Member Spotlight: John Canter

We love our members at NBS. We have a ton of people, from all walks of life, that train their asses off on a regular basis. But every so often, someone takes it to the next level.

John Canter is a great example.

In November, John experienced an aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He was diagnosed with Moyamoya Disease and underwent brain surgery in January. Three weeks later, he was back training at NBS.

It’s a pretty amazing story that pretty much invalidates anyone’s excuses for not getting out and being active. Here’s the whole story, in his own words:

“So my training before all of this varied, but was pretty cardio intensive. I have run track and cross country since 8th grade. Being a police officer, I’ve tried to stay in the best shape I can.

“I spent some time trying to work on my strength, and met up with Bobby a few times to teach me the proper technique to squat and deadlift. I really enjoyed the deadlifts, and was seeing improvement. I was training for an upcoming school for work, and needed to get back into more body weight exercises, so I was back doing my regular routine, with four to five mile runs every other day or so.

“On November 4th, around 9:30pm, I popped my neck (I’ve popped my neck and back since 3rd grade) and instantly got a bad headache. Within a matter of seconds, it went from a headache to a buzzing sort of pain inside my head, specifically around the base of my skull, that was excruciating. After about a minute, I told my wife I needed to go the hospital. I thought I broke my neck or something. We went to Methodist Germantown, where I was given something for the pain. About four hours went by, with a ct scan, and we were informed that I had ruptured some blood vessels in my head, and they were flying me to Methodist University. Once I got there, all I remember is waking up in the cath lab, meeting my neurologist for the first time, who told me that I had ruptured an aneurysm, and suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage. I was also told that I had moyamoya disease, which is a carotid artery disease, where the inner carotid arteries shrink to the point they are no longer functional.

Before being flown to Methodist University

“She told me that they would perform an angiogram, where they run a micro catheter up an artery in my groin, and of the aneurysm is the right shape, they’d repair it by filling it with titanium coils. Luckily, it was the right shape, and they repaired it then. I spent the next ten days in the neuro ICU, where I would learn more about the Moyamoya. When my carotid arteries started to shrink, my brain developed what is called collateral circulation, and re routed blood flow through the blood vessels in the back of my head. They had been supplying the front of my brain with blood. I believe my physical fitness level had a lot to do with how efficiently that circulation developed. Those blood vessels were too small for the amount of blood, though, and the aneurysm developed. It could have been back there for 20 years, and it could have popped up in he last two months, there was no way of knowing. I had not had any symptoms of the disease, which are typically strokes, or mini strokes. After talking with the doctors, we determined that a chronic numbness in my right hand, had in fact been a symptom of the left side of my brain being starved for blood. It had been so infrequent though, that I never got it looked at

While I was in after the aneurysm. Got very tired of tape, and all these damn stickers.

“A huge concern for me was how was I going to be able to be active and workout again. I was told that if I get a headache or get dizzy, I was to stop. I was worried, because I was given a line not to cross, but where that line was wasn’t clearly defined. When I finally came back to the gym for a few times, I took it really easy. I was curling ten pound dumb bells just because I was scared to turn it up even a little.

“I ended up meeting with a neurosurgeon, who said I needed to have a bypass surgery for my brain, which would correct for the moyamoya disease. Some moyamoya patients only have one side done, and some have both. He said he wanted to do the left side first, since I had an issue with numbness in my right side. So on Jan. 9, I went back to Methodist University, and had my surgery. They took a piece of my skull out, and laid my temporal artery onto my brain, and put the piece of skull back in. The brain will recognize the artery, and should cause it to grow and revascularize that part of my brain, taking the load of the overworked blood vessels in the back of my head. That surgery went great, and as very easy for me to recover from. I was out in three day, would’ve been two, but I had a fever one night. I’ll meet with him in March and find out if and when the right side will be done. My surgeon told me to listen to my body, and take it easy at first exercising. I am afraid to get my heart rate up a lot, so I won’t be able to train like I had been. I big concern for me is that I don’t get dehydrated. I am a greater risk for stroke now, so it’s important I don’t stress anything up there with dehydration. I ran about a quarter of a mile three weeks after surgery, but got a headache and walked the rest. I was at NBS all that week though, and seemed to have good workouts. I just rest a lot in between sets. I decided to push myself a little this past Saturday though, and really had a good workout, and ran a mile. It took me 13 plus minutes for the mile, which would’ve taken me about 6.5 before all this, but I was glad to have that hurdle out of the way. I am not suppose to lift very heavy either, so if I’m going to improve on things like squats or deadlifts, it will probably take me forever to work up to now.

“Everyone at NBS has been great. I enjoyed being a part of the gym beforehand, and had even mentioned it to Bobby that I believe us as members owe it to David and the rest of the staff to be the best we can. We also owe it to ourselves. If we are going to be a part of Memphis’ best gym, it’s important that we continue to improve because we represent NBS even when we’re not there.”

Right after surgery
Six weeks post op


4 Responses
  1. Sue Russell

    So glad to read of John’s success. I’m glad he’s still interested in his fitness. I do believe he is wise to go slowly. He has the rest of his life to work on it. I wish him all the best in his recovery.
    My oldest son has MM. He was dx’d after a major stroke when he was 3 1/2. Had surgery on both sides & his recovery was good. Fast forward 20 yrs, he’s about to graduate from TX A & M with a degree in Strength Conditioning. In Jan, he dead lifted 415 lb. he’s 5-11 & weighs around 160. He began weight trying his 2nd yr of college.
    Tell John to go slow & steady. He WILL reach his goal.

  2. Absolutely loved your story and appreciate you sharing. You need to connect with Brian Matthews. He is a personal trainer at Fitness on Fire in Irvine, CA and also has Moyamoya. He was diagnosed as a teenager after he had a stroke. He had a lot of the same fears as you, but has conquered many of them. He is my fitness coach and is amazing. Today he lifts really heavy weights, he competes in OCR (obstacle course races) such as Spartan, Epic, and BattleFrog, and recently took first in the Festivus Games, which is a Crossfit competition. Since your stories and interests are very similar I know you would have a lot to share with one another. His story can be found on You Tube at and he can be contacted via email at

  3. Weird how things work. I haven’t seen you since the days at Honda but I follow NBS on FB. You’re a tough guy. Heal fast brother and take it slow and light. Strength will come, give it time. All the best brother.

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