He's about to lose his legs but this former Royal Navy sailor will attempt Africa's highest mountain first

Portsmouth’s own Knox White, ex-serviceman, ex-boxer, podcast creator, PHD student and all-round motivator is preparing for his next challenge - to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

By Elsa Waterfield
Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 9:22 am

Knox, 47, from Eastney, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2004,. It was a month after he was discharged from the Royal Navy, following 13 years’ service. He was a petty officer and physical training instructor.

Next year he will have both legs amputated.

It would be understandable for many in his situation to start 2022 apprehensively and with a lack of vigour as he continues to fight his aggressive form of MS,

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Knox White on the seafront at Southsea. Picture: Keith Woodland (111221-27)

But: ‘I’ve just cracked on. It is what it is,’ he says.

Knox, however, is waking at 5am to train at 6am every single morning, along with friend and mentor/mentee Alfie Ruffel, to train for the colossal task of reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on January 4.

The pair, joined by five other friends and supporters including Knox’s wife Samantha and sister Charlotte, are following a strict regime to ensure they are ready for the task which, until very recently, had been put on hold because of Covid-19.

‘We’ve only just started to realise what we’ve got ourselves into,’ Alfie laughs.

Alfie Ruffel and Knox White. Picture: Keith Woodland (111221-3)

‘With Knox’s condition, we don’t know if in three or six months he’ll still be capable, so this is our only chance,’ he adds.

The climb will be in support of The Amelia-Mae Foundation, a charity with which Knox and his wife became involved through his friend and one of the founding members of the charity, John Murray.

‘I’ve witnessed some of the dear little souls who suffer from neuroblastoma, it’s such a brutal cancer, these kids go through so much,’ says Knox.

‘It’s just heart-wrenching,’ he adds.

Alfie Ruffel and Knox White on The Gift of Being Broken Podcast. Credit: The Gift of Being Broken

Alfie and Knox are planning a Christmas fundraiser on December 21, at the Gaiety Bar on South Parade Pier, to raise money for the cause and help them reach their target before the date of the climb which is fast approaching.

‘Although it will be a great sense of achievement, the whole thing is dedicated to those children,’ says Knox.

‘We’ll be thinking of them the whole time,’ he adds.

When Knox first met Alfie six months ago he was suffering with daily seizures, struggling with chronic pain and finding it hard to come to terms with a loss of independence after being diagnosed with MS - a lifelong condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord and cause serious disability.

‘I get a lot of seizures and spasms, everything’s seizing up on me,’ Knox says.

Alfie quickly introduced Knox to the positive effects of CBD oil, a popular natural remedy used for many common ailments for those looking for relief without the mind-altering effects of cannabis.

‘Honestly when I first took it, I thought ‘what’s just been lifted off me?’ Knox says.

Twenty-six-year-old young entrepreneur Alfie, is co-founder of Rio-Vitalise, a business based in Southsea which specialises in CBD products and is dedicated to holistic health and wellbeing, motivating people to live a physically and mentally healthy life.

Alfie was inspired by the positive impact of CBD after his father, who first introduced him to Knox, was diagnosed with a triple aortic split and told he would never be able to walk more than 250 yards a day.

Three years after discovering CBD Alfie says his father is walking a mile and swimming in the sea every day.

Knox explains that the effects of the remedy on him have allowed him to function again and given him back a degree of independence that he didn’t imagine possible.

‘The difference between when I don’t take it and when I do is crazy. Without it my spasms are horrendous, I’m like a walking Elvis impression,’ he says.

The pair have built a solid friendship based on shared passions, spending most days since their first chance meeting working and training together.

‘We kinda mentor each other, he shows me modern things I haven’t heard of and I just bring life experience,’ says Knox.

The pair have since created the podcast, The Gift of Being Broken, an audio platform which aims to teach the message that regardless of the cards we are dealt in life, all kinds of magic can happen with the right mindset.

‘It’s all about having something rubbish happen to you, and turning it into a positive,’ says Knox.

Knox is constantly looking for ways to better himself.

Aafter carrying out a bachelors and a masters degree at Essex University, Knox is now a PHD student at the University of Portsmouth.

‘I wouldn’t have done a doctorate if I didn’t have this. I want to be the next Dr Zeuss, I’ll be Dr Knox,’ he says.

As an ex-boxer, White is also co-founder of Heart of Hayling Boxing Academy.

He helps coach hundreds of youngsters who turn out every Wednesday at Hayling Island Community Centre to hone their boxing skills and work towards qualifications through the sport.

‘I wasn’t very good at boxing. My main sport was rugby league. I was good at rugby,’ he says

‘I was a very competitive man, still am,’ he adds.

When Knox first received the news which he says he was anticipating following his navy discharge, he says he went through the usual stages of denial.

‘My throat started to tighten up.

‘I knew there was something seriously wrong with me because I’m in tune with my body,’ he adds.

Despite receiving the life-altering news from his doctor at the time - Dr Moffat, who he says he grew to have a close friendship with - Knox's first reaction, similar to many of his actions post and pre-diagnosis, was to think about someone else.

‘When she gave me the news, I said ‘are you all right doc?,’ says Knox.

‘She asked me what I meant.

‘ I said “that was pretty hard for me to take and you’ve got to deliver that news all the time”,’ he adds.

Knox says that the first six weeks of his diagnosis he spent comforting friends and family as they all ‘couldn’t stop crying’.

Only now is he beginning to come to terms with it.

‘Seventeen years on I’ve started to think “I’m gonna have to start putting myself first”,’ Knox says.

‘But I haven’t done it yet,’ he laughs.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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