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November 22, 2013, I made a choice to follow a plant-based diet to help reduce the symptoms related to chronic health issues.
I had been dealing with pain in my abdomen and lower back. I knew I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life. I would wake up in the middle of the night from the pain leaving me exhausted during the day. When I stood up, I would be bent over for a few steps before standing straight up. I would get sharp pains in my knees from walking up and down stairs. I knew I needed to lose weight and I would promise my primary physician, I would start swimming again and watch my diet. But during my yearly physical in 2011, I asked for additional testing to figure out the nagging pain in my back and side. I had reported the pain before and tried to deal with it. I did not want to be on medications because they made me lethargic during the day and they were not going to solve the problem. She decided to start with a CT scan.
While waiting for the results, I had a freak accident in my backyard and broke my right elbow. It was a nightmare because the day before I was scheduled for elbow surgery, I was notified the CT scan revealed a mass in my right kidney that required me to go for an MRI. Dr. P. took several hours piecing my elbow back together and, the next month, Dr. D. used the robot to perform the nephrectomy to remove a cancerous tumor from my right kidney. I went into surgery with my arm in a cast not knowing the outcome of that injury and praying they wouldn’t find more cancer than what they saw on the MRI.
I spent approximately 12 weeks in physical therapy trying to regain the strength of my arm and the kidney surgery left my abdominal area tender and weaker than before the surgery. Over the next two years, the pain in my back resurfaced and additional MRIs determined I have multiple bulging disks and arthritis in my spine. I have yearly MRIs and chest X-rays to see if the cancer has returned or spread. If I survive 5 years, I will be considered a cancer survivor even if it comes back in 6 years. Dr. D. told me the good news is they caught it early, but the bad news was this type of cancer is likely to come back. It took a little mental gymnastics to deal with that statement and I felt like I was sitting around waiting to get sick. Worrying about cancer and the constant pain from weak knees and arthritis in my back increased my stress. I felt terrible. I had to find a way to take control. The pity party was starting to slip into every part of my life.
This is when I started searching for answers. I joined the gym through my health insurance and started listening to “Forks over Knives” while walking on the treadmill. I found myself playing it over and over and listening to the extended interviews. I started reading books by Dr. Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn, and Dr. McDougall. Other videos like “Food Matters” and “Hungry for Change” added to my desire to change my diet, but T. Colin Campbell’s interviews and The China Study helped me get over the hurdle and actually start this journey toward a plant based lifestyle. I eventually enrolled in Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program through eCornell and I completed the program in April 2014.
It’s been a year and I feel so much better. I am still on this journey and starting to be more open about my lifestyle choice. People ask me, “Why don’t you eat meat or cheese?” I get funny looks and I’m certain people think it’s extreme. But when you are battling diseases that can be reversed with good nutrition, eating plant-based is an easy choice compared to taking medications that hopefully will kill the disease but make you weaker.