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  • Writer's pictureHunter Johnston

1- Strong, Robust, and Highly Adaptable

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

Strong, robust, and highly adaptable. Those words have been repeated too many times to count during my second year in Eastern Washington University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. A professor taught my class that if we treat our patients like they are weak and frail they will believe it, and they may become just that. But if we believe in their physical and mental toughness, and we treat them as the strong, robust, and highly adaptable beings they are, we can really make an impact on their lives.

We liked the phrase. It caught on. My classmates now constantly remind each other that we are strong, robust, and highly adaptable before tests, after tests, before athletic events, when we get hurt, and when graduate school burnout is all too real.

Strong, robust, and highly adaptable has taken on a new meaning for me recently.

If the prognosis is correct and my dad’s stage 4 pancreatic cancer progresses as we expect it to, by the time I graduate next spring I will be the 4th member of my cohort of 40 to lose a family member to cancer while in grad school. Nick lost his mom within a few months of beginning our program. Earlier this year Aaron lost his uncle, and Katie lost her dad.

When my dad was diagnosed in February, I had a lot of thoughts to wrestle with. I thought about the amount of time my dad had left, how to make the most of that time, how to cope then, and how I would cope once he’s gone. I flew to visit my dad 7 times in 3 ½ months. Unfortunately, life didn’t slow down to ease my mental processing and travel burdens. Tests still happened, assignments were due, clinical internships needed planning, a practice board exam loomed, I was training for a marathon and Ironman, church responsibilities needed to be fulfilled, and I didn’t want my wife to feel like I had forgotten about her.

The mental coping, academic rigors, and stressful life demands still haven’t stopped.

Now more than ever, I need to be strong, robust, and highly adaptable.

But most days I feel like those words don’t describe me at all.

Thankfully I have others to look to. Seeing my 3 classmates work through the pain of losing a family member to cancer has provided me with a window into how strong, robust, and highly adaptable they are. If they can do it, maybe there is hope for me too.

There are strong, robust, and highly adaptable people all around us. I want to hear their stories and share them with anyone who cares to listen. I plan to share accounts of people who have developed serious physical, mental, social, and spiritual strength. If they can do it, maybe there is hope for all of us too. I hope the coming stories can lift us all. Stay tuned.



Jun 21, 2022

I’ve been fed by your posts tonight. They are insightful and uplifting. Learning to act well when life is not going well can be difficult. Thanks for doing your part to spread goodness and hope, even when life is throwing you some punches.


Jessicah Johnston
Jessicah Johnston
Jun 20, 2022

Hunter you are one of the most strong, robust and highly adaptable people I know! I admire your work ethic, your kindness, your humor, and your mental strength and toughness. You are incredible! Can’t wait to read more. thanks for sharing :)

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