After a frustrating month of shin splints, flu, and mega-blisters, Andrew Fournier carries on

By Catherine Fournier
The Interim

It’s been a difficult month for Andrew and for the Pilgrimage for Life. Instead of the smooth sailing Andrew experienced through the Maritimes and Quebec, injury, illness, constantly changing plans, and frustration have been the norm this month.

After a good rest at home and great experiences at the March for Life in Ottawa, Andrew set off again on the Pilgrimage for Life. He intended to walk south from Ottawa to Morrisburg, westward along the St Lawrence River and Lake Ontario to Toronto, and then head north towards North Bay and Sudbury. His spirits were good, his shoes were new, plans covering media exposure and billeting were in place for the whole province. He expected to be in Sudbury by June 4 and crossing the Manitoba border by July 1.

First it was blisters. Huge bleeding blisters caused by two factors. After trying size 14 shoes – which gave him blisters on his right foot – and size 13 shoes – which gave him blisters on his left foot – Andrew has discovered that he has a size 13 right foot and a size 14 left foot. Also since road beds are “cambered” to shed rain water, walking on a paved road bed means walking on a slanted surface, which puts uneven pressure on the “down hill” foot and causes more blisters. Blisters slowed him down considerably and he fell behind schedule before reaching Morrisburg.

Then in the unpredictable spring weather, he caught a flu and spent a few days in bed. Once he recovered from the flu, Andrew set off again, walking quickly in an attempt to make up for his lost time.

Next came shin splints and a sprained ankle. Shin splints are painful cramping in the thin layer of muscles over the shins. The repeated impact of vigorous walking on a hard paved road is a typical cause of shin splints. By the date he was expected in Toronto for a number of scheduled media events, Andrew was impatiently recuperating in Napanee on the St Lawrence River. He took a bus into Toronto and spend a week there, fulfilling the scheduled obligations, then returned to Napanee.

By the end of May, then, Andrew was physically depleted, emotionally drained, and spiritually challenged. He was chafing under the injury-imposed lack of exercise, worried about keeping to schedule so he can cross the Rockies before winter and anxious about his physical condition.

All these concerns led Andrew to change his route to recoup the time lost to injury. He is determined to finish the Pilgrimage and reach Vancouver. Leaving Belleville in the first week of June he travelled straight north towards Whitney rather than proceeding to Toronto and going north through Gravenhurst and Barrie. Thanks to the continued generosity of Pilgrimage supporters, billets were quickly arranged for this new route.

Bypassing the most populated area of Canada disappointed the many groups expecting and hoping to meet him. Knowing this has been an additional worry for Andrew. Though he plans to return to Southern Ontario once he’s finished the Pilgrimage and spend the winter travelling and talking to groups, he recognizes that it’s not the same.

At the same time, the rest of the family has faced challenges unrelated to the Pilgrimage. Peter was laid off from his job at Nortel Networks, and then developed arthritis and a pinched nerve in his neck. He can’t even look for a new job until it heals.

As I’m writing this, Andrew is in Bancroft, resting and awaiting approval for the next leg of his trip – a change of his mode of travel. From there, he plans to travel by canoe south to north through Algonquin Park. Canoeing will allow him to rest his feet while still covering distance. This way, he’ll reach North Bay by the end of June, nearly a month behind schedule but, we hope, in better health and spirits.

Is the Pilgrimage for Life the traveling or the talking – the walking or the witnessing? Is God calling him to simply cover this distance or to concentrate on speaking to groups and the media? This is the question Andrew and everyone involved with the Pilgrimage had to face this month.

Struggling to keep his spirits up and his faith strong, battling frustration, worry, loneliness and occasionally failing, Andrew will keep going, trusting that the Lord will provide answers and help him to continue to follow God’s plan.