Overcoming a Challenge and Getting a Fresh Start

By Jessica Roberts-Farina

It was cold and I walked with a cane. I was only 28.

In January 2014, I lived in Edmonton, sick and jobless. I moved to the northern clime in September 2012, following my partner, both of us struggling in the brutal job market in Vancouver. Finding work was not a problem, but finding happiness remained elusive.

I have a spinal disability and I started experiencing pain in the spring of 2013 and began seeing a chiropractor. (I missed my chiropractor in Vancouver desperately. He is my guru and I will never leave him again.)

The chiropractor in Edmonton nearly ruined my life. In fact, he did for a period of time.

The treatments were too intense and combined with a gruelling government job, a previously unknown physiological intolerance to extreme cold, and unhappiness at home, I fell apart. Head to toe, inside to out, I could not function physically or mentally.

I was forced to quit my job, a wage position without leave benefits, start walking with a cane, and go on Employment Insurance sickness benefits. I was in a dark, sad place where I saw no hope of healing, isolated in our apartment without a network of friends or family, during the deepest days of an Albertan winter.

Eventually, I found a family doctor taking new patients just two blocks away. I began seeing a physiotherapist in the same building. I took the leap of registering for a free, six-week program at a local hospital designed to help people living with chronic pain manage their daily challenges. This was my chance. My chance to start healing. And I did.

I moved back to Vancouver to study in the Master of Journalism program at UBC in September 2014 and graduated a few months ago in May. I have not used a cane in over two years. I am now the co-founder of Altruist Canada, a non-profit that connects and empowers people with the resources they need to shape their world. We are dedicated to showing that effective change can be made by anybody, no matter the balance of your bank account or the obstacles you may face. It is my opportunity to help people find their own healing, for themselves and others.

I am turning 31 on October 2, I no longer need a cane, and I have founded my own company with the love of my life. The healing is constant, much hard work and sacrifice is required, and my future is still unknown. But, I had to make a choice, and I chose to stop forever waiting for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel and instead light my own.

-Jessica Roberts-Farina

This story is Jessica’s submission about overcoming a challenge which was selected as the winner of our Literacy is Life contest in September, 2016.

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