When Matthew was nine and a half years old, a cancerous tumor was found in his spinal cord. It was affecting his nerves from his waist down, and he was getting more and more physically tired even in the ten days between the diagnosis and the surgery to remove it. John and I (Wendy) were told that if Matthew had the surgery, he might be paralyzed, and if he didn’t have the surgery, he would be paralyzed. Following the surgery, the doctor was pretty confident that he had removed most of the tumor and chemo and radiation were deemed unnecessary.
Shortly after the surgery, Matthew was able to slightly move one of his toes, which gave the doctors hope that he could regain use of his legs. After about a week of recovery and some physical therapy, he was able to bend one of his knees up almost ninety degrees. The doctors told us he would be able to walk, it was just a question of how much assistance he would need, such as a walker or crutches. He spent over a month in the hospital, with the majority of the time spent with physical and occupational therapists, learning how to transfer from the bed to the wheelchair, and as his nerves healed, learning how to walk with support. When he left the hospital, Matthew used a wheelchair for longer distances, but had a walker to use in the house.
For nine more months he did physical therapy, gradually moving from the walker to crutches, and finally being able to walk without support. It takes two years for the nervous system to completely heal, so by the time Matthew was 12, we figured he had progressed as far as he could. He was able to do everything, but would tire easily, needing to sit for brief periods quite often when we went somewhere.
Then John and I started CrossFit.
We soon realized that the program could really be beneficial for Matthew. If he could gain strength in his muscles, it could compensate for the deficit in his nervous system. At 14 years old, he started working individually with Scott, where he assessed Matthew’s capabilities and areas of need. Right away Matthew noticed that the gallon of milk didn’t feel as heavy, and when he went to a camp after only four sessions, he was able to lift his luggage in and out of the trunk. After ten private sessions, he was at the level where he could join the newly formed teen homeschool CrossFit class and has been able to keep up. He has gained stamina and strength, and has improved his posture.
“I am glad that I am doing CrossFit because it has increased my strength and stamina. After CrossFitting for a year, I was the only one in my cabin (ages 13-15) to climb a butte at camp in Montana. Before CrossFit, I probably wouldn’t have even tried it.”