Looking Back: My Personal Story
It’s really no surprise how I got here. Like most people, there have been defining moments that have led me to where I am and why I do what I do. I have been somewhat reluctant to share my personal story. I mean, let’s face it - revealing personal stories in social media is not for the faint of heart. But it seems relevant and worth sharing if for no other reason, as Ellen Degeneres would say, than the importance of 'relatability.'
Those who work with me will affectionately describe our sessions like “drinking from a fire hose.” While it is true, I tend to provide more than ample resources for my clients, the reason for it stems from the desire to feed a desperation that I knew personally, that comes when you are dealing with unresolved health issues.
I know the challenges of desperately wanting to find solutions to long-standing health problems. And, I know the frustration of trying to make sense out of conflicting and complex health information. Especially given the stress it can bring while managing a busy life because I have been there myself. Perhaps most importantly however, I have come to know the tenacity of spirit that enables us to overcome chronic health conditions, allowing us redefine our health potential.
I have come to know the tenacity of spirit that enables us to overcome chronic health conditions, allowing us to redefine our health potential
A defining moment in my journey was while reviewing my lab results, the doctor remarked, “good luck with that.” In that brief instant I remember thinking I had little to be gained sitting a moment longer in that office, that she was throwing in the towel, and her only answer was that I should learn to accept severe stomach pain and food intolerances as a way of life.
I marinated in that mentality for all of about 48 hours before I re-framed that comment into a personal challenge. A challenge which, quite fantastically, fueled a relentless pursuit to 'figure it out' and find the answers, myself.
As a Registered Nurse I value conventional medicine but like most people, I found limited solutions unless I was willing to consider invasive procedures or prescriptive medications. Medications that I severely react to and experience the “rare side effects” they rarely warn you of. Having the luxury of comprehensive health insurance gave me some financial freedom to explore alternative medicine and keep searching to find health care practitioners willing to stay in the game with me until we figured it out, together.
Let me just say, after trying seemingly ‘everything else’ that leaves you worse off than where you started, an Elimination Diet or simply giving up gluten seemed like a walk in the park. But to be honest it wasn’t. I struggled to navigate food choices and understand “hidden sources of gluten,” to figure out “dairy alternatives,” or understand the basis of “multiple food and chemical sensitivities” that are so often associated with autoimmune disease. I looked for resources, scoured the internet, and read whatever I could get my hands on. At some point I decided I might as well extend my formal education for all the time I was spending researching for answers.
I struggled to navigate food choices and understand “hidden sources of gluten,” to figure out “dairy alternatives,” or understand the basis of “multiple food and chemical sensitivities” that are so often associated with autoimmune disease
When I discovered the Institute of Functional Medicine (FM) and a Master's program in nutritional science and FM, I can remember literally pushing my chair back from my desk and feeling like I had found the holy grail. I wasted no time and was enrolled before you could say “application form.”
But some would say my story began long before all that. Looking back, my mom used to tell me, "it's really no surprise" I first became a Registered Nurse. Shortly after my parents divorced, when I was all of 7 years old, my dad was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Witnessing a family member with a serious illness leaves a lasting impression and perhaps cultivates in us what we are destined to become. It is truly rather remarkable that my father survived that illness given how archaic radiation and chemo was then compared to what is available today. Needless to say, he wouldn't be the last in our family to deal with cancer. It was decades later, but years too soon, when my mom passed away within a year of being diagnosed with lung cancer. Losing her was devastating but I have to admit she lived every moment til her last fully aware of her surroundings and those she loved.
The more we embrace health promoting behaviors along with food choices that cultivate optimal wellness, the greater we can improve our chances for living a long and vital life
But it has been my Dad's healthspan, or lack thereof, that is remarkable. Outliving several bouts with cancer and heart disease, we have witnessed his strength and fortitude only to be outmatched by the slow decline that accompanies the insidious disease known as Alzheimer's. The contrast between my parents' experiences has given me greater appreciation for the value of one's healthspan - living out whatever years we are blessed with as vitally and fully functioning as possible.
As the numbers of those affected by cognitive issues across all ages continue to rise, the need for neuro-protective nutrition, early assessment and intervention, has never been greater.
I feel blessed to have found answers to my chronic health issues, as well as the clinical framework to help others do so as well. Suffice it to say, given my personal experiences and what I continue to witness among those I am privileged to work with, I firmly believe the more we embrace health promoting behaviors along with food choices that cultivate optimal wellness, the greater we can improve our chances for living a long and vital life.