Words by Julie - Living Life With Paralysis

#strong 4

Even though all I want to do is crawl into bed and go to sleep, I wanted to share before the feeling faded and the fatigue/nerve pain/muscle strain took over.

It was a fabulous day of trying out something that I have not done for decades. Way long ago, pre-SCI, pre-kid even, I used to love to rock climb. I’m sure I started outdoors – yes, it was at Outward Bound when I was 15, north of Thunder Bay – but I did some indoor too as it became available. I never did own my own equipment so


getting out meant I had to rely on friends who had their own, and were willing to share.

Today, I made a new friend; one with equipment, trained staff and a gym where we all learned adaptive climbing together. Brent came all the way from B.C. to spend a week in Ontario to teach adaptive climbing – rock climbing for people with disabilities. When asked what made him come out here he said he “wanted to create a ripple”. His patient, kind,


empathetic method of problem solving a way to help people (even with little arm strength and finger grip) get up a wall was amazing to witness. My parents came by to watch and were fascinated; and Elaine (who helped out with the harnesses etc. and drove Oliver and I to and from Guelph) said it was a powerful thing to be a part of.

And it was.


I had some down-time between climbs and I got to hangout on the matts, watch and listen. There were a lot of people involved (not just a climber with a belay person). There was the climber, a support person, a belay, a person on counter-balance and sometimes one more on backup. That’s a lot of people needed to help create success – and they were all there to cheer as they learned this new way of climbing. People with limited hand function were able to have some success because they could get up, out of their chair using a harness, grip the hand-holds and some were able to stay upright progressing up the wall for quite a distance.

The other aspect for me was watching others react to the goings-on in the far corner of the gym. The younger kids (most of whom were there for b-day parties) didn’t react, really. They looked at what we were doing and carried on as though it were something that happened there every day. The middle age kids you could see pause. They thought it was unusual or maybe they were wondering why, but they knew it was not something that they had seen before and they were trying to figure out exactly what was going on. The adults smiled and said “Hi” and carried on – but I hope that they walked away thinking more than “good for them, they’re getting out”.

I’m done with that. Done with people having low expectations of people who just happen to have (by birth or by chance) a disability. We will do just as much, or as little, as we want to do. Just like any other person. If you are driven to do, you will, and you won’t let anything get in your way.

I’m reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and I read chapter 2 called “Sit at the table” in the car on the way home. It made me realize that I need to stop deflecting compliments and just say “thank you”. Because yes, I am strong.



  • Elizabeth Perron says:

    Hi Julie
    My neighbour in our apartment building here in Vancouver has Cp and is in a wheelchair and she does very good at rock climbing

  • Susan Barnett says:

    Way to go Julie. You could have given up a long time ago, but where does that get you? You are very strong and a wonderful role model for everyone. I am proud to say that I know you.

  • Susan Young says:

    I love Brent’s purpose in that he wants to create a ripple. That is awesome. What a great opportunity for you to give this a try. I’m terrified of heights!

  • Betty Shaw says:

    Wonderful blog Julie – Thank you for being there Thursday night at the ski practice. You have a powerful influence on each of us.

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