I was 44, the age my mother was when she died from breast cancer. I had been practicing Medicine for about 20 years, had a thriving practice, was on staff at both Women’s College and Sunnybrook Hospital, was teaching medical students and residents, and was considered an expert in Women’s health.
I started having peri-menopausal symptoms. I was having occasional hot flashes, started gaining weight in the mid-section, my brain wasn’t working as well as it used to, and it was like a light switch turned off for my libido (irrespective of what an amazing lover my husband was - of course my husband added this part
A lot of my patients used to complain that once they hit 40, they had a hard time losing weight and they were developing a spare tire despite their usual tactics to avoid this. They wondered if this was due to hormones. I told them “NO”. I would tell them that they weren’t eating right or exercising enough. BUT, when it started happening to ME, I knew I was eating right and exercising right. I thought to myself….. IT MUST BE HORMONES.
What was I to do?
I didn’t want to live this way for the rest of my life. I was somewhat of a child prodigy and got into medicine at the age of 19. I needed my brain to work efficiently. My mother had died of breast cancer at a young age and I didn’t want to increase my risk by using hormones. Her oncologist had told me to never take the birth control pill, and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study had come out which showed a significant increased risk of breast cancer with use of hormone therapy over 5 years. It was also the year that the SOGC (Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) came out with a position paper stating that all hormone carried the same risk (Bio-Identical or synthetic). I was actually at that SOGC meeting when it was announced, and I asked whether or not there had been any studies to support that statement since prior to the WHI, there had been several reports showing that Bio-identical progesterone was different from synthetic methoxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). They said ‘No’. I asked how can you make a statement that every OBGYN and every family doctor will repeat to their patient without fact. They said, “good question”. I realized that I needed to learn more about Bio-identical hormones. For clarity, Bio-identical means the same molecular structure to our own. Our body would not know the difference. MPA or Provera which was used in the WHI study is not bio-identical; it is a chemically altered molecule that has similar action to progesterone at the lining of the uterus but has many different actions elsewhere in the body.
I started going to conferences in the USA which included debates and lectures on bioidentical hormones, and this led me to start a fellowship in ‘Anti-aging and Regenerative Medicine’. This education opened my eyes to a whole new world - the world of Integrative and Functional Medicine - one that was evidence-based. It went back to biochemistry, genetics, and epi-genetics. It was about looking for root causes, how the environment can affect our genes and how micronutrient deficiencies can cause illness. I had a thirst for knowledge. I couldn’t get enough. I felt like a veil was taken off and I could see things differently now. My original intent was to learn about hormones but I learnt so much more. Hormones were just one part of the equation.
I began practicing what I had learned with my patients, and I saw significant improvements in their health. I also started progesterone and certain nutrients targeted to my genetics and I felt significantly better. I feel better today than I did 4-6 years ago. I commonly hear that from patients in my practice so I know I’m on the right track.
What do I tell people every day?—eat right, exercise, replace deficient nutrients, balance your hormones, get a good night’s sleep, and manage your stress. I realized that this type of Medicine takes a lot of time and that I couldn’t do it in the usual paradigm and I couldn’t do it alone; I needed a team. I wanted to do it in a healing environment where all providers could work together. Often patients who seek alternative treatments have a hard time navigating the medical system. They see their alternative care provider who says one thing and their conventional doctor says another and the patient is caught in the middle. No one talks to each other or collaborates. So, I decided to create the 1st physician-run integrative Medicine Lifestyle Centre with the goal of offering a personalized and Integrative medicine that is tailored to address patients’ unique medical problems and make use of both conventional and alternative treatment options. Our team represents a group of innovative and experienced practitioners who have experience in both traditional and functional medicine solutions and can help patients bridge that gap. I believe it is a true oasis in the city with a community feel, a one-stop shop for clients to optimize their health. I want to empower patients to live up to their full potential by strengthening their mind, body and spirit.
I started this journey to improve my health and in the end I learned how to help many others.