Using exercise as medicine

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2017, Lt(N) Dale Molenaar used an exercise routine to regain strength and confidence. Photo by Ryan Melanson, Trident Staff

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2017, Lt(N) Dale Molenaar used an exercise routine to regain strength and confidence. Photo by Ryan Melanson, Trident Staff

Ryan Melanson, Trident Newspaper ~

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2017 and suffering his first relapse from the neurological disease, Lt(N) Dale Molenaar found himself in poor health.

His symptoms started with numbness in his arms and legs, and progressed to include balance and vision issues.

His diagnosis was closely followed by nine months of paternity leave, and by the time he returned to work at Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Scott (FMF CS) in the fall of 2018, he knew he needed help.

“Things weren’t going good. My balance and vision were still off and my confidence was totally shattered,” he said. “I didn’t trust myself walking down the street without a cane.”

He sought out professional help from the resources available to him as a military member, starting with Occupational Therapist Amanda Campbell and Dr. Alex Swift at CF Health Services Centre Atlantic, who then referred Lt(N) Molenaar to the PSP Reconditioning Program. Targeted exercises got him moving again, and he was monitored to ensure measurable results were seen, including improvements to his balance, which began to restore confidence.

Lt(N) Molenaar’s MS is the relapsing-remitting type, which means periods of remission offer a chance to build muscles and bounce back from setbacks that occur while symptomatic. Without hard work and motivation, however, that can be very difficult.

“Exercise is very important for MS. Once I lose some sort of function, it’s tough to get it back. Going through rehab forced me to get exercising and go through some uncomfortable movements,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily that I couldn’t do it, but I was scared to do it.”

Thanks to his work in the gym and the support of clinic and PSP staff, he was able to get back to a regular exercise routine and pass his most recent Force Test. The summer heat has made it hard to keep the same momentum, but he’s still hitting the gym and getting out for walks or long bike rides.

Lt(N) Molenaar works as Deputy Marine Systems Engineering Officer at FMF CS, and said the support from his unit and chain of command has also been critical in allowing him to stay productive at work while also taking care of his health.

He emphasized the importance of the health care team he’s assembled in Halifax, and should he suffer another health setback, said he’ll feel more comfortable on the road to recovery.

“Getting confidence back and seeing the measurable improvements was the biggest part for me. I know I’m still battling this, and it’s not going to go away, but I have to keep pushing through.”

The PSP Reconditioning program is a fitness program designed to meet the demands of serving CAF members that are dealing with injury and illness. For more information, speak to your doctor or contact CFB Esquimalt PSP Reconditioning Manager Lyndal Greig at Lyndal.Greig@forces.gc.ca

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