Participant Page: Livin' the Dizzy Life
Three out of four people in my family have a vestibular disorder. My mom was diagnosed first, followed by me, then finally, my sister. I am intimately familiar with the struggles of life with a vestibular disorder through a caregiver's perspective, a patient's perspective, and a researcher's perspective.
As a caregiver, my journey started when I was only 10 years old, as my older sister and I tried our best to take care of our dizzy mother. Fortunately, the only major disaster that I can recall was when I tried to cook pork chops and burned them to a crisp! (We survived.)
As a patient, life with dizziness began at age 13 after my round and oval windows of the inner ear (bilaterally) ruptured upon the descent of a commercial airplane flight. Multiple surgeries, best rest, rehabilitation, medications, exercise, and dietary interventions helped me to make a new life with dizziness, survive college, and begin a career as a speech-language pathologist working in skilled nursing facilities.
As a researcher, my journey started with my master's thesis: The Effects of Vestibular Disorder on Cognitive Functioning. (It's buried somewhere in the stacks at the Portland State University library for those who are interested in reading it! Or, email me.) Interestingly enough, I found that scores on tests of attention correlated with dizziness handicap. I fully admit that I am a biased researcher, as I personally know that vestibular disorders affect our cognitive skills, which is why the ice cream ended up in the kitchen cabinet instead of the freezer once! Also, it is why I never submitted my research to the rigors of journal publication because I feared that it would be "found out" that I myself had a vestibular disorder and thrown out as invalid research due to personal bias. (The results were shared with other researchers in the area though.) Seven years later, I regret letting my fears stand in the way of progress and realize that often great scientific advancements are born out of personal necessity.
For the past seven years, my personal challenges have been physical--Nordic walking, race walking, marathons, and last year's triathlon. I am still challenging myself physically, as walking and staying active help to keep my dizziness manageable. I can never quit, or else the dizziness takes over and wins. However, working in nursing homes, seeing the failures of Western medicine, and my own experiences as a patient have compelled me to learn as much as I can, find a better way, and help people to regain the quality of their lives back. What is quantity without quality? So, I sold my home, moved in with my parents, quit my job, and went back to school to take chemistry and physics. I applied the National College of Natural Medicine and was conditionally accepted (upon satisfactory completion of prerequisite courses). I will start naturopathic medical school this Fall. Someday soon, I hope to help people to live their lives as healthily and happily as possible, and perhaps find a cure for all of us who suffer from vestibular disorders.
Please support VEDA today, as I would not have made it to where I am without the efforts of VEDA, my family, the late Dr. F. Owen Black, and many other people in my life. VEDA played a critical role in helping us to find a doctor, understand the diagnosis, and educate others about the struggles we faced. Thank you for your support!