By Richard Dooley
The Daily News, Truro, Tuesday, November 16, 1999.
His message is plenty of exercise wards off illness – and Jacques Gauthier has walked across Canada to prove it.
The 60-year-old Quebec resident walked into Halifax on Sunday night, completing the last leg of his 6,500-kilometre trek across the country.
Gauthier is exuberant after finishing his walk.
« It’s a wonderful life, » said Gauthier after visiting City Hall yesterday.
Gauthier’s trek was unthinkable just a few years ago.
Suffering from a progressive neurological disorder that had paralysed his left hand and arm, Gauthier was faced with increasing reliance on medication to cope with a gloomy future.
When his doctors advised him to limit his physical activity because of osteoporosis caused by his daily drugs regiment, Gauthier said that was enough.
« If I was going to end up in a wheelchair it was because the Lord wanted me there, not because of drugs, » he said.
After months of pains caused by arthritis brought on by his withdrawal from medication, Gauthier contacted a lumberjack in New Brunswick who had a reputation as an arthritis healer.
The man advised him to stretch and be active.
« It was hard work at first, but today I have no symptoms and no pain, » said Gauthier.
« I am back to normal. »
Gauthier resolved to be an inspiration to others and began teaching the stretches he practises every day.
Last year he and his wife walked across Quebec and made instructional video promoting stretching as a way to get fit.
Walking across Canada became a way of getting people to think about their own health and activity level. « Here I am walking across Canada, and I should be in wheelchair, » said Gauthier.
After 7.8 million steps, 223 days of walking between 40 and 50 kilometres per day and wearing out two pairs of shoes, Gauthier is not sitting still.
He’s setting his sights south of the border. He wants to walk the breadth of the continental U.S. to try to stretch out his message healthy living.
« We have a lot more power over our health than we think, » said Gauthier.
« I just want people to give it a try. The worst thing that could happen is that they end up feeling better. »
Jacques Gauthier suffered from a progressive neurological disorder that paralysed his left arm.