By Kevin Currie
The Golden Star, Golden, Wednesday, May 19, 1999.
On a warm spring afternoon there is a man walking west on Highway #1. There is no fanfare, just a lone vehicle following him.
Jacques Gauthier is doing the same thing today that he has done since the beginning of February – walking across Canada.
Gauthier is a 60-year-old former businessman who admits he’s been given a second chance at life. « Step by Step – Canada 1999 » is a testimony of one man’s belief in the power of stretching.
« Ten years ago I couldn’t walk a few feet without experiencing pain, » said the Quebec native during a stop over in Golden last week.
« Now look at me. »
Nearly a decade ago, Gauthier was stricken with a strange and extremely serious neurological disorder that affected his extremities. The disorder, which started in his left hand, quickly spread to both feet and his right arm. Doctors, unable to diagnose his illness with any certainty, held out no hope for a cure.
« According to medical science I should be a quadriplegic, » said Gauthier.
After much soul-searching, he began searching for a wheelchair.
« I made the decision that obviously God wants me in a wheelchair, » Gauthier said.
However shortly after that, Gauthier began searching for an alternative form of medicine, rather than remain slave to medication. That search led him to a simple solution – stretching.
A lumberman from the northern part of Quebec turned Gauthier onto the idea of stretching. All he asked, was that Gauthier try the program for three weeks.
After three weeks, nearly half of the symptoms disappeared and both Gauthier’s hands were fully functional again.
Months later he would be on the path to complete and total rehabilitation.
« I was building up energy and everything was functioning normally again, » he said. « People that had seen me before wondered what happened. »
Invigorated by his newfound health, Gauthier felt the need to share his message.
He started teaching courses and realized that everybody who enrolled found that the exercises helped their ailments. Consequently, the word started to spread about his course, which eventually spawned a desire to share the benefits of stretching with the rest of the country.
« It doesn’t cost people to be healthy, » explained Gauthier.
This is not the first time that Gauthier has put on his walking shoes to share his message about health and hope. During the summer of 1997, he, along with his wife Dorothée and their dog Mousse, crossed the province of Quebec on foot.
Although « La Grande Marche » was primarily a training exercise for the trek across Canada, the journey took on a life of its own. Many of the people who met the couple began doing the exercises and soon they started receiving letters from across the province extolling the virtues of stretching. A few boasted results rivalling those of Gauthier.
« An 80-year-old woman who has done the exercises said she has become more flexible than her grandchildren, » he said.
When viewed in light of Gauthier’s previous state of health, some might view the cross Canada journey a miraculous feat.
« A miracle happened to me 10 years ago, » he said « I just want people to know they can do something. »