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Veteran Turns Things Around with Whole Health

older man practicing tai chi with female instructor wearing masks

Veteran James Canaday, 80 years old, practices tai chi poses with Lydia Cox, tai chi instructor at Beckley VAMC.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Four years ago, James Canaday weighed over 300 pounds and could barely walk. He depended on his power chair to get anywhere, even across the room.

Today, the 80-year-old Veteran can walk short distances and has lost over 140 pounds, thanks to Whole Health, VA’s person-centered approach to care.

In a Whole Health approach, each person is unique. Care is geared to your needs and goals, based on what matters most to you. “They tailored a plan to my needs, and that's really awesome,” Canaday said.

Canaday, who lives in Beckley, West Virginia, was undergoing acupuncture for pain management at Beckley VA Medical Center (VAMC) when he heard about Whole Health. Besides pain and mobility problems, he was struggling with diabetes, back problems, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Canaday was intrigued that the Beckley VAMC offered tai chi as part of its Whole Health program because “I taught martial arts for over 20 years, so I had practiced tai chi before,” he said. In addition to conventional medical care, Whole Health includes complementary therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, and tai chi, which helps improve strength and balance.

“I had gotten to where I couldn’t walk up and down steps—my balance was atrocious,” Canaday said. He was eager to take advantage of tai chi in a place where he didn’t have to worry about falling. “I knew I needed something in a secure environment,” he said.

Whole Health can help you address a range of issues spanning your physical, emotional, and mental health. Working with his Whole Health coach, Nicole Dobson, Canaday began making lifestyle changes, especially in diet and fitness.

Since beginning a regular routine of tai chi and yoga, Canaday’s balance has significantly improved as well as his mobility. He also said that daily activities are easier, such as shopping and putting away groceries. “Even just getting out of bed,” he said.

Furthermore, Canaday’s blood sugar levels are normal. “And now I love life,” he said.

Canaday has high praise for the Whole Health staff at Beckley VA, and the relationships he’s made there keep him motivated. “Everyone here has been just so gracious. They go beyond the regular thing that you might expect someone to do. From the exercises and meditation to the clerk that your makes your new appointments and is always funny and makes you grin. That helps make the rest of your day,” he said.

Starting his Whole Health journey “is one of the best things that I've done for myself,” Canaday noted.


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