There is nothing more terrifying than losing control of your own body. I would know.
In second year, on a crisp fall morning, I was making my way to class. As I began to approach Ryerson, the right side of my body went numb. I lost all sensation in my limbs. With my mobility resting on one leg, I managed to hobble to the side of a nearby building. I stood against the brick wall until the symptoms subsided.
I wanted to pretend the strange sensation was nothing to worry about, but over the next few weeks the numbness intensified. I experienced dizziness and my muscles were fatigued. 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 at a time.
It was three months after the initial incident that a clinic doctor said I needed to be tested for multiple sclerosis. In that moment, I was forced to rethink what the rest of my life would be like. Disturbed by the diagnosis, I went to my family doctor to get a second opinion. He couldn’t guarantee I had MS, but didn’t dismiss it either.
Over the next few months I underwent a series of tests including blood work, a CT scan, and an MRI. The scans are conducted to detect MS lesions on the brain. The results were inconclusive. The doctor told me I would just have to wait it out and see if I developed any more symptoms.
After a year of living in limbo, I had tried everything conventional medicine could offer me and wasn’t any closer to figuring out what my diagnosis was. While doing research on other treatment options, I came across an article about a woman who claimed to have fought cancer with the help of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathy is rooted in treating the patient physically, psychologically and spiritually through diet and exercise. It has garnered great reviews, from both supporters and initial non-believers like me.
I was reluctant to think that something as simple as healthy eating and an active lifestyle could relieve my symptoms, let alone cure cancer, but I had had run out of other options.
I found a naturopathic doctor whose qualifications and patient testimonials won me over. There’s a misconception that holistic doctors aren’t as qualified as regular doctors, but in Canada anyone looking to practise naturopathy must study three years of pre-medical sciences at a university and then must enrol in an accredited naturopathic college.
At my initial appointment, the doctor was able to come up with an individual treatment plan based on my symptoms and my medical history. I was put on a cleanse, since the naturopath suspected my blood system was full of yeast from years of ingesting antibiotics for acne, and I began taking B12 shots because she thought my levels were low.
I was put on a strict diet which forced me to cut out gluten, sugar, dairy and red meat. I also underwent supplement therapy, intravenous therapy and was given botanical medicines, which are plants or plant substances used to treat ailments. I was encouraged to do some form of physical activity about three times a week and practise meditation every day. Within a month of seeing my naturopathic doctor, all of my symptoms disappeared.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan doesn’t cover visits to naturopathic doctors, which makes this treatment less accessible to those who can’t afford to pay for the visits out of pocket. Inadvertently, holistic treatment becomes a class-based issue. A lifestyle based on healthy eating and physical activity should be available to everyone but our health-care system doesn’t support this.
Alternative medicine didn’t just cure my symptoms, it changed my lifestyle. I got into shape, maintained a clean diet and became increasingly interested in naturopathic medicine. I’m not trying to dismiss the importance of our health system — there are some things that natural medicine can’t cure — but I think that many ailments can be treated without antibiotics. Today doctors will write down a prescription for every cough, sneeze or sore throat, without getting to the root of a patient’s problem.
Conventional medicine didn’t help when I started showing signs of MS. If it wasn’t for naturopathy I don’t know if I would be as healthy as I am today.