MY HEALTH JOURNEY
"Having a sensitive system with immune and digestive issues since childhood has helped me to become a better doctor. I understand what it takes to overcome health challenges. Complex health issues are often misunderstood & requires a lifestyle devoted to emotional & physical balance ."
(collage by Elizabeth Large)
Most of my life, I have been interested in personal growth and health. Having been predisposed to allergies and acute infection since childhood, I had the chronically stuffy nose and contracted most colds and flus that went around. I was a sensitive kid yet pushed myself to excel in many areas. I was put on antibioitics on a regular basis from an early age which ended up causing chronic intestinal imbalance and a permanent degradation of my microbiome. Luckily at the age of 14, I figured out that healthy eating and exercise were critical components to my well-being. However, the chronic intestinal yeast overgrowth in my GI tract predisposed me to intense sugar craving that kept me on a perpetual wheel of immune and intestinal health challenges.
I majored in Exercise Physiology in College and participated in triathlons and long distance cycling. At the ages of 11 and 21, I lost two of my brothers which sent me on a spiritual and personal journey to understand the greater meaning of life. The grief brought depression which I suffered from for many years. Ultimately it helped me become a better person through all the various self-help books, courses and spiritual practices I sought out. I identified with being a highly sensitive person with a high need for self-challenge. Learning about HSP’s or Highly Sensitive People also helped me to understand my need for solitude which helped to support my immune system. I had always been sensitive yet quite ambitious in my approach to life. I had a strong will and was able to make my body keep up with my passionate thirst for life. I backpacked throughout Southeast Asia for a year, taught English in Taiwan, participated in Triathlons and long distance cycling.
I was incredibly thankful to discover Naturopathic medicine at age 28. It was the first time I found an alternative to the antibiotics that had been the mainstay of my childhood. Natural medicine cured my chronic sinusitis that I had suffered from for 10 years. It helped pull me out of a debilitating fatigue that came after working one summer doing indoor oil painting. This led me to pursue a career in Naturopathic Medicine. My experiences in my family and my personal health helped shape my career as a doctor.
When I moved to Arizona for 4 years to attend Naturopathic School I remember my health and energy improved greatly which I attributed to the dry climate and lack of allergies. In 2001, I moved to Portland and was going to Acupuncture school and working part-time. I developed extreme insomnia which I now believe was due to mold exposure. I ended up leaving the acupuncture program as the insomnia became chronic and consequently I didn’t have the energy for the rigorous requirements of another 3 years of schooling. I had always loved Northern California and in 2002 I moved to Mill Valley and began practicing Naturopathic Medicine. The insomnia had improved, I felt good and hiked regularly all over Mt Tam and my practice was going well. I suffered from insomnia and fatigue only episodically.
In 2011, after having many patients that didn’t respond to any of my treatments, I began educating myself about chronic infection and Lyme Disease. From my research in chronic infection, I realized that I too had many of the symptoms of Bartonella and Lyme disease. I began treatment with natural medicine and found that my body responded well. Desiring to learn more from experts in the field, I sought out Wayne Anderson, ND and spent a week pre-ceptoring with him. Dr. Anderson asked me to come work with him first at Clear Center of Health and later, Gordon Medical Associates. Working with Lyme Disease and complex illness began first at Clear Center of Health and later at Gordon Medical Associates. I learned a great deal about all the aspects of chronic infection, mold toxicity and other disorders that accompany these complex health issues. The infectious diseases include Lyme, Babesia, Bartonella, Erlichia Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and can be carried by ticks, lice, fleas and mosquitos. I began to believe that many illnesses are actually infection in disguise. They rarely show up on most blood work and may manifest in 200+ different health disorders.
In 2014, I was overjoyed to become a foster parent to a beautiful 8 year old girl who I ended up adopting 2 years later. After two years, during a very intense rainy season, she developed extreme insomnia in our rental home, chronic headaches and depression which initially we thought was trauma but later realized it was all due to mold. She tested positive for having the mold susceptibility gene. After moving out immediately, she responded positively and has recovered beautifully.
In the past ten years, I have personally dealt with multiple chronic infections -Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, shingles, Babesia, Bartonella and mold toxicity. My healing path consisted of both oral antibiotics and short term IV antibiotics , herbal therapy, immune system IV treatment, Los Dose Immunotherapy and sauna. I also strongly utilized the tools that I had previously learned in yoga, mediatation, somatic therapy, art therapy and exercise.
I now believe a large factor in my health struggles was due to mold toxicity in my childhood home and other homes I lived in throughout my life. I have learned that mold is an immune system suppressor and often hard to detect. It often takes many different forms of testing with a mold expert such as ERMI, moisture meters, and thermal cameras to find the moisture sources. I have found that most often people with lyme and chronic infection will not get better living with mold exposure in their workplace or home. Getting ill often happens with the “perfect storm” of multiple stressors on your immune system. Lyme and chronic infection can lay dormant in the body for many years only to appear when a major stressor appears. Other factors affecting the immune system include our genetics, trauma history, stress levels, nutrition, social support, and level of resilience.
Today, I am a wiser, more compassionate doctor from my experience and have learned many things on this journey. I believe that we must see the positive in all things. My experience taught me to listen to my body. Despite ups and downs, I remained optimistic, with the belief that I would be fully healed. I learned what it’s like to have a health disorder that isn’t understood by mainstream medicine and the fear and isolation that comes with it. Both my daughter and I experienced being outside the parameters of western medicine and I’m grateful that we are both found our way to health. I hope my story can be useful to others and shine a light for them in their own healing journey.