When my father died of a sudden heart attack in 1977, he was only 43, and I was just 17, with four young siblings. I began a journey to learn as much as I could about health and nutrition, and what I learned is so amazing that I want to share it with everybody.
“The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of ‘real food for real people’ you’d better live real close to a real good hospital.”
—Neal D. Barnard, MD
I stopped eating beef and other red meat shortly after my father’s death. By 1989, I had enough confidence in my knowledge of nutrition to stop eating all animal flesh, and I went vegetarian. At the time, I had two young children, and I couldn’t imagine not feeding them chicken eggs and cow’s milk. I didn’t know any other vegetarians, and there was no internet, so I was limited to what I could find in my local library.
In 2000, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In preparation for my treatment, I had to eat a low-iodine diet, which included eliminating dairy and eggs. After my treatment, I went back to being vegetarian. My children, now in high school, had access to meals away from home. My daughter stayed vegetarian, but my son ate the Standard American Diet (SAD) whenever he had the opportunity.
In 2002, my son, then 17, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. I remember asking his doctors if what he ate could be part of the cause or the treatment of his cancer, but all the doctors assured me that it wasn’t. In fact, the first rule of chemotherapy was “no raw fruits or vegetables.” Everything he ate in the hospital needed to be cooked, and the food that he was served (SAD) was just, well, sad.
By then, we had reliable internet at home, and I dove into my study of nutrition. I began to read about the connection between eating animals and cancer. I went vegan.
My beautiful son died of complications from his stem cell transplant when he was just 22. In my grief, I continued to study how to live a life free from the chronic diseases that took my father and my son. I learned about the many physicians, scientists, and researchers who had followed different paths to the same conclusion: that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the key to a long and healthy life.
I’m so proud to have completed the Food for Life training provided by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and I’m excited to be able to offer these life-changing classes in my community.