When I was twelve years old I watched a guy from Colorado named Frank Shorter win the Olympic marathon and was wowed to the core. How could anybody run twenty six plus miles? At sub five minute mile pace? Crazy man. A few days later I joined the junior high cross country team and on the second day of practice we had a two mile race on a local golf course. I walked most of it and came in nearly last. I was hooked. In the passing years I devoured everything I could get my hands on about training, nutrition and health. I also ran thousands of miles. A timid child, I found myself speaking to adult groups on health and nutrition. Not without angst mind you. In the ninth grade I knew I would dedicate my life to helping people in the health care arena. I latched onto physical therapy. How cool, I thought, to help athletes like me plus post surgical patients and regular folks young and old. I volunteered at the local hospital to gain experience and got a job at a PT office at night to learn more in addition to banging nails at my dads construction business. Through my research as a teen, I decided to become a vegetarian. Four years later through more research I decided to stop being a vegetarian. By the age of nineteen I had run two 26 mile marathons, hitch hiked to the left coast from the right, was a sophomore on my college cross country and track teams and worked as a resident assistant in my dorm. Four themes or influences were evident in my life early on and remain constant today. 1. Adventure 2. Endurance 3. Human Potential. 4. Fun, Fun Fun.
Suddenly I wasn’t having fun. I couldn’t run anymore. It had started inoculously enough. My knees had started to ache, then pain, then gradually worsen to the point where I couldn’t run a step. In fact I couldn’t run a step for nine months. I went to doctor after doctor and got myriad cortisone shots all to no avail. When the last doctor started to talk about “going in to take a look around” (this was on the cusp of arthroscopic surgery but my doc was going to go in the old fashioned way … a 6-8 inch nasty scar on the front of the leg that likely meant I would never run again). I was out of there quicker than Usain Bolt after a gold medal. Buddies of mine in the running community suggested a doctor who also ran, a chiropractor, Dr. Bob Recor. I had never heard the word chiropractor before but figured since we shared the same running addiction he may have some insight. My other docs, even though they advertised as sports medicine specialists, looked in no condition to walk a mile let alone run.
Miracle. The day I walked out of Dr. Recor’s office I ran pain free for the first time in nearly a year. I had minor twinges but no pain. Minor miracle for some. For me? Major miracle. I ran five miles that day. The very moment I grasped the door knob to Dr. Bob’s office on my next visit I decided to drop PT and become a chiropractor. My calling and my life’s work was decided.
I built a great practice and cared for everyone from professional athletes to CEO’s to homeless people. My youngest patients were hours old and my oldest was 102. My mission was to help as many people as possible reach their full health potential through chiropractic care and to educate them to the science and philosophy of chiropractic. I did home visits, hospital visits and nursing home visits. I once saw nearly 200 patients in one day in my office … and I was wearing a grass skirt, Hawaiian shirt and a Panama hat. True story. I co-founded an inner city free clinic. All told I participated in a quarter of a million patient visits. Then I couldn’t do it anymore. In fact I couldn’t move.
I had had severe back pain starting from an injury at the age of ten which reared it’s ugly head at various times. It worsened badly in my early forties. I had run another marathon, hundreds of road races, bike races, endurance swims, a dozen triathlons, multiple backpacking trips, travelled the world climbing mountains, even summiting Mt. Everest on my second try, but I couldn’t bend over my patients anymore. My arms were numb, my legs didn’t cooperate and the pain in my neck and back were unrelenting and severe. Too many times I went to work and shouldn’t have. Occasionally I would get cought by a patient sliding my back up the wall to stand up, or emitting a painful groan. I missed a week here or there due to my issues but it got more and more frequent and finally at the age of 51 I couldn’t walk. The guy who had climbed the highest mountain on four continents including becoming the first from his state and profession to summit Mt. Everest could barely get out of bed … for months.
Retirement was the only option. My plan had always been to practice forever but when you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.
Suddenly I had time. Lots. I recuperated. I studied and read. I perused my postgraduate seminar materials. I met with experts, I collected books and did internet study. I learned to read standing on the wobbly foundation of a BOSU. I was able to walk and walk a little more. I tweaked my nutrition. I took hours of classes to learn the latest on rehabilitation and fitness in order not to reinjure and, in fact, thrive. I researched more.
I missed caring for my patients but had an awakening. Maybe my injuries and subsequent retirement would allow me to have the time and wherewithal to reach a wider audience. Maybe I could help more people than ever. Maybe 250 million? Maybe I could finally educate the masses about the truth in health. What many people don’t really “get”. What many brilliant doctors and researchers don’t get (possibly because they are blindered by specialty, or worse, dogma). The Mt. Everest of health philosophy, art and science is very simple You can give yourself a glabella smack now or later. Drum roll please. Wellness Self-Care. That’s it in three words but it’s simplicity belies it’s importance. The respected elder of health care should be “wellness” (an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life The WHO defines health in a way that I have always respected: “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”, not to be confused with it’s poor step cousin, “prevention” (a misnomer which in our present system means diagnosing diseases earlier, and certainly not the evil twin and diametric opposite: “treatment” (for conditions that have already manifested). The understanding and implementation of a self care/wellness oriented life means a life of adventure, endurance, achieving human potential and most definately Fun, Fun Fun. After all, by the time expensive, painful and misery inducing “conditions” have arisen they can’t be inexpensively prevented. Cheaper and way more exciting yet is not merely prevention but thriving physically and mentally through a wellness life. Way worse than busting personal and national budgets is the fact that if we as individuals don’t adopt a self care/wellness lifestyle, it will soon be impossible for us as individuals, families and as a country to manifest our human potential. After all nobody can have Fun, Fun Fun with bloated, diseased bodies, low energy, poor sleep and productivity, no money, negatively stressed relationships and worst … no hope. I have a great hope for you: study and implement the simple, step-by-step do-able wellness plan that I espouse, then put on a grass skirt.