Amputee reality stars attempt to break world record
| 29th August 2019
Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest, and the world’s tallest, freestanding mountain. It is crowned with an everlasting snow-cap. The landscape is extreme with uneven, uphill terrain and an unpredictable weather system. It is not for the faint-hearted. Up to 50% of climbers suffer from altitude sickness. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or “Kili” to those who have dared it, is an incredible achievement for the able-bodied. For Damian Harper and Rebecca Legon, this is a monstrously courageous challenge. But it is not the first that these two inspiring amputees have faced during their lives.
When Damian and Rebecca were younger there was very little awareness around disability and difference. Damian and Rebecca faced many challenges accepting their disabilities and appreciating their bodies for what they were. They bare many physical scars but the mental ones have been far more destructive.
Today awareness is improving with positive platforms like the Paralympics and Invictus Games. Many more people with disabilities are on our TV screens. But sadly many living with disability still haven’t found acceptance and confidence and are not able to relate to the “Paralympian Superhuman”.
Now it’s time to show others that they do not have to be extreme athletes to achieve their dreams. Damian and Rebecca are just regular people who are taking on this intense journey to reach the summit of this gargantuan mountain. They want to show everyone that anything is possible. Damian and Rebecca, and 17 other amputees walking with them, will not be the first disabled people to attempt to triumph over Kili, but Damian could be the first British hip disarticulation amputee to succeed, breaking a world record.
Meet Damian: In 1986 at just seventeen years old, Damian Harper was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and highly aggressive form of bone cancer. To survive he had to undergo extreme chemotherapy and a full hip disarticulation amputation. It was a mentally exhausting battle, but life seemed to get back on track. Damian learnt to drive and qualified as a biomedical scientist. On the outside he seemed to be coping, but his traumatic past finally caught up with him. Five years ago Damian was diagnosed with PTSD, severe depression and anxiety. Life has been very hard after his diagnosis but Damian keeps on fighting. In an attempt to face up to his past traumas Damian was chosen to feature in a BBC 3 documentary called “Nobody’s Perfect” with Rankin and Alison Lapper. Since the show he has become a pilot and an acting trustee for the Amputation Foundation. Damian is now happy and lives in Prescot in Merseyside with his fiancée Sue, who is so supportive she will be right by his side for this challenge.
Damian: ‘I didn’t have any disabled role models when I became an amputee at just seventeen. As a young man I felt mentally isolated at a time when men didn’t talk about their feelings. Due to the severity of my amputation, doctors told me that I wouldn’t walk again. Through my determination, I proved them all wrong. Unfortunately today other HD amputees are being told the same, which is stopping them from attempting to walk. I want to inspire these people through my life, that anything is possible. Although difficult, an active life can be enjoyed after amputation’.
Meet Rebecca: Rebecca Legon’s diverse background as a disabled model and Manchester “it” girl, is now living a much quieter life with her partner in the Ashdown Forest, East Sussex. She is a mother of two (plus, two step-children) a dog lover and creative entrepreneur. And yes, her surname is actually Legon. Rebecca was born with a rare limb deformity as a result of her knee growing from her hip in early foetal development. To be fitted with a prosthetic leg correctly, she had her foot amputated when she was only eight.
Like Damian, Rebecca experienced a life with no awareness around disability. She didn’t know any other disabled people, making her feel isolated and ashamed of her body from a very early age. Rebecca “hid” her disability from others, blocking any recognition of how it made her exceptional.
Increased acceptance and inclusivity around disability have encouraged Rebecca to finally accept herself in a positive and healthy light. Rebecca is committed to showing the world through her life and campaign work, that being different is totally ok.
In 2007 Rebecca featured in “Britain’s Missing Top Model”, one of the first ever reality shows centred around disability. Although Rebecca enjoyed the glamour of living as a model in Ant and Dec’s former penthouse, she was a little disappointed with the final edit. She felt that it unfortunately focused on the models’ weaknesses with limited content on their strength and empowerment from living with disability.
Rebecca: ‘I hope through my life I can inspire other people to do the things they deem impossible. I want to help them accept their bodies and their imperfections. It is a tough journey but only through self-acceptance can you finally feel free to live a fulfilled and happy life. Everybody has the right to feel confident in their own skin and to live a life they choose – whatever their difference.’
Damian and Rebecca are determined to obliterate how people perceive those living with disability and difference. If you would like to sponsor this fantastic challenge you can do so here: justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kilimanjaro2019
All proceeds they raise will go to their chosen charities:
Amputation Foundation: A first touchpoint for amputees, their associates and hospital professionals to obtain immediate and impartial support from other amputees and support organisations. amputationfoundation.org
Access Sport: Winners of The Sports Business Awards, Best Sports Charity and CSR 2017, Access Sport believes every person should be able to experience the power sports can have on enhancing their life prospects. Its ethos is a strong emphasis on youth and disabled people in deprived communities. www.accesssport.org.uk
Watch their campaign video for a personal insight into Damian and Rebecca’s reasons behind this courageous challenge: