Everyone has a Story
Ryan Lewis, B.Sc.
I had the great privilege of attending the Gathering a few weeks ago at my school, the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). It was a weekend filled with many great talks between elders and students alike, regarding the meaning and interpretation of the vis medicatrix naturae or the healing power of nature. It was while speaking with Dr. Larry Nusbaum and a few other students at the wine and cheese event that I realized how the vast majority of students studying to become naturopathic doctors all have very fascinating stories about why they decided to enter this particular program instead of a different one. The story-telling began when Dr. Nusbaum asked one of us a simple question “What made you choose naturopathic medicine?” This seemingly simple question turned out to be the beginning of a long night of story-telling about our individual journeys and experiences that led us to discovering naturopathic medicine. Although, each person’s path to discovering naturopathic medicine was somewhat unique and experientially dependent, there was a common force that attracted us to this particular path and guided us to our discovery. This force was one that is internal, which I can best describe as being something like a gut feeling but stronger because it was not only felt in an isolated region of the body but throughout the entire body itself. It just resonated with each one of us and without a doubt we knew that this was what was right for us at the time. A common trend in most of the stories told was that how most of our journeys began while we were doing something in our lives that we no longer felt was right for us. Or for some of us it was a particular event or personal experience that caused us to seek out an alternate way of viewing healing and medicine in general. I know this was the case for me.
You see, from very early on in my life I just knew that I wanted to become a doctor. Consequently, I geared the majority of my secondary and post-secondary education towards taking pre-med courses. I had heard of naturopathic medicine from a CCNM representative, while I was in my first year of undergrad but at the time I could not see it as being something that I wanted to do. This was largely because I was so focused on wanting to someday become a medical doctor that anything else just did not even seem like an option. So I listened to the representative, took a couple of free brochures and a fridge magnet with the CCNM logo on it and went on with my day. It was not until my third and final year of undergrad that I had a life changing event that led to a couple other events that not only changed the way I viewed medicine but also the way I viewed life.
It was during that time that I became ill for about a month. As a result, I went out to seek medical help from my family doctor but left his office feeling very dissatisfied and frustrated. I felt that there was a lack of empathy for my chief complaint and the amount of pain that I was constantly experiencing at the time. I also felt like I was just not heard. I had spent just a few short minutes in my family doctor’s office and after listening to me for a very short period of time all I was given was a couple of prescriptions and then I was sent off to the pharmacy. Although I had experienced many such short visits in the past this one was the tipping point for me for some reason. This was because I did not feel like my doctor cared enough about my long-term well-being. I realized that this was not the type of relationship I would want to someday have with my patients.
I spent the following weeks in my bed debilitated by such excruciating pain that I could not get up and move around for too long. It was also during this time that I started reading about alternative medicine in a book that completely changed the way I viewed medicine and the health care system. It opened my eyes to another side of medicine that I previously did not know existed. This life altering book was Natural Cures "They" Do Not Want You to Know About, by Kevin Trudeau. I just remember reading that book and thinking that knowing what I just learned, there is no way that I can practice medicine the conventional way.
Now, do you remember those free brochures and the magnet that I had gotten from that CCNM representative a couple of years prior? Well I had rediscovered them in a corner of my room amongst a pile of notes and paper that I had accumulated. So I decided to visit the college website to see what the program and college was all about. As I watched their video from the AANMC and listened to the description about what it meant to be a naturopathic doctor, I just knew then and there that it was exactly the type of doctor that I wanted to become. The key phrase that resonated with me was Dr. Bernhardt’s line “If you believe there’s more to quality health care than a seven-minute visit and a take home prescription, if you want to go deeper to understand the source of illness and aid the body’s ability to heal itself; then welcome to the field of naturopathic medicine.” As I was listening to that I just felt as though he was speaking directly to me and that those exact words were meant for me personally. And as they say, the rest is history.
So that was my story about my journey towards discovering naturopathic medicine. And as that night of story sharing at the wine and cheese event continued I heard many fascinating stories from other students about their journey. Hearing everyone’s story allowed me to come to the realization that we are connected by our common desire to take a more patient-based approach to treating each individual patient and to treat the root cause of their illness.
So, as you have probably realized by now, storytelling is a great way to get to know someone better. And as you share your story with others and they share theirs with you, you may find a common thread that connects you with one another. So I now ask you to try this for yourself. Get to know other students at your college and friends by getting together with them to share stories about their individual journey. It is simple. All you have to do is ask “What made you choose naturopathic medicine?” You may be surprised to learn how much you might have in common.
Until next time.