Imagine going from being young and healthy one day, to being told you have a debilitating, degenerative, and fatal disease the next. Your initial reaction may be to curl into a ball and cry, thinking there’s no hope to be found.
But today’s guest is living this, and he’s here to share that there is hope. After his diagnosis with ALS, Wayne Thomas learned to shift his thinking from self-pity to consciously trying to make memories and cherish each day that he had.
His message is that life is all about perspectives. In the face of adversity, you will discover what you’re capable of, and find an inner strength that you didn’t even realize that you had. Everyone will experience different hardships, but in the end, everyone is capable of living their best life regardless of the challenges.
Wayne works not to just find hope for himself in his daily life, but to bring hope to others who may face similar adversities in life. Listen in to his incredible story to learn more about his experience and the way it has given him new perspectives to live his best life.
About Wayne Thomas:
Wayne was born in central Alberta, Canada. He held a successful career in Calgary, Alberta, for 20 years, progressing into more senior roles, wrapping up as a senior leader overseeing HR, Learning & Development, Compensation & Total Rewards and Corporate Facilities.
Over the years, he continued his appetite for life-long learning, achieving a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from the University of Lethbridge, a CMC designation from the Canadian Association of Management Consultants, a CPHR (which became a fellowship) from the Human Resources Institute of Alberta and a Masters of Business Administration degree from Athabasca University. He has been fortunate enough to visit 38 countries around the world.
After his ALS diagnosis, he was inspired to write a book about living your best life in the face of adversity, with all proceeds going to the ALS Society. He and his wife Joanna now spend their winters in Palm Desert, California.
To learn more, you can find Wayne on Twitter and Instagram.
Mentioned In This Episode:
- Perspectives: 17 Things I Learned About Living Your Best Life While Battling a Terminal Illness by Wayne Thomas
- Better Than Today
- Find more Hope resources
Lindsay Recknell 0:03
Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Hope Motivates Action podcast. I’m your host Lindsay Recknell.
Lindsay Recknell 0:09
This week’s guest Wayne Thomas has an amazing outlook on life and I can’t wait for you to hear his inspiring story. Wayne was born in central Alberta, here in Canada and moved to Calgary, where he held a successful career over 25 years progressing into more senior roles, and wrapping up as a senior leader overseeing HR, learning and development, compensation and total rewards and corporate facility.
Lindsay Recknell 0:32
Over the years, he continued his appetite for lifelong learning by achieving a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Lethbridge, a CMC designation from the Canadian Association of management consultants, as cphr, which became a fellowship from the Human Resources Institute of Alberta, and a master’s of business administration degree from Athabasca University. He has been fortunate enough to visit 38 countries around the world.
Lindsay Recknell 0:57
A few years ago, Wayne was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive nervous system disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. Incredibly, after his diagnosis, he was inspired to write a book about living your best life in the face of adversity with all the proceeds going to the ALS society. We will link to that book. Absolutely. In the show notes.
Lindsay Recknell 1:19
Wayne and his wife, Joanna now spend their winters in Palm Desert, California, which is where I caught him to record this episode. As a reminder, if you’re interested in any of the books, resources and tools I mentioned in this episode, all the links you’ll need can be found in the show notes of your favorite podcast player, or head to the blog and pod page of my website at expert in hope, calm, and you’ll find them all there too. I truly believe that the future will be better than today, by taking action over the things we can control and conversations like this really reinforced that hope. So without any more delay, let’s get to it.
Lindsay Recknell 1:52
Hello, Wayne, welcome to the show, and very excited to have you here.
Wayne Thomas 1:56
Thank you, Lindsay, I’m excited to be here, you have
Lindsay Recknell 1:59
such a fascinating story and hope I know has played a real Central, political central figure into your life. So let’s start off by you sharing your story with us and how you have used hope to motivate action in your life.
Wayne Thomas 2:15
All right, well, as you know, I was diagnosed with ALS, about four and a half years ago. And my life changed. And I think with anybody going through adversity, but certainly people that are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you look to many things, for hope. And basically, hope is different for many people. For some people, they get injured, or maybe diagnosed with something that you know, is curable. Their hope is that they will get better. with ALS, it is terminally, you know fatal. And so you begin to look at Hope differently.
Wayne Thomas 3:21
So my wife and I look at hope as short term, getting up each morning, having a good day, looking forward to doing something. And the perspective is different. So that’s kind of my situation right now in life. And so, once I had an opportunity to take a step back, and assess kind of what’s important in life, I began thinking, certainly through the encouragement of my friends and family and colleagues, I should tell my story, potentially give other people you know, hope or make their own situation, maybe a little more bearable.
Wayne Thomas 4:24
So that’s what I did about a year and a half ago. I sat down with a friend and started brainstorming, and I wrote a book. The book is called perspectives and it’s available for sale. But the book basically walks people through what is ALS, my journey with it, and life lessons or insight about living your best life Of course, the proceeds, I’m giving them off to the ALS Society of Alberta, which has been phenomenal to myself, and my wife, and family, and to many other people.
Wayne Thomas 5:15
But yeah, you can take a very dire situation and make it, you know, a little more positive, and hopefully, give other people hope for facing adversity in their own lives.
Lindsay Recknell 5:38
Wayne, I feel like you are an incredible human. I mean, to have a diagnosis, such as the one that you received, I imagine that I would have crumbled into a little ball and refused to get out of bed. You know, but you have absolutely, I mean, you’ve embraced it, you’ve and I don’t know, what the process looked like, or, or, of course, how you feel internally about it.
Lindsay Recknell 6:06
But it feels like to me, that you change you did you changed your perspective. And instead of sort of wondering, Why me, you know, turned it around to say, Well, what, what legacy can I leave? How can I help others, so that their journey with ALS is, you know, easier, or, you know, quicker to that acceptance, or whatever that looks like, but amazing and selfless of you to contribute to the world in this way.
Wayne Thomas 6:40
Well, thank you. I truthfully, I do have bad days. My wife does, family, friends. But I think it’s all about perspective, and how you view the world? And so it’s not perfect. But I think you have all of us have inner strength that we sometimes didn’t realize we had?
Lindsay Recknell 7:17
I would, I would say that if you didn’t have bad days, if we as humans didn’t have bad days, or did admit to having those bad days? The that wouldn’t be real, either. Right. I think the human experience is that we get to have bad days, and it makes us appreciate those good days a little bit better, a little bit stronger.
Wayne Thomas 7:39
Yeah, I would say probably all of us, Lindsay to comment, you thought he might come into ball. And I’m sure we, you know, there were days I did. But you’d probably surprise yourself. How much opens strength? positivity? You probably have?
Lindsay Recknell 8:03
Well, thank you. I like to think that about myself, and I hope that, you know, when adversity does does affect me that I do, try to remember then that perspective. Well, and definitely hold on to hope. You know, one of the things you said in your introduction there, it resonated kind of about the timeline of hope, you know, you mentioned that your, your timelines are a bit shorter than maybe they were before your diagnosis.
Lindsay Recknell 8:31
And I’ve heard that, I’ve heard that sometimes as an objection to hope, you know, people say to me, Well, I’m too old for hope I’m too. I’m too old, for dreams and goals, you know, and my response has always been, they don’t have to be so far in the future. You know, it doesn’t have to be something that you’re working on for 3040 50 years. These dreams can be things that you want to move towards to create that future better than today, even in a short term timeframe.
Lindsay Recknell 9:05
So I loved to hear how your definition, you are still very hopeful, even though the The timeframe is shorter than you had expected prior to diagnosis.
Wayne Thomas 9:15
Absolutely. And the first couple of years, I was quite mobiles still. I had onset in my left leg. So I began limping. And really, it ALS is so unknown, that affects everyone so differently. Some people it starts with their speech, some with their hands, and some of the legs, etc.
Wayne Thomas 9:50
But the first couple of years, my wife and I said okay, we love to travel. I think I’ve Up to 30 countries around the world. close to that, but we did so many major trips, quickly did a bucket list. And for us that gave us hope of seeing other parts of the world making new memories together. So that’s the definition for anybody. If you’re given finite time, think the best bit.
Lindsay Recknell 10:38
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Is there a big lesson that this diagnosis has taught you?
Wayne Thomas 10:46
Yes. Don’t take people or things for granted and cherish each day? Because you just never know.
Lindsay Recknell 11:01
Absolutely fair. Right. And nothing, you know, is we tend to take our lives for granted because it’s just assumed that they we will have another day or another year or whatever. So it’s Yeah, again, putting things into perspective. With your book, speaking of your book, how did you come up for the with the title of it?
Wayne Thomas 11:24
Well, that’s an interesting story. So in a nutshell, my friend who was a contributing editor, Carrie Edson. She worked her night work together, years ago. And Carrie approached me while writing the book. And prior to that, we were on social, social media. It’s kind of a funny story. So she was in fairness, complaining about a first world problem. And we all do, I did.
Wayne Thomas 12:04
And so I had just been diagnosed with ALS. So I wrote back to carry, say, carry. It’s all about perspectives. And she remembered that I actually forgot I said that to her. But when we were coming up with a title for the book, she said, Wayne, remember when you said that be nice at all? Yeah. Right. So that’s how it came about. But it means perspectives means a lot of different meanings, right? It can be how you look at things. If life deals you a bad head. Is it really that bad? Could things be worse? And then how you react? And take in that situation? And deal with it? How you play those cards?
Lindsay Recknell 13:11
Yeah, your response to it? For sure.
Wayne Thomas 13:13
Lindsay Recknell 13:14
Was there. So you mentioned that there was kind of a turning point for you? Where are you? You know, after absorbing your diagnosis and figuring out what all that meant? Do you remember a turning point where your perspective changed? Or was it something that happened gradually?
Lindsay Recknell 13:30
And the foundation for my question is, you know, the people that listen to this show are often listening to the guests speak about their experiences, because there’s something that’s resonating with them, or, you know, they feel like they’re in a similar situation and don’t know where to go next. Or maybe they’ve lost hope.
Lindsay Recknell 13:48
And so, I’m asking, you know, if there was a, if you remember a turning point free for you, and then you know, if the listeners are looking for something similar or wondering if something like that may happen for them?
Wayne Thomas 14:05
Yeah, great question. It was gradual, to be honest, the lifespan average lifespan of an ALS patient is two to five years. So I’m coming out four and a half off. But really, I’ve had symptoms. Unbeknownst to me, my wife kinda reminded me of some of the symptoms about walking, she notice for more years of that, so you kind of have to accept the new normal over time, you know, walking with a cane, then a walker, and wheelchair, you know, your hands start to go, you can tell my voice is a little bit shaky.
Wayne Thomas 15:00
So, over time you kind of learn new normals. But you say, okay, am I going to give up and become depressed? Or, you know, hate life? Be angry? Or am I going to be adaptable? And try to live with the new, normal, and work with it and still look for, you know, opportunities to make new memories? And have fun times?
Lindsay Recknell 15:40
Sounds like you’re living your life very intentionally.
Wayne Thomas 15:43
Yes. That’s a good way of saying, absolutely.
Lindsay Recknell 15:48
Did you live your life like that prior to diagnosis? Or was that a? Is that a bonus of life now?
Wayne Thomas 16:00
Great question. I would say like, all the many of your listeners, I, my mother used to say to me, when I was young, we don’t wish your life away. Because I’d always be looking for look forward to the next vacation or summer break, or Christmas, I wish she would hurry up and get here. As an adult, we spend a lot of time working and raising our families. And we sometimes lose sight of the here and now. We’re always thinking of the next thing, or next vacation, or next, whatever.
Lindsay Recknell 16:45
Absolutely, I know that I’m definitely guilty of that staying present in the moment is something I definitely have to remind myself of a lot. You know, always typically looking for the next thing and waiting for the, you know, a next goal or the next moment or whatever, it’s definitely something that I have to that I need to be intentional about and cognizant of, for sure.
Wayne Thomas 17:09
And it’s definitely another broad thing is something I think, in North American society, we’re kind of trained to do hurry up and get a bigger house, hurry up and get a promotion, hurry up and get, you know, a second home, a nicer car, etc, etc. Yeah, absolutely.
Lindsay Recknell 17:35
Wasn’t there something that says, a cliche or a saying that says, you know, if you’re waiting to be happy, once you graduate school, or once you get married, when you have your first child, and you buy your first house, you’re going to be waiting forever, you know, look for opportunities for fulfillment in the moment internally, and you know, stop looking for that external validation.
Wayne Thomas 17:58
I think there is a good lesson for all of us.
Lindsay Recknell 18:03
So we wonder if one of the things that’s going through the mind of the people listening is your family and your friends and your colleagues. I know that, you know, four years ago, when I was when, when I was struggling at home, one of the things we talked about a lot was the impact of those around us and around me, is there. Have you given thought to how best to help you know, those that love you through this journey? I imagine you must have?
Wayne Thomas 18:39
Yeah, it’s a good question. It’s a balance because my wife is my, of course, most fierce and loyal champion. So she is very guarded about people that try to make the illness about themselves. Some of them have, truthfully, some of my friends have backed away because it’s difficult to see. But some friends have really stepped forward and have become like family. So it’s an interesting journey.
Wayne Thomas 19:29
But in terms of me trying to make their I don’t know how you’d say their lives, lumbar comfortable from me. They, I talk openly about a thing they want to know about the illness. I share all the calls and resources. And if they see me regularly which was due the A realize I’m still waiting. And I’m just going through some health challenges, but still the same person.
Lindsay Recknell 20:20
Absolutely. And I love, I love that you are kind of encouraging of those kinds of conversations, I think, at least my experience is that so often fear or anger or anxiety comes? Because we don’t know. And we’re scared of what we don’t know. And so I imagine that it must make people help people to feel better. When you are able to talk out loud and share your thoughts and feelings and the research and all of that. Have you found that that’s been really helpful?
Wayne Thomas 20:52
Yes. Really, it’s an elephant in the room? If I’m in a wheelchair, and we don’t talk about it. It’s pretty weird.
Lindsay Recknell 21:08
Fair. Well, and, you know, I’m in the business of making uncomfortable conversations as normalized as any other conversation. And it feels like we’re aligned there as well. In just addressing those elephants in the room head on, I think that is a really healthy relationship to have.
Wayne Thomas 21:28
Yeah, absolutely. And one of my areas that I worked in, was HR. uncomfortable conversations was part of my life.
Lindsay Recknell 21:43
So this, you know, your work experience sets you up for this life challenges, what you’re telling me?
Wayne Thomas 21:47
Lindsay Recknell 21:49
I love that well, and, you know, cool that you are honoring your friends as well, it feels like, you know, you said that some friends have backed away and some friends have doubled down and really come into your life and it feels non judgmental, to hear you speak about it, you know, it.
Lindsay Recknell 22:10
I imagine that it could feel there could be anger or hurt or, you know, not understanding why people would back away but you feel quite or your language and your tone of voice makes me feel like you’re, you know, accepting of other people’s journeys. And I think that’s really special as well.
Wayne Thomas 22:29
No, thank you. And in fairness, I’ll be, again, my wife. And I probably did the same for her. She gets upset when some people back away. But I say, hey, everybody’s going through something, right. So it’s not just about me.
Lindsay Recknell 22:55
You sure seem like an authentic and real genuine guy. It is a real pleasure to know you. And I really, I really appreciate you spending your time with us today. I wonder, I wonder if you could share with us. Wayne, what gives you hope?
Wayne Thomas 23:12
Well, that is a difficult question. Hope. I mean, I have the basic definition, hope is anticipating of something. And so, of course, when you have a disease, like ALS, everybody hopes for a cure or a treatment plan con to some, my you know, progression is quite slow, very others. But realistically, perspective wise, you hope for good days, you hope for new memories with people you care about. And I mean, I hope, I believe has to be realistic.
Wayne Thomas 24:16
But I think you need hope. So I still participate in the odd clinical trial. Down in California where we’re at right now, a company calls me and asked if they can take blood samples every so often to study biomarkers in ALS patients for future research. So, of course, you do that in the hopes, maybe big picture or something may develop for you or for future
Lindsay Recknell 25:00
You know what, a selfless but a selfless human you are, I can imagine that it’s been a tough road. And I know you’re representing your best self here with us today. And you know, like you mentioned, you have good days and you have bad days. But your attitude and your perspective is just, it’s just incredible to hear weigh in. And I really do, I really appreciate you sharing your story with us. It takes courage to be intentional about sharing your story in the hopes that it would make someone else’s story just a little bit easier.
Lindsay Recknell 25:33
And I thank you very, very much for being here with us today. And then given that hope, giving that hope to, to all of us. So thank you very, very much.
Wayne Thomas 25:43
Thank you, Lindsay. Pleasure.
Lindsay Recknell 25:45
It has been a real pleasure. We’ll take care and I’ll talk to you again very soon.
Lindsay Recknell 25:51
I hope you enjoyed this latest episode of the hope and motivates action podcast. These episodes are a labor of love inspiring conversations with hopeful people make my heart happy. If you also love this episode, it would be amazing if you could go to Apple podcasts and leave a review five stars if you’re into it. It’s these reviews that encourage Apple to promote this podcast to their network. And the more people that listen, the more hope we can spread into the world.
Lindsay Recknell 26:14
Don’t forget to check out the show notes of this episode to find all the links to my guests’ books and other resources referenced in this episode. You’ll also find the link back to my website where you will find additional support and resources for you, your team and your community. I truly believe that the future will be better than today. By taking action over the things we can control and hearing from these guests on these episodes. I know that an even more hopeful future is totally possible.
Lindsay Recknell 26:39
I’m always looking for inspirational guests. So if you or anyone you know would like to be a guest on the show, please reach out. You can find me on the contact form of my website at expertinhope.com or by email at Lindsay@expertinhope.com.
Lindsay Recknell 26:54
When I was a teenager, my sisters were leaving the house to go out for the night. I always made it a point to remind them to call me if they need me. It was my way to tell them that I cared and would always be there for them. I’d love you to know the same so all of you listening out there Call me if you need me.
Lindsay Recknell 27:09
Again. Thank you for your love and support of this podcast, my work in hope and your intentional focus on making your future better than today. After all, hope without action is just a wish.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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