In the final weeks of 2017, Graham Earle took advantage of the early winter snows upon downhill ski slopes not often graced by 86-year-old legs. A short time later, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, quickly losing mobility while doctors suggested he might have only months to live.
He quickly decided to move to the familiar surroundings of The Village of Humber Heights where his wife Sigrid has lived since 2012. Almost as quickly as he chose to move to The Village, he chose to regain his mobility and independence, even as medication worked to stall the metastasization in his prostate and he was challenging the mental and emotional struggle of the abrupt changes he faced.
He didn’t really know how to go about it, though; he’d lost almost all of the functional ability in his legs, was wheeled into his new home on a stretcher, and he required the sit-to-stand lift to get out of bed. He did have a strong desire to regain strength and ability, however, and one day he saw fellow residents in the fitness centre working out alongside the kinesiologists and exercise therapists who coordinate the Program for Active Living (PAL). He stopped in and he hasn’t looked back
Not even a year later, mentally and physically, he’s turned immense corners. Using his walker both inside the village and out on pleasant days, Graham can usually be seen strolling about. He’s able to visit Sigrid regularly, as he’s done for the past eight years, and he follows his regimen with the PAL team consistently. Kinesiologist Maggie Douglas loves seeing Graham enter the fitness centre, often to let her know that he feels he’s ready to take the regimen to another level.
“Every few weeks or so I’d come down and Graham would be there in my office saying ‘I’m ready for the next step,’” Maggie says. “It was nice to have someone approaching me and it was really inspiring to see the progression and the amount of time Graham spent in the fitness centre working towards his goals.”
Graham admits it takes a bit of personal drive and determination to consistently work towards such improvements, “but it’s nothing extraordinary.” He believes everyone is capable of progress alongside the expert team members in The Villages. Encouragement from others is a big help, he says, and he’s continually inspired by the kind words of fellow residents and team members.
Now he seeks to offer the same encouragement to others.
“I want to make it known to as many other people as possible, both in long-term care and retirement, that they can make real improvements over what they might have expected with the Program for Active Living,” Graham says. “The prevailing onset opinion around among the residents is that you can slow down the decline but really that’s about all. The whole idea is that by exercising, you can not only slow down decline but you might even be able to improve things.”
Today, with his cancer in remission, Graham continues to progress and doctors talk of his prognosis in years, not weeks. His spirits seem high and who knows, perhaps as the winter progresses and the snow flies the legs of Graham Earle will once again grace the slopes of nearby ski hills?
For now, however, he’s content in Zumba classes, taking a stroll outside on the days when the weather is fine or simply walking along the familiar streets of Humber Heights. Graham would like to thank Maggie and the following team members with PAL for their continued support: Naveen, Randel, Tanay, Naveen and Dagmara.