the physical act of walking to the bathroom is an amazing achievement and should be celebrated.

“I’m lucky, I have it better than some, and I know that most likely in the future, all of this will come back to bite me in the arse but as I realised a long time ago doing anything comes at a price.

“For me, that price is often pain and exhaustion. However, the memories and experiences that I have ease this.

“Over the seven years my illness has developed into many things: fibromyalgia, arthritis, hypo-mobility and so many more… but as they grow so does my determination.

Almost there...

Almost there... - Credit: Archant

“To be able to walk, to be able to feed myself.

“People need to realise how awesome simple things are and be thankful for what they can do. Learn to try to fail, not fail to try - even with life’s uncontrollable ups and downs.

“When I was at my worst I couldn’t lift a cup of tea. To be able to climb a portion of the wall with my cain shows me how much I’ve grown and how strong I truly am.”

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