Extreme Inspiration: Skydiving for MS

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Is there something extreme that you’ve always wanted to do but you keep putting off?  A Bolingbrook man reminds us that there truly are no excuses.

John Mohler was healthy and athletic as a teenager but that changed in his early twenties when he noticed a change in his walk and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a disease of the central nervous system. It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, meaning the immune system attacks a person’s healthy tissue. John has one of the most severe cases of MS called primary progressive. Symptoms started with numbness in his arms and legs. As his condition worsened, he would need to use a cane, then a scooter and is now confined to a wheelchair.

“I think my last steps were in 1998,” John says. “It’s kind of like a steady decline, a steady slope. You just kind of manage symptoms and hopefully they play for you and slow down.

He says his wife of 20 years is crafty when it comes to rigging things around their home to make it work for them. But he says the most difficult part of the disease is the mental challenge dealing with a life-long disability. John knew he would never climb mountains but he had a better idea. He always wanted to skydive. He asked his doctor.

John says, “He was like, go for it man. So I did.”

Seven times John has jumped 14,000 feet from a perfectly good airplane. Teaming up with the ‘Skydiving for MS Team,’ he helps to raise awareness and funds for research and support.

Local psychotherapist Joyce Marter from Urban Balance says it is common for people to reach for extremes when facing major life challenges because challenges are opportunities for growth.

“Doing something like going to an extreme like jumping out of an airplane for somebody who has been through a disability or a physical loss can be really empowering and as a therapist I think its amazing when people rather than viewing themselves as a victim see themselves as a survivor.” says Marter.

Mike “Woody” Wood from Chicagoland Skydiving sees many people like John who take the plunge to feel free, find release and jump start a new lease on life.

“It’s just one of those things people when they realize that life could change tomorrow or has changed.” explains Woody. “They better get out there and start enjoying it.”

John says he jumps to feel unbound. When he sees the tiny dots on the landing field knowing one of them is his wheelchair, he has a special request for his instructor:

“I want you to keep me out of there as long as possible.”

John says people face many detours in life that aren’t expected but those obstacles shouldn’t prevent anyone from setting goals and pushing ahead.

“My real statement it the act,” he says. “Going up in the airplane. Skydiving for MS that’s my statement, right there.”

“I really believe we set our own limits with our thinking,” Marter says. “And even if we’re dealing with a physical disability or constraint that you can always step out of the box and push yourself to do something new and different.”

John is a true inspiration with a positive outlook on life. Even though injury is rare, there are still risks involved in sky-diving. However, Joyce says participating in extreme activities can give your life a boost. She says once you take the big leap you may realize you’re stronger than you think you are. It gives you a chance to challenge yourself and creates confidence.

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Click here for more information about Skydiving for MS.