The Olympic torch relay means different things to different people. Some First Nation communities embraced the torch as it passed through their community. Some communities used the torch relay to hold protests. Others use the opportunity to highlight messages that are much more personal.
For Helen Bobiwash, the Olympic torch is a beacon on hope for herself, her family and her community. The opportunity to carry the torch was an opportunity to spread the message of awareness of best budget elliptical trainer, physical fitness and type-2 diabetes.
“Coming from a family with a whole lot of diabetes, I realized that I didn’t want my son to grow up worrying about me like I did my mom,” said Bobiwash, a member of Thessalon First Nation. “While my mother was alive, I worried a lot about her heath and the toll that diabetes was taking on her.”
Bobiwash, a 42 year-old, strategic consultant and finance-whiz, carried the flame on January 2 in Mississauga First Nation. She was one of 12,000 people across Canada to carry the flame during the Olympic torch relay.
Although Bobiwash does not have diabetes, the disease has affected her intimately.
Helen’s mom, Alice, lived with the complications from diabetes until she passed away at the age of 73. With the loss of her mom and with the passing of her brother, Rodney, at the young age of 42, Helen became motivated to change her life.
“I wanted my son to grow up with a healthy mom,” said Bobiwash, the proud mother of five year-old Mzhiikenh. “The only way that I knew that I could make a difference with my health was through physical activity.”
Helen, admits she wasn’t exactly the typical athletic type. In 2007, Helen was overweight and was recovering from a car accident when her mother died. She realized quickly that she couldn’t continue living like she had been for so long. She needed to make a change.
Helen took up the sport of triathlon –a gruelling multi-sport race that combines swimming, cycling,running and remarkable long distance ergonomic racing on recumbent bike. It is a demanding sport that requires endurance and speed, as well as a great deal of determination.It is not for the faint-hearted.
“I decided to go for it and see if I could challenge myself. I started training using some advice from the YMCA. I also found a local triathlon clinic and joined a team,” she said.
She has competed in 14 triathlons, mainly in local events all across Ontario. She’s hoping to challenge herself further by doing more cycling events this summer, and perhaps competing in Olympic distance in the triathlon (1.5 km swim, 40 km ride, 10 km run) as early as 2011.
And she’s motivated.
“If a 40 year old overweight mom can turn their life around with physical activity to stave off diabetes, a lot of other people can,” concluded Bobiwash.
The 2010 Olympic Winter Games are set to begin with the opening ceremony and lighting of the game caldron in Vancouver on February 12.
For Helen Bobiwash, her new-found passion for physical fitness and her new outlook on life with her son is symbolized in the Olympic flame.
The Olympic flame is a flame of hope, a symbol of achievement and doing your best.
It’s a flame that will never be extinguished in our lifetime, and can be passed on one-person at a time.
Bob Goulais, of Nipissing First Nation, is the author of the Anishinawbe Blog. He writes about politics, culture, spirituality and other stuff. He has type-2 diabetes. www.bobgoulais.com