A Sourdough on the Sunshine Coast: The Diagnosis
Kaitlin, my daughter and I return to Vancouver after a hot and sunny Labour Day weekend spent in Powell River on the Sunshine Coast. Catching the B.C. Ferry at Saltery Bay, the peace and quiet of Powell River falls behind and the rush of reality builds. Driving down the lower Sunshine Coast through Sechelt and past Gibsons, B.C. the traffic grows and the race is on! Lines of cars and people clamour and crowd onto the ferry, which funnels and pours the horde across Howe Sound into West Vancouver. Tranquility has been snatched out the air and replaced with honking and scurrying.
Our reality is Kait has lost sight in her left eye and tests indicate she will lose sight in both eyes; Kaitlin is only 25 years old. We resume the run between ophthalmologists and neurologists scattered along a well-worn route between Vancouver General Hospital and UBC. I want to know what could have caused this?
Something in the water, in the air, is it genetics? What is doing this to my girl! Kait is prescribed heavy synthetic medications that may arrest the problem, it won’t be cured, but it could stop the progressive blindness. What do you do?
A strong and terrible suspicion rears its ugly head. Multiple Sclerosis, MS is whispered behind hands and spoken with low voices in clean white offices. What is MS? How did Kait contract this, what is the cure, how long will she have it? How will this affect her life? Will she be able to have children? Will she suffer, will she go blind, and will she still be able to walk on her 30th birthday? She looks the specialists directly and calmly in their eyes asking them questions quietly and with terrible control. She asks the questions that I want to ask but wish she wasn’t in the room while I ask them. I can only sit and listen as she leaves no stone unturned.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged. Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms. There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.
It takes many months for a final diagnosis; in the end we find that Kaitlin my amazing daughter has Relapsing and Remitting MS. She has to follow a regime of drugs to maintain her eyesight. Within a year she gets most of her sight back, it is not the same but she can see with both eyes. In turn she maintained a whole food diet, which we believe helped her achieve a level of control with the disease. She is able to switch to a different drug, which has to be injected daily. This drug is less intrusive internally but her stomach and legs are bruised at the injection sites. She is terrified of needles, she injects herself.
Kait now has an additional reason to be concerned about drugs in her body. Right in the middle of a sun shiny afternoon, high on the ridge at Wolf Creek Campground, Kait and her partner Tyrel stop in for a visit that is geared toward sharing amazing news. They are going to be parents. This little baby, my first grandchild will arrive in the middle of February 2014. Sometimes you just can’t wait for tomorrow.
Kait with her signature methodology had already talked to the specialists with concerns of becoming pregnant. She is assured that all will be well. I am older and skeptical of Western medicine (such a young study). I believe the Western Doctors are incredible mechanics. In other words, they fix broken bones; they cut out bad parts and are wizards at replacing valves and knees etc. I think they have achieved genius with heart restructuring. I am not so sure about the practices used in the West for healing, for curing.
Take an aspirin and call me in the morning does not fix the reason for needing the aspirin in the first place! Medicine for high blood pressure does not fix the reason that the blood pressure is high to begin with. What is causing the problem? ‘Talk to your Doctor about XYZW drug, it could help with your twisted toenails, but it could cause your heart to stop beating.’ The TV ads make me crazy. No one listens to the warnings they drone through at the speed of light. LISTEN to the warnings! Fix it when you can, don’t cover it up has always been my motto.
So I am worried about my first grandchild. Will this tiny being arrive on this planet with all of the proper parts? Will the drugs cause a deviation in the natural progression of baby development? Will the stress of childbirth (the body’s immune system peaks right after delivery) trigger Kait’s own immune system and cause her body to attack itself? Resulting in blindness once again. It will be a very long and anxious 7 months for all of us.
Going back to the previous story, I had fallen in love with a fall down house at Stillwater in Frolander Bay, which is 20 kilometers south of Powell River. The Captain and I put an offer in on the 2.5-acre property. This is an Old Italian dairy farm complete with a loafing barn for the heifers to laze in prior to milking. Grapevines and apple trees, figs and sweet cherries, I think we have a chance to buy this piece of heaven. Seven RV sites complete with long-term tenants, the round pebble beach is a minute’s walk away.
Our much lower offer on the Stillwater property was accepted and we acquire the property prior to the diagnosis with Kaitlin and definitely before we knew about the pending baby. Initially the doctors thought Kait had caught a strange virus that would work its way out of her system.
As residents of Powell River and its Regional District, we will be eligible to moor the Audrey Eleanor at Westview Harbour. Being able to access our beloved old wooden boat within minutes from where we live is not to be believed. We wait to see if we are B.C. landowners.
P.S I have struggled with this coincidence for many years. I present this to you and let you arrive at your own conclusions:
An older friend when told of Kait’s diagnosis with MS responded “Oh, the little dog disease.” I felt like my world had gone on tilt. “What do you mean by that Agie?” I questioned. She said that years ago it was believed MS was prevalent in homes where little dogs lived. This created a contact with humans and the Parvo virus (distemper), large dogs did not live in houses as much as small dogs did. Growing up in the north, I saw few small housedogs. Sled dogs were not allowed in the house. A female dog with pups might be allowed in the porch if it was particularly cold, but no one let their dogs in the house.
Kait and Tyrel had adopted a little black puppy from Mae Bachur animal shelter and called him Dutchie. En-route from Mae Bachur they received a phone call telling them of a strong suspicion that Dutchie had contracted the Parvo Virus while in containment at the shelter. This was on the day in August 2010 that they were bringing the pup home.
Indeed Dutchie had Parvo, this sweet tempered puppy could not beat the disease and died from it a few weeks later. The Vets were wonderful in their care and compassion both for Dutchie and for his owners. It was a tough go for the young couple both on a financial and emotional level. The Vet said they should not get another pup for at least a year. The virus can remain in the soil for up to a year.
Almost a year to the day that Dutchie died, Kaitlin began to show signs of Multiple Sclerosis and lost her sight in one eye. The hair on my arms and head is standing up as I type this. Now go to your computer and start to research MS and the Parvo connection. The Yukon has one of the highest rates of MS in Canada. I wonder if you think it is a coincidence? It is a terrible thought.