The body is not a battleground

Kinesiologist Rob Wynen takes on militaristic health campaigns.

Bob came to me following a serious stroke which left him partially speechless, walking with a significant limp and lots of balance challenges.

“Rob, my doctor told me I would never walk again. I told him we would see about that.” 

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He explained to me how he spent months trying to move his legs, mentally focusing on the movements, the frustration of not having his limbs move but always trying.

“What else am I going to do?” 

Five months into his treatment an amazing thing happened.

 “I wiggled my toes.”  

The experience was so emotional he couldn’t stop crying. It would be followed two months later by a walk down the hospital corridor to the applause of patients and nurses. 

“That was the greatest day of my life.”

 

What struck me about Bob’s attitude and actions was that his focus was always on improving what he had. Bob wasn’t treating his “ailment” as something he needed to fight, it was a challenge he was going to give it his all to overcome. To work with his body. 

I am fortunate to work in a profession where I meet some truly incredible people, people that have changed my perspective on life. Whether it is Jason, a 50-year-old client of mine suffering from a progressive form of multiple sclerosis, to Bahram, one of my younger clients who at the age of 11 has had to deal with severe cerebral palsy, the will power and positive attitude some of my clients display is truly amazing. Bahram is in a wheelchair, suffers from debilitating muscle spasms and is scheduled for surgery that will involve him being in a full-body cast for six months. Imagine dealing with that at the age of 11? You should also imagine him smiling from ear to ear as he comes to our appointments. He is a happy guy.

What has surprised me about these individuals and has led to a change in my perspective on life is their incredible positive attitude. They have such huge challenges to face on a daily basis yet seem so grounded and happy. They hang on every word of advice I pass along and are so grateful for what they have. My little aches and creature discomforts seem trivial in comparison to the hurdles they need to deal with. Some come with no cure.

Fight this, fight that, it seems like so many health campaigns these days have taken on a militaristic view on “combating” diseases and life’s challenges. Many campaigns use uniforms or a colour to create a group-think mentality, unifying people around a disease, unifying them to do battle. The battle often involves giving money, of course, but the mindset that we are warriors fighting some evil villain is at the route of many of these campaigns.

I don’t consider Bob, Jason or Bahram warriors. They are not fighting a battle. Their bodies haven’t sprung evil personalities and they sure don’t treat their bodies like a battlefield. 

While they are not wearing rose-coloured glasses, they know that they have not been dealt a fair hand and that they are facing struggles many couldn’t imagine. 

They have taken a different road than many in dealing with their challenges. 

What they have done is accepted the cards life has dealt them. That acceptance has allowed them to move on to do what they can.

While their road ahead may be more challenging, it also makes them truly unique individuals.  

Overcoming hardship can lead to much more self-awareness and an appreciation for the good in one’s life.

In many cases the challenges and pain can seem overpowering but Jason recently pointed out to me, “suffering is optional.” 

Overcoming adversity is probably why Bahram is always sporting that big smile.  

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