INTEGRATIVE YOGA & HEALTH
About Katherine Labonte
The journey to becoming an Alternative Health Care Provider is one that is individual, but at the same time, not particularly unique. It is my understanding that most of us in this field, have come here from a place of illness or imbalance. I was no exception. ‘It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.’ This quote gives a small image of the depth of despair illness can bring, and a hint of the wonders that can come from the journey to health.
My youth was plagued with measles, pneumonia, ear infections, staff infections, bronchitis, sinus infections and extremely debilitating menstrual cycles. The oddity being, between these bouts of illness (every 2-4 months), my constitution appeared strong and above average.
In 1993, while riding my touring bike, my head hit the pavement at a speed in excess of 45 km/h. My helmet split in two, and my bike became a mangled knot of metal. I was so worried about my bike and whether or not I would be able to race in the up-coming half-ironman triathlon, that I did not even consider that I might be hurt. Even though I had to manually lift my head off the pillow for the next two weeks, the thought did not cross my mind to go see a medical doctor. A few short months later, things were starting to go wrong. I was developing restless leg syndrome, I was not sleeping, my legs were becoming painful, my mind was becoming foggy and I was beginning to lack the ability to make clear decisions. I first gave up swimming, then running, then my work, then biking. I was eventually let go of a new part time job. I was unable to handle any form of stress.
Gradually, I was bed ridden. My list of symptoms were huge: migraines (only to be relieved through injections), dry eyes, inability to sleep, severe muscle pain, rheumatism, hypoglycaemia, hypothyroidism, IBS, rest-less leg syndrome, palindromic rheumatism, legs collapsing, hands randomly opening, to name a few. I did not cook, clean, grocery shop nor could I provide any quality of care for my 5 year old son. I became very depressed. I was a type A personality that could not work, could not exercise, was fired from a job and could not even care for her family. My entire identity was stripped from me. I no longer knew who I was and wandered what could possibly be my purpose here.
I went to many medical appointments looking for answers. I was repeatedly told that this was ‘in my head’ and that I was ‘just’ depressed. It was true, I did become depressed, but it was not the cause it was the result. Initially I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and then Lupus. Gradually, after about a year, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It turned into Fibromyalgia after a while. There were many other subsidiary health challenges that went along with this as well. A specialist in Edmonton explained to me that my symptomology was similar to someone dying of Cancer or Aids in their last weeks of life. This was not encouraging. He also said to me to put my things in order, that I would most likely never work again. I was 28 years old. I also went to a research scientist in Edmonton whom I received a report from. My brain was in fact ‘ab-normal’ (My husband says this is no surprise!) and that the chemistry was different than someone who was healthy. This was helpful to my sanity, as I would often stand up and forget why I stood up. My hands would open while holding things, only to watch them fall to the ground. Knowing that I was not ‘crazy’ gave me a little more inspiration to keep going. My prayers were only to be well enough to raise my son.
I tried every western treatment for symptoms that was available. Every drug I tried I had a reaction to. I could no longer drive and was going to physiotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic almost every day of the week just to keep my body moving enough to do basic functions such as shower, dress, eat and go to the bathroom.
At this point, I was losing all desire to live. My son was not eating or sleeping. He was throwing up and telling other children at school his mom was dying. It was devastating to watch the life flow out of my son. Worse, I had no patience. I was in such pain I laid on the couch all day and cried until no more tears came. If he asked me a question, or needed my time, I would lose my temper. At this point, I truly made a pact with God. I believe it was my first REAL prayer. “God, you have two months. If I do not find any relief for my symptoms, then I am going to end my life. I don’t expect a cure, just for my son to have some kind of mom to care for him.”
Most days, the thought of my son growing up with a mother was enough to keep me going. However, there were two days during this illness that the pain was so great, I did not feel I could continue. On those two days my husband at the time brought me hand made clay candle holders when he came home from work. Finances were in a critical state for us, so this was a big deal. On those same two days, my dog Jasper stood up ALL DAY so he could rest his head and touch me. Even walking to the bathroom, he would make sure his body stayed in contact with mine. To this day, I feel that those two things on both of those days (and they never happened any other day) were meant to keep me going just a little longer.
Then, the first miracle. I walked into Safeway two days after my ‘pact with God’. All of a sudden I stopped, made a 90 degree turn and looked at the bulletin board. This was not something I regularly did. Right in front of my eyes was a poster for yoga. It was for beginners. What was interesting about this is that yoga had never been taught in Fort McMurray for 10 years. The lady who was teaching had never taught before and had no teaching qualifications other than a desire to share yoga. Interestingly, I had bought a yoga book one year prior. I had also spent hours as a teen ager doing yoga poses in the back yard. At the time I was unaware of what I was actually doing. She put up the poster the same week I made my prayer! The very first class I new I had found something. The movements felt impossible at first, but my pain started decreasing, sleep improved and I was able to cook a meal and fold laundry soon after.
The second miracle occurred when a woman) that worked with my husband stopped by one day (less than two weeks after my ‘pact’). She asked me if I was willing to fly to Penticton, stay with her mom (whom I never met) and get colon therapy treatments. She asked me what I had to lose. There was no internet. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was spending the last of my savings blindly. After my first treatment I started really sleeping, from 2 hours per night to 4, then 6, then eight. After one or two more treatments, my restless leg syndrome started to diminish. My bowels were becoming normalized. I observed very interesting items come from my colon! The results from this were unbelievable. Without these treatments, I do not believe I would be here today.
The third miracle that happened within the first two weeks of my ‘pact’ came from a neighbour. We had been friendly, but did not know each other well. He walked over, mentioned that he did hypnotherapy. He said, ‘I don’t know if it will help, but you are welcome to some free treatments if you wish.’ We had one session, and it was life changing. I ended up journeying, something that was completely new and foreign to me (or so I thought). We both heard sounds of drumming in the room, and I had some amazing visions that came to me. I had no idea this could even occur, so I knew it was not ‘created’ by my mind. Ultimately, the messages that I received from this were:
- That I was but a child of the universe
- That there was help for me in the spirit world, and that
- Life was more than I could explain with my analytical mind.
The understanding of these concepts would deepen as I began getting healthier, and began my study of Self. However, this gave me hope of life not being mundane but amazing, and that maybe the struggle would be worth it.
Through the practice of colon health and yoga, in 8 months I went from not knowing if I could remain alive, to being completely pain free. Even a health challenge such as dry eye, which is not suppose to be able to heal, is no longer a problem for me. There was no choice to be made. I knew I had to learn as much as possible about holistic health care and share it to the world to the best of my ability. GRACE is the only word that can explain this, and the many ‘little’ miracles and experiences that have happened along the way, that are just too numerous to discuss here. The process of health to illness and back to health again was a gift. It was a gift that brought me to a deep understanding of the interconnections of the mind, the body and the spirit. That in order to have full and complete health, one must look at all parts of a person to help them come to a place of wholeness.
Life now is full and complete. I work full days, back pack, run for hours in the mountains and so much more. Family life could not possibly be any more rewarding or loving. I do not believe that many of the ‘miracles’ in my life were accidental. I no longer survive life, but I am life. I am home!