Husband treks Great Wall of China in support of his mum and wife who live with multiple sclerosis
PUBLISHED: 10:34 01 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:44 01 December 2017
A man from Woodford Green has raised more than £4,000 for charity by trekking the Great Wall of China in support of his mum and wife who live with multiple sclerosis.
Phil Lewton recently spent 10 days hiking northern portions of the 13,000 mile wonder, in support of the MS Society.
The 41-year-old IBM project manage took on the challenge to raise awareness of MS and to give back to the community that’s supported his family over the years.
Phil, who lives in Woodford Green with his wife Katherine and two daughters, has known the effects of MS since he was five years old when his mum Heather was diagnosed with it.
He grew up watching her battle debilitating symptoms until she was no longer able to care for herself.
A few years after Heather became bedbound, Phil’s wife Kat was also diagnosed with MS.
He said: “While at work one day, Kat started having trouble speaking. She knew what she trying to say, but the wrong words would come out when she spoke.
“Obviously the diagnosis came as a complete shock, but Kat was really pragmatic and accepted it from the start.
“Because MS has affected me my whole life, I knew immediately that I just had to make sure she always has the support she needs.”
MS is an unpredictable condition that affects more than 100,000 people in the UK.
It’s different for everyone, but is often painful and exhausting and can cause problems with how you walk, move, see, think and feel.
After finding out about the trek on Facebook, Phil decided to take on the challenge so Kat could live vicariously through him and to give back for the support his mum received from the MS Society.
He began his challenge by scaling Heaven’s Ladder – a steep mountainside ascent of 200 steps to the ridge of the Wall.
He then trekked an undulating route of stone, earth and wood through small towns and mountain villages to Beijing.
The group spent their final day in China visiting Tiananmen Square and exploring the Forbidden City.
Following the trip, Phil said he struggles to find the right words to describe how just wonderful the trip was.
He said: “Awesome and phenomenal seem to be all I can come up with.
“It was incredible to explore somewhere new with such stunning scenery and landscapes.
“It also meant so much to share the experience with a great bunch of people also touched by MS. There was no need to explain or act tough.
“I could let my guard down because everyone understood. We developed a strong bond and we’re already planning our next challenge.”
Kat’s journey with MS hasn’t been easy, but she said it’s meant a great deal for Phil to complete the challenge.
She said: “I’ve had quite a difficult time finding the right treatment for me. When I started on beta-interferons, I was warned that I might experience flu-like symptoms. “But almost immediately after my first full dose injection, I started having horrible amounts of pain that would last for three months. I was so ill.
“Two treatments later, I’m now on a daily tablet and I haven’t had a relapse since 2012. MS is incredibly unpredictable, but Phil has been with me every step of the way. “He gets it because he was a carer for his mum. He’s just amazing. We’ve been together for 15 years and he’s a legend for dealing with it all.
“Doing this trip to raise awareness was just as important to him as it was for me.”
Charlie Bartlett, Community and Events Officer at the MS Society, says: “It was an incredible experience trekking along the Great Wall of China with Phil and the rest of our group.
“Together, we climbed sheer cliff faces and hiked ancient landscapes to raise more than £70,000 for the MS community.
“We witnessed breathtaking scenery and building great friendships, all while supporting more than 100,000 people living with MS in the UK.”
If you’d like to support Phil, you can at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/phil-lewton.