Life is what happens

Written by on November 22nd, 2011 –

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” -John Lennon

In 1977, at the age of 19 Canadian hero, Terry Fox was diagnosed with a malignant tumour that resulted in an above the knee amputation of his right leg. As we Canadians all know, that experience fuelled his desire to help others battling the disease. By finding the courage to live his dream, he inspired a nation to lace up their running shoes and fight back against a cancer. While cancer ultimately took his life, he never allowed it to steal his spirit. Cancer was not Terry’s plan A, but his Plan B became a spectacular legacy, that has grown and thrived over the last 30 years, helping millions affected by the disease.

Another Canadian hero, Rick Hansen was injured in a car crash at the age of 15 in which he was paralyzed from the waist down. As a promising young athlete, living with disability was not part of Rick’s Plan A. His Plan B saw him become the first student with a disability to graduate UBC with a degree in physical education. He became a Paralympic athlete, winning three gold, two silver and a bronze in wheelchair racing before embarking on a world marathon, The Man in Motion Tour to raise $26 million for spinal cord research. (Inspired by Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, I might add.) His list of accomplishments is both extensive and impressive. Today he is president and CEO of The Rick Hansen Foundation which has raised over $200 million for spinal cord injury programs and has changed the world’s perception of what is possible for people with disabilities.

Like anyone with MS, I didn’t plan on being diagnosed with this disease. In fact, my entire life, I was exceptionally healthy and when I did get sick, it was with something major, like appendicitis and not run of the mill stuff like flu. It’s taken some time to wrap my head around the idea that I will be dealing with the challenge of chronic illness for the rest of my life.

It’s taken some time for me to adjust to the changes MS has brought to my life. I’ve lost all the feeling in my hands, which, as an artist was extremely difficult to come to terms with. I’ve suffered from debilitating non-stop killer migraines for 2 1/2 years which led to me having to give up a lucrative career as a mixed media workshop instructor. As a result of walking off kilter, I’ve also developed a severe case of Plantar Fasciitis which is causing me a lot of pain and impeding my ability to walk for any length of time. I’ve been through numerous, difficult and often painful treatments to try and tame my MS. None of this was a part of my plan A for my life.

That said, I’m not about to lay down and let MS run me over. It’s not in my DNA to give up. I’m hardwired to rise above adversity. What my diagnosis has meant is that I have to be more creative about how I go about reaching my goals and living my dreams and I’m nothing, if not a consummate problem solver. I believe there is always a workable solution and it’s up to me to find it.

I may not be destined to leave the enormous legacies these courageous men have created, but I am deeply inspired  and moved by them. They didn’t give up, or make excuses or get mired down in feeling sorry for themselves. Instead they squared their shoulders, took a deep breath and got on with their lives. May we all find a way to embrace our Plan B.

“The most successful people are those who are good at plan B” -James York

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