Dr. Teri Jaklin BA, ND, IFMCP
Throughout life, my greatest lessons have come from personal observation. Medically speaking, mostly through the health care experiences of others. Early this fall, however, I was the star of my own medical tutorial: Major surgery with power tools, a total knee replacement. Just the thought of it still sends shivers to the core of my vis!
I am sharing this story with you because it forced me to put some of my most deeply held beliefs about healing and recovery on the line. It could have been an all or nothing situation where the risk of the surgery was greater than any potential outcome with the additional risk of actually aggravating my health. Instead, it has served to make me more the insufferable Naturopath.
I have always, very organically, been drawn to natural medicine and when this world came together with the world of general anesthesia, antibiotics, morphine, nursing care, and institutional rehab, well this lesson got really intense really fast.
First I want to acknowledge with gratitude the medicine and the surgeon with the capacity to perform this life-altering surgery.
Going in, there were a number of variables; a preexisting condition (Multiple Sclerosis) which could potentially be a loose cannon even if the surgery went off without a hitch; immobility and four years on a scooter and, those who loudly expressed my delusion (a powerful psychological barricade) because of course “you have MS – what do you expect?” To me, that thinking was enough to keep me immobile without any effort on anyone’s part. BTW I have a long history of orthopedic disasters – especially on the knee in question whose deterioration was the direct result of a horseback riding accident in 1980 – not at all MS related. The decision was not taken in haste but, in my case, at the end of the day the potential far outweighed the risks.
Now, months after the surgery my recovery continues to deliver something new every single day. I stand, more than ever, in awe of the magnificent ability of the human body to recover from layer after layer of insult. And at how powerful yet gentle corrections provided by naturopathic medicine and physical medicine, combined and my own fortitude, never before challenged in this manner, have taken my body and me from a traumatized morphine haze to the power and strength to stand like I haven’t stood in over a decade.
Don’t get me wrong, there is still immeasurable healing and recovery ahead – and a long way to my dream of walking – but my main message to anyone who will listen has always been to acknowledge, respect, engage, honor and foster the healing capacity within.
This recovery story could yield a multi-chapter book, but there are three key messages that I would like to leave for anyone in recovery of any kind – from/with any condition:
Never underestimate the opposition and, the best offense is a good defense.
Be it a current ongoing health concern or something that comes at you from left field. How serious is the situation? What do you need to do for your recovery? Who is on your healthcare team? understanding that you and Dr. Google may not be able to handle it on your own.
In my case, the surgery was sort of a surprise and definitely out of my league. But my team of all-stars begins with support at home from my loving husband and friends. It continues with an amazing group of physical practitioners including physiotherapists, an osteopath as well as yoga therapy and massage therapy. Finally, my Naturopathic Physician who guides my body through the processes of recovery including, but by no means limited to, pain management, detoxification, and restoring everything from the microbiota to my body’s normal circadian rhythms.
Never underestimate the power of home field advantage.
At the same time, you are powerful beyond your wildest dreams and at the times of deepest doubt know that the contribution YOU make can truly drive the outcome.
From keeping your mind out of anxiety and depression (yep, this can be a dark road at times), to using the power of meditation and/or visualization to control reflex spasm and create new pathways of information for a body that is navigating a new and foreign part.
Every time I move now I visualize that movement in its perfection and my body naturally follows suit to the best of its ability – an ability that, through the laws of neuroplasticity, will in turn continue to perfect that movement. Yes, the same strategy professional athletes use to perfect their performance.
An important part of your role in recovery is giving yourself permission to heal, in whatever time it takes. I have come to understand that recovery is an ongoing process that requires patience on a day-to-day basis.
Never put your eggs in one basket.
We may have one health concern that we focus the majority of our time on, generally a preexisting diagnosis. I see it all the time clinically, a diagnosis (sadly) becomes the center of a life. Then out of left field comes something unexpected; a second diagnosis or a required intervention, like my knee replacement, which sends us into a tailspin.
Our overall health is the sum total of health in all systems; physical, mental/emotional and spiritual. It’s a precarious balance that is easily lost in our “modern lives.” What self-care do we embrace to maintain health at this lofty level? Good nutrition? Healthy sleep patterns? Time for meditation, prayer or stillness? Cultivating happiness? Regular exercise? Castor oil packs? Hydrotherapy? Being in nature every day?
A lot to ponder for certain. What does recovery look like in your world?
Dr. Teri Jaklin BA, ND, IFMCP is a Naturopathic Doctor and founded the Waterdown Clinic of Naturopathic Medicine in 2002. She is a skilled general practitioner with a passionate commitment to the foundations of naturopathic medicine, treating people of all ages and health status. Areas of special interest include Multiple Sclerosis and Complex Chronic Illness.
With a diagnosis of her own, Teri has been active in the MS community since the mid 80s. Today she coaches individuals and groups on living well with MS as well as working with people in private practice to reduce the impact of MS and other chronic illness, on their lives.
Prior to becoming an ND, she spent 10+ years in the frantic world of corporate public relations and communications where she learned first-hand what 70 career hours per week can do to you and your health.
She strongly believes that knowledge of the processes of health and disease is not proprietary and empowers individuals and organizations with programs that make a palpable difference in how we engage and perform in our lives.