Jan Justus loves a challenge, especially a physical one.

The athletic man likes taking things to the limit, pushing himself, but without overdoing it - keeping a balance is important to him. He has already tried out quite a few sports, even after the laryngectomy.

In fact, he only discovered sports for himself at the age of 40. That was when he started surfing. At 50 he learned to ski and at 71 he started paragliding. "I'm interested in pushing my limits, trying new things. I also want to stay fit." And the athletic senior looks it, too. Relaxed and in a good spirits, he sits opposite us in his flat and tells us his story. In 2019, at the age of 73, there was this turning point in his life: following a long period of hoarseness, and unfortunately also professional misjudgements, he was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. At that time, he was faced with the difficult decision of complete removal of the larynx (a laryngectomy) or only partial removal with radiotherapy? He decided in favour of a laryngectomy. The night before surgery was very bad for him, he struggled to breathe, lay awake all night. Throughout this period, his wife was an important support and help to him. Without her, he would not have been able to cope as well as he did, says Jan Justus today.

Back then, his fitness truly helped Jan Justus to get back on his feet relatively quickly. Unfortunately, he had to give up surfing after the operation, it would have been too dangerous as a neck breather. But he still goes paragliding and skiing these days, both in Austria. During sports, he wears a plaster with HME and a scarf to protect the tracheostomy. In winter, the protective clothing is sometimes a bit thicker. If he breathes in a lot of cold, dry air during sport, he makes up for it afterwards with a high level of inhalation.

Mental strength is a prerequisite

Mental strength in particular is a prerequisite for paragliding, Jan explains. Full concentration is the most important factor in this sport. Fitness is only needed for longer flights or when flying in a prone position. But Jan Justus flies his paraglider exclusively in a sitting position. Apart from the technical operation of the aircraft, knowledge about weather and thermals is also elementary. At the same time, one must always keep a close eye on the surroundings and this requires a high level of attention. In addition to paragliding, at some point skydiving was added to Justus' hobbies. Beforehand, tests were carried out in the wind tunnel, during so-called skydiving in the hanger. He found 6 minutes of weightlessness absolutely fantastic! Sceptically, his friends had declared it impossible that Jan Justus would come through this well with a hole in his throat. But he had prepared thoroughly (as always), even double-protected the tracheostomy, and so the test run proceeded without a hitch.

In his opinion, sporting challenges should always be tried out before categorically ruling them out. Obviously, it would be reckless to rush head over heels into a new venture. He always first informs himself in detail about a new sport and studies both the theory and the practice in-depth. However, he doesn't believe in restrictions as a matter of principle. It is important for him to show and prove what is possible, even without a larynx and in old age. Thus, despite his exceptional sporting activities, common sense is his permanent companion and always makes him seek the middle road. "You have to know and accept your limits," Jan Justus tells us. He also sticks to this when it comes to ski touring, which he rediscovered recently. Indeed, his younger colleagues run much faster and with more stamina than he does. He would love to keep up, but he checks himself. Instead of reaching the maximum in a particular sport, he prefers to take the time to try out other new sports or to travel to countries he has never visited before.

Jan Justus, aged 77 

He prefers to be in action, but he also has some " tranquil " hobbies: a little gardening when time permits, and reading, preferably in the original language. He is also active in the local chess club. He is very satisfied with his current FAHL employee Jennifer Winkler. When he thinks of the FAHL company, the words "materials", "service" and "excellence" come to mind.

Travel is like spices

After all, apart from sport, travelling is his second great passion. Of course, it helps that he is fluent in 5 different foreign languages. "Travel is like spices", he says. "In Germany, we are pretty limited in this respect: salt, pepper, red peppers, and that's about it". In other countries, many more spices are used, which makes the food all the more interesting and, to remain within the context of comparisons, also makes travelling more rewarding. Last year Jan Justus and his wife visited Cambodia and Thailand, and next year they plan to travel to India. The only thing that worries him slightly is the hygiene in these countries, which is why he generally prefers to use bottled drinking water to clean his cannula.

If Jan Justus were at home more often, he could well imagine working as a patient caregiver. It is important to him to provide encouragement to other people with a similar diagnosis. "Self-pity is no use to anyone" is his motto. "You have to focus on yourself, accept what "is", take it for what its worth, and believe in yourself. Jan Justus himself is the best example of what is then possible despite having a handicap!