Later this year one Fulham resident will scale Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro - a feat made even more remarkable by the fact she's been living with multiple sclerosis for over a decade. Rupert Basham spoke to the inspirational Alice-Louise MacGillivray
AT the age of 19, Alice-Louise MacGillivray received some life-changing news.
After experiencing some unexplained back and leg pain, the avid horse-rider asked a doctor to find out what was causing it.
She wasn’t expecting what came next.
“I had this old dinosaur of a GP who diagnosed me,” said the 29-year-old. “He sat me down and gave me a brochure which had old people in wheelchairs on the cover, and told me to expect this to happen to me within the next few years and that I wouldn’t make it to 30.
“Luckily, I'm stubborn.
“I went to university, had summers in Malia, had a great time and even flew around the world as an air stewardess for Virgin.
“I’ve been living with MS for 10 years and I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for it.”
It’s this unwavering determination which has led Alice to her latest challenge – conquering Kilimanjaro.
Despite her condition deteriorating slightly over the past few years, she has always challenged herself, completing both the London and Blackpool marathons and the three peaks challenge.
It wasn’t until last year, when she suffered a relapse, that she decided to set her sights on Africa.
The Mirabel Road resident said: “I had a bad relapse and I completely lost my balance and couldn’t stop being sick. It was pretty nasty.
“When I was getting better Kilimajaro was something for me to aim for. I wasn’t even back at work when I came up with the idea.
“The reason I’ve done these crazy things, like the marathons and the three peaks challenge, is simply because if I can accomplish these feats I can't be that ill.
“I’m also quite stubborn, once I get these things in my head I have to follow through. But I’m so excited, I can't wait.”
With the support of her family and friends, Alice, a dental representative originally from Neath in South Wales, is hoping to raise £3,500 for the MS Society, and continued research into stem cell therapy.
If juggling work and training wasn't enough, Alice is also a dab hand at composing a joke or two and regularly takes to the stage on the capital’s stand-up circuit.
She said: “I do talk about my illness sometimes about being really wobbly and how my brain will tell me to do too many things at once. I joke that it's a type of dyspraxia.
“What can you do if you don’t laugh about these things. It’s important to see the positive, especially for young people.
“I speak to some at conventions and tell them that having MS doesn’t mean the end of your life. There is no cure, but I’ve done 11 years of it and it’s okay. I think people need to see that.”
To sponsor Alice ahead of her October climb, visit http://www.justgiving.com/mskilimanjaro