Anyone who can bag medals from international climbing competitions deserves to be applauded. In the case of 18-year-old Reanne Racktoo from Manchester, the achievement is even more impressive — she is registered blind and has cerebral palsy.
Reanne is one of the inspirational British women featured in Antony Stagg’s book If I Can Do It You Can Too!, which tells the real-life stories of people from all over the world who have overcome adversity.
Nobody is more proud of Reanne’s achievements than her mother Amanda, who was advised by doctors to turn off her newborn daughter’s life support machine because she would have “no quality of life” due to her health complications.
Tests carried out on baby Reanne, who was born weighing less than two pounds after a traumatic labour, revealed damage to her brain and mild cerebral palsy. Her twin brother Rhys was progressing well, but Reanne had suffered three enormous brain bleeds and damage to her cortex. A doctor told Amanda that she would never be able to walk, talk, dress or feed herself, and would spend her life in a wheelchair.
But Reanne kept fighting, and Amanda vowed to fight as long as her daughter did, overjoyed to see her daughter gradually become stronger and healthier.
Reanne’s brain damage resulted in blindness, and her cerebral palsy gave her limited mobility, meaning she had to walk with calipers. However, she thrived at Liverpool’s St Vincent’s School, a specialist school for sensory impairment and other needs, going on to win several school awards and excelling in athletics, swimming and other sports. When Reanne discovered climbing when the school was visited by the On This Roc organisation, there was no stopping her. She began competing for the GB para climbing team at the world championships in Paris in 2012, and included in her growing stack of medals are a silver from the 2013 European championships in Chamonix and a bronze from Gijon in 2014.
Also featured in If I Can Do It You Can Too! are Rita Hunter and Nicola Rowe.
Liverpudlian Rita fought a long-standing battle with cancer. After losing her mother and her sister to the illness, she was diagnosed with vulva cancer. Over seven years, Rita endured numerous operations, resulting in the removal of part of her vagina, until she finally got the all clear from doctors in 2013.
In March 2013, Nicola lost her first son Jude to a rare heart condition when he was only eight days old, leaving her and her husband Adam distraught. But the birth of her son Jace, born healthy in February 2014, plus the support of family and friends, got them through their darkest times and the couple (who are now expecting their third child) are keen to support other families who experienced similar tragic circumstances. So far, they have raised over £10,000 to build a state-of-the-art room in a new ward for patients and their parents at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where baby Jude underwent a pioneering operation in an attempt to save his life.
Reanne, Rita and Nicola’s stories are all very different, but they have one common message: Anything can be overcome. “These women’s stories are amazing and inspirational,” the book’s author Antony Stagg told SheKnows. “Everybody faces hard times, but people need inspiration to know that they too can overcome adversity.”
The purpose of his book, says Antony, is to “help people connect with the stories, to read and see how women who have faced challenging times have overcome them to achieve extraordinary things”.
For more information and to purchase If I Can Do It You Can Too! visit antonystagg.com; 20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the book go towards building a school in Kenya.
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