A Different Kind of War

As most of you know and perhaps have been following along, I’ve been on a military career course since September. The course involved a lot of elements that I’m unfamiliar with. Learning how to spy on the enemy, learning how to attack the enemy, shooting and moving tactically (for the record my day job in the military is clerk.... I do paperwork). One concept I’m all too familiar with as a parent however, is the concept of sleep deprivation. The culmination of all these skills they’re teaching us needs to be assessed under demanding and realistic conditions. What could be more demanding than sleep deprivation?

The final exercise to signify the end of the course was meant to take place 12-20 November. Unfortunately, for this girl that exercise ended the day after it began. While at the time I was crushed that I couldn’t continue and graduate with my peers I’m slowly making peace with the reality that I’ll likely have to return in the summer.

So why did it end early for me? Well my friends, Petawawa Ontario gets cold. Like wind chills of -30 degrees Celsius mid-November cold. I started experiencing symptoms of frost bite 5 hours into the ex and by the next day I could no longer delay the inevitable. I had to take myself out of the field and seek medical attention. Upon rewarming, my toes turned a disturbing black-purple colour. For the record, I was terrified. I still can’t feel 4 of my toes because of the damage to the tissue and nerves. I should have never let it go that far.

I was so caught up in finishing this course that I kept pushing my body further and further. I stopped listening to my body when it was screaming at me to stop and get warm that it literally could of cost me body parts. Even after I had been to the doc and my toes started warming I resented my body for failing me. I hated my toes for not being able to keep up with the rest of my body and even for a brief moment I wished I had just sacrificed them to get this done. I fought for the next three days to get back out there with my course mates and try to finish my assessments. I knew they were down a lot of people and I knew they needed my help.

REALITY CHECK. If I don’t have toes I can’t help. I can’t run after my kids. I couldn’t even take my kids to the Santa Claus parade because sitting in the cold for that long this soon after would definitely lead to frost bite returning. I’m not sure how or if I’ll be able to hunt for a Christmas tree in a couple weeks depending on how cold it is outside and how my healing progresses.

While I would argue that the drive and determination that led me to keep pushing is a desirable quality for any soldier, I will admit that I was being narrow minded in my pursuit of finishing it. I lost sight of the bigger picture. I shouldn’t have gotten caught up in that moment alone but realized that the decisions I made then could very well cost me a lot in the future.

So what’s the point? My point is that how many of us start hating our bodies when things go awry? This isn’t the first time I have felt like my body failed me. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a helpless feeling. It’s completely gut wrenching to feel like your own body won’t do what you so desperately need it to. Whether it’s your toes freezing, or your body not producing breast milk or maybe labour not progressing as it needs to. In my second pregnancy I had to be monitored closely because my body was literally attacking my son because it thought he was a threat. A lot of women experience this war with their bodies and it’s a difficult place to mentally come back from.

When I finally pulled myself out of that tunnel blindness I came to realize that my toes are part of a body that has done some incredible things. My body gave me two incredible babies, nurtured them through their first year and comforts them every single day that I can wrap my arms around them. My body has conquered a half marathon at 9 months postpartum, and its carried me and my kit for endless kilometres. We need to be kind to our body and by extension ourself. We need to listen and respect our limits. Hating my toes certainly didn’t make them any warmer, it just left me angry at my own body. That anger doesn’t serve me, and I doubt it serves you if you find yourself in a similar frame of mind.

I’m still disappointed I couldn’t finish. But I’m tired of hating my body. I refuse to attack myself for factors beyond my control and I hope you all will do the same.

Nothing but love,


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Cory Biederman

Petawawa, ON