Bloodwise supporter Rebecca Andrew-Crowe on climbing Everest and writing about mental health
Rebecca Andrew-Crowe climbed to Everest base camp last month to fundraise for Bloodwise. In the same month, she published One Day At A Time, a book which she describes as ‘a memoir written to get people talking about mental health’. She tells us about her once-in-a-lifetime trek, what inspired her book and why everyone can benefit from discussing their mental wellbeing
Why did you decide to fundraise for Bloodwise?
I always wanted to do something special for a charity that was close to my heart. Blood cancer has affected me personally and my family for many years now. Bloodwise has always been a fantastic source of information and support for us all. The publications and literature which Bloodwise sent us was so informative. I had so many questions and it was amazing to have a support line who helped me find a way forward and make sense of what was happening. The research Bloodwise funds is also something I wanted to help raise money for, so when I picked my challenge, there was never any doubt, it was always going to be Bloodwise.
What were the most memorable moments of the trek?
There were many special moments of the adventure but the most memorable for me was actually seeing Everest for the first time. Seeing the mountain stand out so high above the rest and walking directly towards her... the adrenaline when we got so high up, definitely the mind was stronger than the legs, I can tell you!
I never thought I would get to see Everest so that was just magical. The sunset that evening was spectacular and seeing the stars so bright, it felt like you could reach up and touch them. That and the sunrise the following morning meant that it was the best 24 hours of my life.
How did you prepare for the trek? Had either of you taken on a challenge of this scale before?
It is fair to say that both myself and my husband are not very fit! So when we signed up for this event, we knew we had a full year to get ready. David started jogging and I spent time in the gym and together we enjoyed walking up in the Lake District when we could. We had never taken on a challenge like this before so we tried to just generally improve our lifestyle to increase our fitness but that itself was a challenge!
Of all the challenges you could take on, why trek to Everest Base Camp?
Everest has always been a bucket list dream for me. I've always loved the mountains and dreamt of seeing the Himalayas. It has always been a goal of mine and I was adamant, when I could, I would give it my best shot.
How did it feel when you reached the base camp?
Overwhelming. The view was just spectacular, we were so lucky with the weather that the peaks were all visible and just stunning. The altitude sickness had kicked in then and we were suffering with nosebleeds daily. Putting one foot in front of the other was a huge effort, but we had this sudden energy, just overjoyed with making it!
How would you describe your book, One Day At A Time?
'One Day At A Time' is a heartfelt journey of a mental breakdown. It is a hopeful insight into a real account of living through an incredibly painful time in my life following a trauma to show others who may be experiencing similar pain that there is a way through and there is still hope. It is a way of life. If we learn to take one day at a time, we can handle life, handle chronic illness, watch and wait. It is much more manageable that way and does not consume you as much as handling everything.
What inspired you to write a book about mental health?
I began to write to clear my head, to get the negative thoughts out of my mind. It was a helpful way to try to disconnect from all the things I was struggling with. I realised that words can actually be rather powerful, and I could turn these negative words into something positive. I could share my story and try to reach out to others to show them that the search for hope isn't lost through trauma, whatever that may be.
Abuse, a diagnosis, a bereavement, whatever the trigger to take someone down that very dark path of a breakdown, I wanted to show people that things can be overcome and that hope is always there, it just gets too dark sometimes and we cannot see it. One Day At A Time is hopefully a little light showing people that hope is still there.
In your opinion, why is it important to encourage people to speak about mental health?
It is of paramount importance. Mental health can kill anyone quicker than a chronic illness can – yet we talk about cancer, renal failure, cardiac problems. The stigma of mental health needs to be eradicated and the barriers broken down, the only way we can do that is supporting each other, talking about how we feel and taking mental health as seriously as any other serious illness.
I wrote my personal story to connect with others and show people that it is OK to admit how you feel, find strength in others and find a way forward. There is no shame in admitting you are struggling, just like there is no shame in being diagnosed with cancer. Let’s support each other with EVERY illness.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, is there anything you’d like to say to our supporters?
For those of you who are battling a chronic illness, or family members supporting those who are, take time to look after your mental wellbeing just as much as your physical wellbeing. Carrying the weight of a physical illness takes a tremendous toll on our emotional and mental health. Living with anxiety, the constant uncertainty, the pain and the battle to be strong and hold it all together is exhausting. Talk about how you feel. Talk openly. Reach out.
Donate to Rebecca and David’s JustGiving page.
One Day At A Time is available to buy online.
If you have any questions about blood cancer or would like to talk through any concerns you might have, you can call our Support Line on 0808 2080 888 or send our Support Line Team a message.