There is nothing more terrifying than losing control of your own body. I would know.
In my second year of University, I was making my way to class when I felt something I had never felt before.
It was a crisp fall morning, I hopped off of the subway and headed to campus. As I passed the school library the right side of my body went numb and I couldn’t move my right arm or leg.
I hobbled to a nearby building for support and I stood against the brick wall for 15 minutes. Finally, the symptoms subsided. I was scared and confused, I didn’t know what to make of what just happened.
I wanted to pretend like this strange sensation was nothing to worry about but over the following weeks, the numbness and the loss of mobility intensified and I developed other symptoms as well.
Sometimes the attacks were mild and would last for no more than a few minutes, other times I couldn’t move the right side of my body for hours. I had to stop driving because I never knew when I was going to feel weak or numb. My schooling took a back seat and I didn’t go out with friends because I was embarrassed I would have an attack in front of them. As I continued to slowly lose my independence I knew I had to address the issue because it wasn’t going away.
It was three months after the initial school incident that a clinic doctor said I was exhibiting the early signs of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), to this day, I still don’t know why this doctor would make such a severe assumption without conducting any formal testing.
Some of the early signs of MS include:
- Weakness in an arm or leg.
- Clumsiness or a lack of coordination.
- Loss of balance.
These were all symptoms I was feeling in my body.
I sought out different opinions and while no one could guarantee I had MS, no one would dismiss it either.
Over the next few months, my family doctor sent me for a series of tests which included blood work, a CT scan, and an MRI. The scans were conducted to detect lesions on the brain – which is one of the warning signs of MS. The results were inconclusive. My doctor told me I would have to wait and see if I developed any more symptoms.
This was devastating. For almost a year I was living a nightmare, I had no idea what was wrong with me and no way of knowing if I was going to get better.
I came across an article, on the internet, about a woman who claimed she beat breast cancer with the help of naturopathic medicine.
I was always very skeptical about these sorts of claims because I had no faith in alternative medicine, but something inside of me told me to explore the naturopathy route.
Naturopathy is rooted in treating a patient physically, psychologically and spiritually through diet and exercise. It has garnered great reviews from both supporters and non-believers like me.
After doing some research I found a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga, whose qualifications and patient testimonials were comforting. I was still skeptical but I made my first appointment
There’s a misconception that holistic doctors aren’t qualified to treat patients like regular doctors but in Canada, anyone looking to practise naturopathy must study three years of pre-medical sciences at a university first, and then enrol in an accredited naturopathic college.
The initial consultation was something that really struck me. I remember walking into this bright and inviting office that smelled like lavender. There was calming music playing in the background and I was greeted by the administrator who actually looked pleased to see me.
When I was called into the examination room and exchanged a few words with the doctor, I felt optimistic about the remainder of the appointment.
My initial assessment was an hour and a half long. The doctor was thorough with her questions and even reviewed my medical history. By the end of the appointment, she came up with an individual treatment plan based on my symptoms.
I was put on a whole-body cleanse which cut out gluten, sugar, dairy and red meat from my diet. I underwent supplement therapy and intravenous (IV) therapy which is when nutrients are delivered directly into the bloodstream. I was also encouraged to partake in physical activity at least three times a week -assuming I didn’t experience any numbness or loss of mobility- and practise meditation every day.
I know all of these recommendations sound a little crazy but within a month of seeing this naturopathic doctor and implementing all of these changes my symptoms disappeared. I was completely overwhelmed, for the first time in a long time I felt hopeful.
The naturopath suspected that I had a build up of yeast or Candida in my body -from years and years of ingesting antibiotics to treat adolescent acne. This build-up was apparently making my immune system fight itself which resulted in the numbness. The prescribed treatment helped flush out the yeast and strengthen my immune system.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) doesn’t cover visits to naturopathic doctors but some private insurance companies will pay for a substantial portion of the costs. These visits are expensive and if you have to invest in supplements or different treatments like I did, it becomes expensive.
Unfortunately, those without private health insurance or those on a fixed income may feel discouraged from seeking alternative treatments because of the financial implications. Having reaped all of its benefits, I firmly believe that naturopathy should be available to everyone.
Naturopathy didn’t just cure my symptoms, it changed my life. I got into shape, I maintained a clean diet and became increasingly interested in learning about alternative medicine – things I never did before I developed my symptoms.
Please understand that I’m not trying to dismiss the importance of our health care system or conventional doctors. I think both practices can work together. I still see my family doctor regularly for my checkups but I believe naturopathy can serve as a preventative measure.
When I went back to see my family doctor he was wary about the treatment plan I had undergone with the naturopathic doctor. He believed it had no effect on me feeling better but none the less he was happy I was.
Conventional medicine didn’t help when my body started going numb but naturopathy did. To this day, the symptoms have never returned and I think that’s attributed to the lifestyle I now lead. I don’t know if I’ll ever have to think about the words Multiple Sclerosis again but right now I am happy and healthy.
There is still a stigma surrounding alternative medicine and treatments but I hope that this blog can answer some of your questions or teach you something you didn’t know.