By Wendy Peters, the Aquarian
April, 2010

“Don't get too attached to her.”

That was the advice Darlene Bouchard's doctors gave her regarding her sick daughter. Brutal or what?

In the five years since Kassandra had been born with an umbilical hernia, her health had gone from bad to worse - food sensitivities that were so severe she was unable to tolerate even her own mother's breast milk, bleeding ulcers, urinary tract infections, debilitating migraines, severe asthma, you name it. By the time she was 5, every major system in Kassandra's body was compromised. Despite the medical community's best intentions and efforts, she was not thriving. And the doctors didn't know why.

For Darlene, this was history repeating itself. Born with a club foot, she had her first reconstructive surgery at the tender age of 7 days old. It was the first of many. And although the surgeries were successful in that she was eventually able to use her foot as feet are meant to be used, the fallout was horrendous and ongoing – between massive scar tissue - the legacy of multiple surgeries - and a digestive tract ravaged by long term use of anti-inflammatories, pain had become a fact of daily life for her, a constant companion.

As an adult, Darlene shopped her list of chronic aches and pains around the medical community, going from doctor to doctor on a quest for whatever relief they could provide. None was forthcoming. She was frustrated with them and they with her. By the time Darlene gave birth to Kassandra, she had been told so many times that the pain was “all in her head” she had all but given up, wondering if perhaps she was just weak and whiney.

But as every parent knows, it is one thing to give up on yourself but quite another to give up on a child. As Darlene puts it, when it comes to giving your children what they need, “you will go to the moon.” So, for Kassandra's sake, Darlene did not take the doctor's advice and resign herself to a future without her daughter in it. She did not know where to go for the answers she was looking for, but she was determined to find them. Knowing how this story ends, I am tempted to say that the intensity of her intentions drew out the appropriate resources.

Skeptical but Game
The gateway into the world of alternative medicine for Darlene, as it is for so many, was a chiropractor. Chiropractic treatments had not proven to be a panacea, but they had provided a significant level of relief. So when the chiropractor suggested she try the services of Luke Chabot, LCSP (Phys), an Integrative Manual Therapist, she was skeptical but game to give him a shot. It's the “being game” part that would serve her well in her quest for health for her and her daughter.

Within 6 treatments, both Darlene and Kassandra were experiencing the relief of symptoms they had been living with for their entire lives. And with that relief, came a measure of trust.

Darlene had never heard of homeopathy when Luke suggested she take Kassandra to a homeopathic doctor, and her first response was “Homeopathy, huh?  How do you spell that?”

Again, Darlene was skeptical, but her experience with Luke encouraged her to follow through on his advice.

What Dr. Nielsen, the homeopathic doctor Luke had referred her to, told Darlene during that initial consultation resonated so strongly with her that every time she reaches for the memory, it is as fresh as the day it was uttered:

“Darlene, I will not treat Kassandra unless you consent to treatment as well. If mother isn't well, she can't take care of daughter.”

Dr. Nielsen's insistence on treating Kassandra in context, which meant also considering the health of her primary caregiver and working to bring it into balance as well, commanded Darlene's attention. It just made so much sense. In fact, everything about homeopathy commanded Darlene's attention and made sense to her in a way nothing in her considerable experience with the traditional health care system had.

She went ahead with treatment for both herself and Kassandra, they had both done a 360. Kassandra, who had worn the same sized clothes for the last four years of her life, actually started to put on weight – she was thriving at last. Darlene's treatment successfully resolved health issues that had been hounding her for years. The profound sense of relief was like a fresh breeze blowing through her life. “Oh finally” she thought, “this is what life should feel like.”

The principles of homeopathy – essentially that like cures like, meaning that a drug taken in trace amounts will cure the disease symptoms it causes in larger amount - opened up a rich vein of intuition in Darlene that flows to this day, awakening a natural gift. Right from the start, she operated intuitively with the remedies Dr. Nielsen prescribed, often not following the doctor's directions, administering them instead “the way I felt it needed to get done.”

There were a number of other patients – most of them moms like Darlene – whose thirst for knowledge was as voracious as her own. They wanted to harness the potential of homeopathy for themselves and waged an extensive campaign for Dr. Nielsen to open a school and teach them. Together, they begged, pleaded, pestered and volunteered in the clinic until she finally agreed.

In 1996, a group of 12 – Darlene among them - became Dr.Nielsen's first class of aspiring homeopathic physicians and 4 years later, all 12 embarked on their capstone project – a 3-month internship in a clinic in India. In 2000, Dr. Darlene Bouchard returned home to open her own homeopathic practice. She had come a long way from “how do you spell that?”

Long before she finished her studies, Darlene knew that her new mission in life was going to involve offering others the opportunity to access the healing modalities that had restored her and her daughter to vibrant health. The best way to do that, she decided, was to establish a wholistic health centre which would gather together under one roof a collective of alternative health practitioners whose work would complement her homeopathy practice.

Full Circle
A year before graduating from her studies, Darlene and her husband, along with her sister and brother-in-law, bought a building that at one time had housed a senior's home. It was to be multi-disciplinary facility and she was going to call it Kas-Sky Wholistic Health Care Centre - “Kas” for Kassandra and “Sky” for Darlene's second child, a healthy baby boy she and her husband named Skylar.

In one of those interesting twists of fate, it just happened to be a home that she had worked at many years ago as a nurse's aid. But the tale gets even twistier than that: Shortly after Darlene's purchase of the building, her father called her to remind her of something that had happened when she was working there so many years ago. A situation had developed at the home. It was a nasty one, the sort no parent wants to see their child caught in the middle of. Darlene's father, in a gesture of fatherly concern, wanted to rush to the rescue of his daughter and take her back to the safety of home.

Characteristically feisty, Darlene brushed his  concern aside, saying “Don't worry, Dad, one day I'm going to buy the place and run it myself.” With all that had transpired between then and now, Darlene had completely forgotten that passionate declaration of youth. Talk about coming full-circle.

The Happy Ending
That was almost 10 years ago. Today, Kassandra is a vibrant healthy 21-year-old who is just one year from completing her Kinesiology degree at the University of Winnipeg. She has been working at Kas-Sky since she was 12, helping to keep the busy office organized and greeting clients with her cheery smile when they first enter. As soon as she graduates, she plans to work alongside her mother in a different way, offering athletic therapy and personal training. Now is that a happy ending or what?

The Body Whisperer
As for Darlene, 10 years of homeopathic practice has honed and shaped her skills into a style and flavour that is uniquely her own. “What I love about homeopathy,” she says, leaning forward with intensity, “is that it brings out the true essence of who we are. When we start to rebalance and restore our health by assisting the body's natural ability to heal itself, we take ourselves back to where we originally started.” But Darlene thinks of her practice as more than just homeopathy. Instead, it is as an artful blend of homeopathy and bodywork.

“Bodywork?” I asked, mystified, “What is that?”

“I listen to the body,” Darlene explains. “Tissue has a rhythm to it, a flow. Everything from the color of the skin and eyes to the body's alignment and structure has its own story to tell. By the time someone is really sick, the body is screaming.”

Oh, I get it. Darlene reads bodies the way some people read books. She's become something more than a homeopathic doctor - she's a body whisperer.