It is amazing how we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are living a healthy lifestyle, when we are so far from it.  I am a 48-year-old woman.  I have 4 children, ages 15 to 23, and a young granddaughter. I grew up in a household that served wheat bread, fantastic salads and lots of meats.  My father was a hunter and fisherman.  He was also a successful, extremely conservative, executive businessman.  He died in 1989 from cancer.

On 8 February 2007, I went to see my doctor, whom I had been seeing regularly for over a year.  Dr. Kim is a MD, but is also an acupuncturist and holistic practitioner, practicing in Costa Rica where I live.  He is truly a healer and one of the most knowledgeable alternative practitioners I have come across.I had not been feeling well for quite awhile.  I had low energy, felt achy and was short of breath.  I had high blood pressure and was overweight.  Back in January of 2002 I was diagnosed with thyroid tumors, after a severe hemorrhage, and had spent the last 5 years trying to stabilize my metabolism.  Nothing seemed to work.  I am opposed to pharmaceuticals, but tried them anyway and experienced terrible side effects.

I was gaining about 10 pounds yearly and was not very happy.  I thought I ate healthy.  I ate vegetables and mostly organic foods, when possible.  But, I did eat animal products, particularly cheese and eggs.  I had been vegetarian for years in my past and even was vegan for a year, many years ago, but with 4 kids, a hotel and way too busy and stressful a life, I took the easy way out and ate whatever I cooked for my kids.  It bothered me, but I was too lazy to deal with it.

Dr. Kim said, on that fateful day in February, “Lets take a look at your blood cells.”  He took blood from both my husband and I and we spend considerable time looking at books and charts to understand what we would be looking at.  My husband’s blood cells were textbook perfectly formed.  He is thin and has a good metabolism. As soon as my while blood cells were up on the screen, I knew I was in trouble.  I did not have a normal cell in my body. They were irregularly shaped and there were clumps of fats (ie. Clots) in my blood.  The red cells were even worse looking.

I almost held my breath, waiting for Dr. Kim to tell me what I was seeing.  After a few moments of silence, he said, “Wendy, if you do not make some huge changes in your life, you will die.  You are in trouble.  Are you willing to make changes?”

“Just tell me what I need to do and I will do it,” I told my doctor.  All I could think about was my unborn grandchild that I would never get to know.  Dr. Kim said, “Your body can not metabolize animal products.  Your thyroid problem keeps you from digesting these types of foods and you can no longer eat them, ever again.

First, eat no more animal products, except occasionally fish.  No meat, no cheese, no dairy of any kind, no eggs, nothing.  Second, walk one hour every day.  Third, cleanse the liver regularly.  Fourth, take Vitamin E.  If you do these things, in 90 days I will look again at your blood and we will see from there.  You also have systemic stress in your body and need to de-stress your life.”

I told Dr. Kim that I would do this and I walked out of his office.  My life was now different.  The study of Buddhism for many years has kept me from fearing leaving this body.  But the end was right in my face.  I knew that I was not done raising my kids and learning what I needed to learn in this life.  I was not ready to transition.  I was ready to get healthy. My husband and I love to cook.  We both are quite good cooks and have a large repertoire of recipes.  Many of these are meatless.  But, few were vegan.  I had to relearn some of the recipes I used to prepare in my early 20’s.  I had to change my way of thinking, shopping for food, eating, living and relating.  I had to stop focusing on everyone and everything and focus on my health.

From 8 February 2007 I have never eaten another bite of meat.  I ate fish a little bit, but decided that I did not want to eat any living being.  I have not touched dairy products.  I have walked on the beach or done some other type of exercise for one hour daily.  I have had weekly acupuncture, helping me deal with stress.  I have meditated and worked on deep breathing.  I have re-evaluated everything in my life and have eliminated people, places and things that cause undue stress.

On 14 March I went back to see Dr. Kim and have my blood work done again.  Dr. Kim almost did not recognize me.  His office is about 4.5 hours from my home, so I had not seen him for over 3 months.  He smiled so big when he realized who I was.  “Wow,” he said. I am not someone who weighs myself, but I knew I had lost 40-50 pounds.  I was at that point, walking on the beach in a bikini – which I had not worn for 25 years.  My local acupuncturist told me to get sun on my abdomen to help with my weight loss.  I listened and it was helping.  I cut my hair very short.  People kept telling me how young I looked.  Dr. Kim said, “You have lost 15 years.

My blood was beautiful.  It was so clean that I wept tears of happiness.  “You are healthy,” declared Dr. Kim.  But, you must keep doing what you are doing if you want to stay that way.  I did not need to learn this lesson twice.  I am now vegan.  I am now healthy.  I am now not ashamed of my appearance.  I feel good about my self, my choices, my lifestyle and my health.   I have no more guilt.

I am so grateful to those that have helped me on this path.  Ashley Smith and Dan Piraro, devout vegans and animal activists, were guests at our lodging establishment when I was diagnosed.  They gave me so many tips and so much support.  I saw how healthy there were and wanted to have that.  They were excellent examples of how to eat right.  Some fantastic Vegan cookbooks have made cooking super easy, “Vegan with a Vengeance,” “La Dolce Vegan,” “Vegan Planet” have all been fantastic.  And, most likely due to the law of attraction, we are attracting vegan guests who are inspirational as well.  My husband is moving further and further in my direction and my kids enjoy the vegan meals.  Life is a blessing.

The day of 8 February will remain a memorable day for the rest of my life.  It is the day my doctor told me I would die, unless I drastically changed my life.  I walked out of his office and my life has never been and will never be the same.  I no longer eat dairy products.  I no longer eat meat of any kind.  I eat vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains only.  I walk on the beach (how lucky I am to live where I live) or do some other type of exercise at least an hour daily.

On 14 May, I returned to my doctor to review where I am now.  I have had exceptional changes.  I am no longer at risk for a heart attack or stroke.  My cholesterol is normal.  My blood pressure is normal.  I am no longer overweight.  My thyroid is functioning.  My metabolism is normal.  My liver is clean.  I feel better than I have for years.  My doctor said I have lost at least 15 years.  He is right.  Even my arthritis is much better.  I will be a case study in my doctor’s new book on taking control of your health!

I feel so lucky to have had the diagnosis that I did on 8 February.

That day will become a day of celebration… the day I took back my life.  Thanks to all that have encouraged me.  Thanks to my husband and kids for being so supportive, and willing to eat vegan meals along side me. I do realize that the typical “American” diet is killing the populace.  The food pyramid is a reflection of corporate America, and who has the most lobbyists.  Please consider eating more organic vegetables, fruits and whole grains.  Leave the animal products behind and you too can loose years and regain health.  it is amazing how good the food I prepare tastes.  I do not enjoy eating out very often, as I can plainly see how much garbage provides window dressing to fattening, inordinately large platters.  I won’t even go into how awful factory farms are to the animals.