In 2005, 19-year-old Crystal Phillips was bursting with potential as one of the top young speed skaters in Canada. Her rise to Canada’s world junior team had been as smooth as her skating until one day that spring, tragedy struck.
It started with tingling in her foot one morning, then quickly progressed up her leg and through her body. By nightfall, she could hardly walk. After a trip to the hospital and numerous tests, Phillips was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The doctors told her multiple sclerosis is a degenerative neurological disease with no cure. They also said she may never speed skate again.
But hanging up her skates was out of the question and despite doctors’ admonitions, she vowed to return to the ice. Determined to recover, she started taking a daily drug injection and experimenting with alternative healing, including diets, mind-body therapies, herbal medicine, chiro etc.
Four months later, she relearned how to walk, bike and eventually skate again. Four years later, Crystal skated her first personal best time since her diagnosis and qualified to race at the 2010 Canadian Olympic trials.
One night leading into the Olympic trials, she woke up with no vision in her left eye. Tests showed that her disease was progressing. The neurologists told her at this pace of progression, she could be in a wheelchair in two years. They recommend for her to stop skating and to start a more aggressive drug therapy. As they listed the side effects, Crystal decided this wasn’t the right decision for her. She decided to go off all of her drugs and treat her disease 100% naturally instead and a few months later, she skated at the 2010 Olympic Trials, missing the Canadian Olympic team by just a few spots.
Today, you might find Crystal on stage talking about her experience, attacking a hill on her road bike, or sprinting the paths by the Bow River. She has been drug-free and relapse free for over 9 years now. Her fast paced lifestyle makes it hard to believe she has debilitating degenerative neurological disease. Her own personal success in living with a neurological disease highlighted the need for more research so that everyone, including doctors, can include natural therapies to either prevent, treat or even cure the 600+ neurological disorders that exist.
“Not only did I feel better, but it made sense to me. I realized that there were a few gaps in the system: a lack of high-quality research, awareness and credibility for some of the more natural approaches to healing the nervous system."
THIS is why Branch Out Foundation exists, to “Branch Out” for brains at their best and fund research in a new field of research they created and named neuroCAM (neuroscience + complementary and alternative Modalities).
“It’s a matter of working with the current medical system so there’s research in all the areas of therapy and medicine - both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical.”
Since 2010, Branch Out has raised over $2 Million dollars and funded over 70 research projects in six universities across Western Canada. Crystal hopes the research that Branch Out funds will help make the future brighter for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with neurological disorders.
In 2017, Crystal Phillips was named one of Canada's young influencers and change-makers. Watch the CBC 'We Are Canada' documentary here.
To book Crystal for a speaking engagement, please contact [email protected].