By Dianne Gouliquer
Thunder Bay Post, August 23, 1999.
Sixty-year-old Jacques Gauthier is not walking across Canada to raise funds for any cause. He’s not walking across Canada to increase public awareness about any disease. He’s not walking across Canada to make a statement about the environment or domestic violence.
Gauthier is walking across Canada because he can. Ten years ago, doctors told Gauthier he was facing life in a wheelchair. Today, he has already walked across four provinces and will walk across six more before completing his journey in Halifax sometime in November.
« My walk is a message of hope to all people that are desperate due to their physical condition, » Gauthier said when he passed through Thunder Bay, Aug. 16. « I should be in a wheelchair but I found a solution and I want to share it with the world. »
At the age of 41, a serious neurological disorder rendered Gauthier left hand virtually useless. In an attempt to prevent the condition from spreading to his other hand and both feet, doctors prescribed cortisone (a steroid) and directed Gauthier to take it daily. At the age of 50, he was informed that one of the side effects of cortisone was osteoporosis; already he had lost 20 per cent of his bone density.
Gauthier was then prescribed a second medication to fight osteoporosis.
« I was aware there was no possible cure, but that this medication would simply retard the deterioration of my physical capacities, » he said.
After nine years of taking the cortisone, Gauthier decided to stop taking his medications all together, accepting his fate of becoming a quadriplegic. He was convinced the drugs were not helping him, but rather increasing his health problems.
As a result of ending this medicinal routine, Gauthier developed arthritis, forcing him to stay in bed almost 20 hours a day.
« Six months later, living with excruciating pain, I made a special prayer to God: ‘It’s hard for me to accept this situation, but if this is your will, I will be an inspiration for everybody that is confined to a wheelchair,' » he recalled.
But within only a few days, Gauthier heard of an arthritic healer who introduced him to stretching exercises.
« After only a couple of days I felt results, » Gauthier said. « The pain was slowly going away. »
Gauthier worked with the healer for three weeks, at which point 50 per cent of his pain had disappeared. Within seven months, he said, his pain was completely gone.
« I’m not against doctors; if I broke my leg I would go to a doctor, » Gauthier said. « I’m not against drugs (either), but I’m against the abuse of them. »
He said people are often too willing to rely on man-made chemical drugs to solve their physical ailments, when often it isn’t necessary. People appreciate being able to choose taking medication and avoiding it by finding an alternative solution.
As a result of his recovery, Gauthier began teaching his stretching exercises to others, who, he said, all showed an improvement in their physical conditions as well.
The sole purpose of his 6500-kilometer walk across Canada is to tell his story to others and introduce them to stretching techniques as an alternative healing method, Gauthier. He is not looking for donations and he is not raising money for research.
« I just decided to tell everyone in Canada, » he said, adding his current walk was preceded by a walk (with his wife, Dorothée Lavoie) across the province of Quebec two years ago.
Gauthier and Lavoie, who also used stretching to rid her of lower back pain, have also created a home video together, in which they take viewers through stretching techniques that they say will cure everything from migraines and back pain to osteoporosis and arthritis.
The video was originally produced in French, but has recently been redone in English and made available at music and video store across the country.
« Stretching increases energy and blood circulation which improves the immune system, » Gauthier said. « Ten years ago I couldn’t walk around the block and now I’ve made it 3200 kilometres across the country. »
But Gauthier doesn’t plan to stop walking once he reaches Halifax later this year. Already he is planning to walk across the United States, exposing more people to healing through stretching.
« I’ll go as soon as the weather lets me. »
Gauthier and Lavoie’s video, Stretching The Healthy Self, is available locally at AV Entertainment and HMV.