I was born in Ottawa, Ontario on November 13, 1985. I lived a very 'normal' suburban Ottawa life. I started to develop troubling symptoms of illness when I was 18. For the subsequent 15 years I struggled through a terrifying array of mental and physical symptoms, with ever increasing severity. During this time of constant struggle, I married my best friend, purchased my dream property, built a successful career, and started investing for retirement. I accomplished all of my personal goals I had set for myself all while my mental and physical health was extremely poor.
I was subsequently diagnosed with late stage Lyme disease, which had caused my immune system so much damage by this point, that I had developed and anaphylactic allergy to common food items, such as; red meat and dairy products.
After years of treatment, diet, and exercise I have my condition under control. The years of coping with illness have given me an unwavering will and determination. I am extremely confident in my ability to overcome any challenges. Extreme illness, at an early age, has also provided me with a unique perspective on life, success, and accomplishment. I am no longer motivated by personal success or recognition. I am motivated to lift up others, give back to society, and to ensure my friends, family , and community succeed with me.
I live my life with complete honesty and openness, in hopes of inspiring others to live as their true selves. I heavily value integrity. Integrity means living within the constraints of a determined core set of values, without exception. For me, these values are; equality, honesty, compassion, courage, and trustworthiness.
I am inspired to run for public office because of the lack of integrity that I witness in our elected leaders. Both here in Canada, and across the globe. I am tired of watching my town, province, country, and planet be poorly managed by decision makers at all levels. I am tired of guessing between ignorance and corruption when trying to justify the actions of our leaders. I am tired of waiting for something to change.
A "not-so-nice-or-wise" man once told me; there's two types of people in the world. Those that let things happen, and those that make things happen.
It's time to make things happen.
I was born in Ottawa, Ontario on November 13, 1985. My family would have been considered lower, middle-class. We lived in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, Ontario. My sister and I lived a very normal childhood. No extravagances, but we never hurt for good food or shelter. My father was not involved much. He was against showing any affection to males, including me, and I think this caused me to develop a need for approval and throughout my life. Most of the child care, cooking, and cleaning was left to my mother, while my father was the main income.
From a young age I was considered to be more caring than the other children. I was aware of how my actions affected others. I found it difficult to hide my emotions. My father, leaning towards the selfish side of the emotional spectrum, discouraged any emotional empathy. He highly valued financial success over all other definitions of success.
My parents divorced when I was age 11, my father moving to Houston, Texas for work and my mother staying in Ottawa to raise us. My father became moderately financially successful and would bring me and my sister on vacation to many destinations around the world. Through traveling, I was able to gain perspective on the real poverty and wealth gap. Since my father constantly expresses his belief that financial success was top priority in his life, I developed my own similar belief.
I spent my teens 'up to no good', in the Kanata suburbs. Listening to rap music, sagging my pants, and skipping school to smoke cannabis with my friends. I always did well in class, when I was there. I graduated high school from A.Y. Jackson and went to Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology for electronic engineering. I dropped out of college after two years to enter the workforce.
I spent many years in retail sales, where I met my wife Rachel, and I continued to develop my ability to empathize with people and influence their decision making. Then I continued my sales career in the insurance and financial services industry.
On August 23, 2014. I married my best friend. I was 28 years old, Rachel was 26. Little did I know how soon the saying ‘in sickness and in health’ would come in to play.
More on this later, but for now.
I was working for the Ottawa office of a national insurance brokerage. I suffered from; severe anxiety, racing heart, difficulty sleeping and dizzy spells. But hey, weddings are stressful, and so is commercial insurance. Earlier that year I had landed a very large client, surpassing my annual sales target in one sale. You would think I would be relaxed, and confident. I wasn’t. I was a mess.
My boss was a very confrontational, arrogant, manipulative, “lead with fear” type of person. So naturally, when my physician is advising me that my problems are caused by stress, I agreed, and blamed my boss. After each passing week things got worse. I begin waking up several times per night in a state of sheer panic. Sweating, heart racing like I had a terrifying dream. But unlike a bad dream, which after a moment you realize what has happened, I could not determine why I was panicked. I also began having difficulty thinking. They call this “brain fog”. I had difficulty finding the proper words, remembering information, and even forming sentences. I blamed this on the lack of sleep.
During this period, my wife Rachel began to exhibit strange, unexplained symptoms. Some mirror mine, some are different. She began missing many days of work. Because I was feeling so terrible, and was still able to work in a very demanding environment, I blamed Rachel for faking her illness on multiple occasions. I was not a very supportive husband, at first. I was sick, scared, and unsure of our future. This behavior still haunts me.
More on Rachel to come.
In the spring of 2015, about 8 months of very slow progression in symptoms later, things came to a boiling point. I had lost 50 pounds. I was sleeping about 60 minutes per night, waking up 12-15 times in sheer panic. I was depressed, anxious, fatigued, easily startled and could not think clearly. My boss was having an, all too common, tirade. I quit on the spot. I had no employment arranged.
I was going to finally have some alone time, relax and regroup. Figure out what I really want to do with my life. This lasted about one week. Rachel re-fractured her, thought to be healed, collar bone. This required multiple surgeries, and more time off work. We spent the next 6 months trying to feel better and get back to work. I casually explored my options and put out some feelers to brokers in town. We ate through any savings very quickly. Slowly but surely, I started to feel better. My anxiety and fatigue did not completely subside, but I was functional. Although this is questionable when I look back.
I began interviewing for positions. Instead of taking any job that was offered to me, I spent lots of time making sure my new home aligned with my personal and professional values and goals. This is when I found PBL Insurance Ltd. I met a Vice-President of PBL and after speaking with them, I knew that PBL was the right place for me. Their support through this has confirmed my good instincts. I accepted the offer and started at PBL August 24, 2015. The day after my first wedding anniversary. I was hopeful this was behind me.
Fast forward a few months to the spring of 2016. I began to experience muscle and joint pain. Mainly in my neck and shoulders. It seemed like every day there was a new area that was sore. And I am talking very sore. I blamed this on getting old. I had just turned 30. Maybe this is normal. Then, my symptoms began to return. Like the previous year I was anxious, my heart would race uncontrollably. I was sleep deprived, depressed and had a very difficult time thinking clearly. I had lost so much weight, I couldn’t wear my wedding ring without it sliding completely off my finger. I was making mistakes. I was embarrassing myself in front of prospects.
Back to Rachel.
Rachel had gone downhill since our wedding. She was nauseous, had terrible stomach/intestinal pain, and a slew of other symptoms. She appeared to be much worse than I was. She was unable to work and was seeing specialist after specialist to try and diagnose her many symptoms. She was sent for blood work to check for Lyme Disease and other auto-immune related disease. They were all negative. She was sent for an MRI.
Friday March 11, 2016 2:00PM - I was at the office when Rachel phoned. She was unnervingly calm. She said, “my MRI results came back, I have MS”. Even though I did not fully understand the implications this would have, I knew this was the worst news I had heard so far in my life. I left work to be with Rachel. For those who don’t know, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks the myelin coating on your nerve cells, which results in loss of bodily function and muscle/joint pain. There is no cure. I cannot remember the course of the next few days. It involved lots of tears and google searching. This likely made things worse.
Back to me.
The following Monday I returned to work. I was still experiencing all the symptoms noted above. Then my left hand and foot went numb. I went to the physician who advised to return if it didn’t clear up within a week. A week later, my face and tongue went numb. I am not certain whether I didn’t want to admit I was sick, or I simply hid the fact to try and be supportive of Rachel. I mean, what could I possible have that is remotely comparable to the devastation that is MS.
After working a few more weeks like this. I decided I could not continue to risk an error or omission professionally, due to my impaired cognitive function, and I took a personal leave from PBL to focus on finding out what was wrong with me. Now, I was defeated. My triumphant return to brokering was a failure. My wife was sick. I was sick.
My condition was deteriorating rapidly. In addition to my list of symptoms, I began to experience debilitating headaches, burning sensation behind my temples (this one was the worst of them), I was losing sight in my left eye, I was feverish. I had a constant, high-pitched, ringing in my ear, also known as tinnitus. I had difficulty walking, my muscles were spasming like I was shooting a machine gun. Many nights I would go to bed with an ice-pack strapped to my forehead and one resting on the back of my neck. This was the only way to relieve some of the pain and inflammation. Rachel would do the same. There were full days, even weeks when we would only leave the bed to eat and use the washroom. I often thought, maybe it would be good if I had MS. At least then I would know what I’m dealing with. Also, I have a $50,000 Critical Illness policy in place, because you know, I’m an insurance guy. You begin to think that your friends and family think you are faking it. Since a physician says nothing is wrong, you begin to think you are crazy. I was also sent for bloodwork and an MRI. I thought, what are the odds of a man and wife both having MS. My physician assured me this was like winning the lottery two weeks in a row. Despite this, I was sure I had MS also. Our symptoms were too similar for it to be anything else. Before the test results came back, I had already resigned to the fact that I had MS. I began to think I would never get better. This was the first time in my life that I realized why people may consider suicide.
I thought about omitting this detail of my experience. But I am writing this to get everything out there, not to keep secrets. This is a very important topic. I admit, I was not suicidal. I did not ever think “I would be better off dead”. I thought of my family and friends I would leave behind, particularly Rachel. So, this was never an option. However, I did have thoughts like “how long can I feel like this before these thoughts do start to creep up” and “how much worse will I let the pain get before it is unbearable”. I felt like I was progressing quickly. I felt like I was dying.
This brings us to June of 2016. My physician called me in to review my MRI. In the appointment, he disclosed the MRI was normal. Then he referred to the bloodwork. He said, “the Lyme Disease serology came back inconclusive”, which is rare. He wanted me to do the test again, wait two more weeks for the result and then decide how to proceed. I asked him, no, I pleaded with him to just give me the Lyme Disease treatment immediately. I honestly didn’t think I would last another two weeks. He agreed and prescribed me 21 days of 100mg Doxycycline (antibiotic) 2x per day.
Leaving that appointment, I felt relieved and somewhat vindicated. Although nobody ever really thought I was faking it. I raced to the pharmacy to fill my prescription and within days, I started to improve. After the 21-day course of antibiotics I was back to nearly 90% of health. I could think clearly, my anxiety was completely gone, I was able to sleep easily, my numbness went away. I was ecstatic. I did have a sense that this was not the end of it, but for now, I celebrated. In August, I returned to work. I began advocating for adequate diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease. I could focus on Rachel and my career, because we sure need the money at this point. Lyme is not a covered critical illness so no insurance money available.
Things were okay for me for about 8 months. Rachel was another story. In spring of this year, 2017, my biggest fear became a reality. My symptoms started to return. This time quicker and more severe than before. As soon as possible, I saw my physician and explained to him the symptoms are back, I need more drugs. His response shocked me and instantly ruined my opinion of our healthcare system in Canada, in this case, Ontario. He said “I’m sorry, there is nothing I can do for you. Go home and see what happens” See, as it turned out, physicians in Ontario are unable to prescribe long term antibiotics to treat Lyme Disease. They say there are not enough studies done on the effects on the body (even though they are commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis). Physicians have lost their medical licenses for breaking this rule. Lyme disease attacks every organ and system in the body. It can cause heart failure, brain damage and even death. The system was telling me, saving me from this devastation was not worth the risk of negative side effects from the drugs. I would like to have had the ability to decide.
I was left alone, getting sick again, with no guidance or support from my healthcare system. I had paid into this system for 16 years, never had to use it prior to now, and it was not available to me. I had a sick wife, no savings and was facing a potential outcome of living on government assistance for the remainder of my life. I was still working and trying to perform like nothing was wrong.
I did not accept this as my fate. I turned to the internet and began doing my own research. Acting as my own physician, I paid out of pocket for the advice of a naturopath. I sourced my own antibiotics and paid out of pocket. Already on a reduced income, I was forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars on treatment.
Again, I immediately began to improve. Along with a diet of no sugar, no alcohol (god forbid), no red meat and no dairy, the antibiotics seemed to do their job. I was back to about 90% functional. I used this healthy time to make and implement a goal of moving into the country to live a more natural lifestyle, become more self-sufficient, and reduce the stories in my home from 2-story to bungalow. Just in case the illness returned in the future.
My current role did not pay enough to afford this move any time soon, so I switch to commission only sales role and went to work. After a few years of hard work and sacrifice, I achieved this goal and purchased 15 acres in Kemptville, Ontario, just 25 minutes south of Ottawa.
Now, two years later, I continue to improve in mental and physical health every day. I am healthier than I have been in my entire life, and I look forward to the future. I am inspired to run for public office because of the lack of integrity that I witness in our elected leaders. Both here in Canada, and across the globe. I am tired of watching my town, province, country, and planet be poorly managed by decision makers at all levels. I am tired of guessing between ignorance and corruption when trying to justify the actions of our leaders. I am tired of waiting for something to change.
This life experience has considerably impacted my views on success. My need for approval has turned into a need to lead by example. I am no longer motivated by financial success. I am extremely motivated to make a positive impact in the community, both locally and internationally. I live honestly and with integrity. I am highly effective and know what it takes to create immediate and lasting change.
I share this story because it is important for people to know the underlying character of the people they choose to represent their own values.
Thank you for your support.
With kind regards,