I talk about how MS is a blessing in my life since my diagnosis in December of 2014. I’ve even gone as far as saying I’m grateful for the autoimmune disease because it’s taught me how to take different care of myself now so that I can thrive. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is building and rebuilding a health care team.
When I was first diagnosed I remember tackling my health care like it was a new side hustle in my life. I’d get up early to research and read articles. I’d come home from work and dive my nose back into books before going to bed. Building my healthcare team at the time didn’t seem that daunting. It flowed with ease.
When I met the love of my life, Mike, in October 2015, we then started dating in January 2016. I quit my job in Toronto and moved to Ottawa at the end of March 2016. I had to start fresh in my hometown city. I had to rebuild my health care team and I didn’t have the slightest idea how hard it would be.
So I’m happy to say I’ve experienced ease where it just flowed and I’ve experienced frustration and tears so from both perspectives I can write this blog post. Whether you have an autoimmune disease or you care about your proactive health and the team that you surround yourself with this post will hopefully serve you.
Toronto Health Care Team Members I’ll Be Leaving
My first health care team member was my family doctor. I had luckily found her early when I moved to Toronto after University. I moved to Toronto in 2005 after graduating from McMaster and one of my friends let me know her doctor was taking new patients. I lucked out with Dr. Segal. Over the years, she was courteous and quick with appointments but I never felt rushed or not listened to. After my MS diagnosis, I intuitively decided to start taking care of myself holistically. Reading about conventional and alternative medicine to ensure I was receiving well-rounded care. One of the first things I asked her was to do blood work so we could see where all my vitamin & mineral levels were. This is where we discovered that I had a Vitamin D deficiency at the time of diagnosis. She would print out my lab work for me and I’d take it home and put it in my MS binder so that I could show other practitioners like my Naturopath. She was always open-minded, non-judgemental and always helpful. I really lucked out with her and miss her care so much as I’ve never found something similar in Ottawa.
I had been seeing a Naturopath for years before my MS diagnosis who actually worked in a clinic where the doctor would requisition my lab work for me. However, I believe Ontario Health was cracking down on this so I had to shift and get my family doctor to do this. This wasn’t hard so at the time I decided to shop for a new naturopath who had experience with MS patients. This is when I found Dr. Rachel Corradetti. I’ve written about her before. She was the one who challenged me to stop doing so many things. At the time of diagnosis she was actually offering in-home consultations. So shortly after the diagnosis, she came to my condo and we did the intake interview and reviewed everything we could think of. We talked about a few lifestyle changes and she gave me my first supplement protocol.
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Because of the reading I had been doing after my diagnosis, I knew my digestive health, irritable bowel syndrome, gut health might be an issue. At this time I didn’t truly understand the link between our gut health and autoimmunity. Because I had announced my diagnosis publicly on social media I received the recommendation to consult with Chantal Houde who is an RHN who also lives with multiple sclerosis. I thought why not and booked an online consultation with her. This is where I learned about leaky gut and the autoimmune paleo protocol. I was able to continue my research on gut health and had a few easy tips I could incorporate into my meal planning.
Functional Medicine Doctor
Because I was in such a learning phase while in Toronto I discovered the concept of functional medicine. I researched different practitioners and landed on one in Yorkville. While I didn’t love my experience with this practitioner we did a test for leaky gut to discover if I had it, and if I did, I had healed it. We also did a micronutrient test, which was expensive but really informative. We were able to optimize my supplement protocol from those tests. I also learned from him that I was dealing with adrenal fatigue. This was after my year of doing over 20 races in 2015. I was then able to address this once I moved to Ottawa.
I’ve never shared publicly my experience of seeing a psychotherapist in Toronto. I went to see one after my diagnosis at a friend’s recommendation as I was having a really hard time dating and a lot of pain points were coming up for me again from the toxic relationship I had chosen to be in for several years before my diagnosis. I learned a lot in that time about how I think, what stories I had created in my mind and how I was processing relationships in this world. After reading “When the Body Says No” and understanding the mental health aspect that is associated with disease I thought this was an amazing addition to my health care team.
I was originally seeing an acupuncturist who came recommended by a friend for my athletic injuries. I was training for obstacle course races before and after my diagnosis and I remember going to my acupuncturist one day for sports injury healing. He asked me “When do you plan on getting married and having babies”. Which left me in a puddle of tears on his table and googling acupuncturists downtown. I was looking for someone much closer to my office that I could go to on lunch breaks or on my way home from the office. This is when I added Amrit Singh to my team. This was also before she blew up on social media as a sought-after cosmetic acupuncturist. She helped me discover through her TCM training that despite eating healthy and many foods I thought were ok on the Wahl’s Protocol I wasn’t able to digest the food and absorb the nutrients because of my timing of intake and intaking raw vegetables vs. cooked ones. She all but helped eliminate digestive problems for me and her tips I still implement to this day. Tips such as using warming spices in my morning smoothies vs. a green smoothie.
Ottawa Health Care Team Members I Found
As I write this blog I have never found a family doctor as amazing as my Toronto one. It’s been a constant source of stress and tears for me. I even left an appointment last night in tears. My husband knows that he needs to provide full emotional support on days I have a doctor’s appointment. I need to just spend time looking for a new practitioner but it is definitely a full-time job in itself.
Functional Medicine Doctor
Finding a functional medicine doctor started out wonky for me in Ottawa. I had found a doctor off of google who seemed to be amazing. She had a great website, a podcast, and books so I thought this would be great! While I had one great experience with her treating some bacteria found in a stool test I had taken before leaving Ottawa. I got really frustrated with her because she charged me for a naturopath fee but as a family doctor, I also thought I could talk to her about all my issues. From there I found out she wanted me to book an appointment per issue as she is also an MD and was billing through our provincial health care. She also brought up new issues like telling me I had Pyroluria without treating the issues I had come to see her for. I remember specifically letting her know that I wanted to solve for painful periods but since I talked about anxiety in the intake form she wanted to solve for Pyroluria. She wanted me to do an expensive test which I passed on because my research showed it could have just been a nutrient deficiency which I already needed to supplement for. I also decided to address my anxiety and panic attacks with my Ottawa psychotherapist and reflexologist. After finding my new functional medicine doctor she actually took me off one of the supplements I had been taking for Pyroluria because I was now over-sufficient in B6.
My new functional doctor is going on mat leave the month that I write this blog so I’m going to have to fend for myself for a year. However, I’ve never felt more empowered or on the right track. When I moved to Ottawa I joined an AIP Ottawa FB group to find out where people were shopping for food and local information. From this group, I found out that many of the members were going to see a doctor at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre. I called the centre and made my case to be a patient that wouldn’t take up too much of Dr. Junek’s time. I just wanted to see her maybe 2 – 3 times a year. I just needed a practitioner who was willing to requisition blood work and review it with me as my family doctor had flat out refused.
I found the most amazing psychotherapist, Robin Harnden in Ottawa. While dealing with a lot of anxiety attacks, panic and stress with the move from Toronto to Ottawa. I was able to process through my mind thoughts and find some peace in what I was experiencing.
I’ve seen 2 different practitioners since moving. I thought I had found one I loved but she ended up closing her practice while dealing with a health issue so I’m back on the market for one.
I haven’t needed one since my functional medicine doctor was able to play this role. I believe they are one of the most important health care team members so I’ll search for a new one if I need a practitioner while my functional doctor is on mat leave.
What other practitioners do you love having on your team?