“Emphysema”, the doctor said.
“I’m 33”, I replied with dismay.
“Theres no cure, but we can help manage it”, he unsympathetically mumbled while scribbling the name of an expensive, barely effective pill that causes a multitude of side effects.
“Dick”, I thought as I smiled and thanked him courteously.
I was never a fan of doctors.
As I walked out of the hospital that day, I was shaken. Angry at myself, and the little white sticks that lured me into their evil death club nearly 20 years prior. I knew there was a health issue. For the past year I’d been wheezing every time I took a deep breath. The pain didn’t just present itself when I walked up the stairs, or attempted to do a little exercise, it was lingering within me all of the time. There was also a strange and somewhat daunting clamping-type feeling that occurred whenever I breathed in deeply. Sometimes I’d simply try take a breath to calm myself down, but I couldn't. Its an extremely difficult feeling to describe to a non-smoker, but its almost as if the capacity of the lungs is far less than it should be, and as you breathe in to about 60% volume, your lungs tell you, “Thats your lot mate”.
I take a deep breathe in now and Im so grateful. Its a feeling you can only appreciate when you have denied yourself the ability to exist properly for many years .
I knew there was a problem years before. I was stupidly too scared to find out what the actual issue was. Like many smokers, I’d wake up every morning, and you’d hear the obligatory repeating multitude of, “cccrrrrrrhhhh” throat clearing sounds. Cautiously navigating to the toilet, the most disastrous green, yellowy, brownish visually devastating gloop would present itself. (Do read on, chaps, it gets better!). Sometimes there would be speckles of blood. It was frightening.
“OK Pete, where is the vegan shit I tuned in for?”, I hear you complain.
Its coming, sit yourself down.
Where did my healing journey begin? I hear you ask.
It began where all good fortuitous journeys begin:
I watched something and ostentatiously thought, “That looks like a good idea”.
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead serendipitously appeared in my Netflix recommendations. For those of you that don't know, its about this overweight Australian fella called Joe Cross. He filmed himself driving across The United States living off juice, and juice alone. No meals, no snacks, no solid food, just freshly prepared fruit and vegetable juices. I don't want to spoil it for you, but here goes - he was fat, and sick - I think you can all guess what happened at the end of his two month juice tour? His diseases magically disappeared, and he lost a lot of weight.
(What a terrible documentary it would be if he stayed overweight and ill)
“Full … of… shit..”, I thought as I went out to purchase my first juicer.
“Never in a million years”, I mumbled angrily while carefully placing enough carrots and apples to kill a shire horse into my trolley.
“Joe Cross, more like Joe-Full-of-Shit”, I proudly announced to myself as I cautiously took my first swig of “Mean Green” super juice.
It’s funny, and I’ve heard many people experience the same thing. Green juices taste like horror slime from the pits of Satan the first time you try them. But there seems to be some sort of addicting quality that pulls you back again and again. Suddenly, for some indescribable reason, green juices turn out to be the best thing that the universe has ever created since the dawn of time.
Two weeks I lasted. Two weeks on juice alone.
For anyone who’s ever done an extended juice fast / juice feast, two weeks is a pathetic, minuscule amount of time. I should be ashamed of myself. Reading this, experienced ‘juicers’ are shaking their heads, playing with their dreads and telling their super-juice-fast buddies how much of a wimp I am.
For those who are new to juice fasting, the idea of consuming only liquid for 14 entire days seems like an impressively unimaginable feat.
The first few days were the worst. Not only because I missed my food and was super hungry. But because my body decided, “Holy mother f@$ker, lets get this gunk out while we have the chance”. Some get acne, others get the flu, some are physically exhausted - My body however, bought up an oceans worth of phlegm. Enough to drown a poor unsuspecting contestant on a children’s game show.
Some say that your body starts to heal itself in reverse chronological order; from your more recent issues, right the way to your early past problems. For me, it was mostly about the chest. I experienced strange tightening feelings, and in my imagination it was almost like nerves were re-connecting in certain areas where I had been previously and unknowingly numb. I felt the same odd feeling on a deep scar on the bottom of my foot that I had sliced open a few years prior. It needed 8 stitches at the time. I was fascinated. Why on earth were these mushed up & strained fruits and vegetables doing this to my body?
“Joe Full-of-Shit”, I still thought.
I hate admitting when Im wrong.
Juice fast. Done.
I was a fan.
I’d been vegan for 2 whole weeks without realising it. I wasn’t stupid enough to think that just 2 weeks of drinking juice would be the mystical answer to all my hopes and dreams. When people say, “You need to do this”, “You must do that” - I feels its nonsense. If it were that simple, there’d be a set programme to follow, known worldwide, and everyone would do it. I’ve learned that the only way to truly heal yourself is to try different things. You choose a path, stick with it for a while and see if your body is reacting. Next on my list was this whole “Raw” thing. Gotta give that a go.
Four months. Four whole months of eating nothing but raw foods. Generally, I’d stick to a smoothie in the morning, whole fruits for lunch and a huge salad with a raw dressing for dinner. Luckily, I was in Thailand and it was mango season. Perfectly ripe Thai mangoes, if you haven't tried them, are the greatest gift of mother earth. I wasn’t dieting, I’d probably consume 2500-3000 calories per day. Don’t get me wrong, there are raw foodies of course that do this for years. But for me, it was difficult. I found however, that compared to the juice alone, it was lovely to have the option to chew. Strangely, the chewing was what I missed the most on the juice fast, not the taste, not the quantity of food, but the feeling and texture and crunch in my mouth. I didn’t have any specific ‘healing programme’ to follow, but Dr Morse was a big influence, with his fruit based healing practices. Fully Raw Kristina and Raw Vana on youtube kept my sane with some lovely recipes to keep me motivated.
I remember two occasions putting some ‘non-raw’ food into my mouth. The first was an Oreo biscuit, the second a roast potato. Both times I placed the food in my mouth and began to chop down viciously & euphorically. I told myself, “I want to know if this healing malarkey actually works, and if I don't stay on my path, I will never truly know”. I knew if I broke then, the whole packet of Oreos would be destroyed, and my son’s roast potatoes would disappear in a frantic dog-like feast. I spat them out on both occasions. The beginning of an eating disorder some may claim, but for me, it was more a overwhelming desire & determination to fulfil my own little experiment.
I felt different. My head cleared. My body began to change. I could breathe again. My left eye that felt like it wasn’t fully open for the past 10 years magically resorted to its natural position. I’d wake up in the morning and feel like I’d actually slept, instead of feeling like a corpse dragging myself out of bed. I got less fidgety and nervous. My runny nose that I’d had since I was 15 got a little less annoying. My posture began to improve; partly due to my increased confidence, and partly due to my improved overall health. I’d had stomach issues since I was a kid. Burping, farting and the worst of all, repeated constant gastric unpleasantries. It was almost as if my stomach acid didn't like its natural home - it rudely desired migrate to my throat, neck and mouth. All gone. Oh and my stools, the dreaded stools, (I told you it would get better)- like fluffy clouds of joy, happily relocating daily from inside me to the toilet bowl. Before I’d go twice per week - hellish rocks of Zeus would violently blast their way through my intestinal system reeking havoc on exit.
After the experimental raw phase, I moved onto more of a whole foods based diet. I’d still consume a lot of fresh fruit, but include a lot more grains and starches, mostly in the evenings. Dr Greger, the founder of nutritionfacts.org was (and still is) my greatest influence. Obviously there Dr McDoogle, the creator of the Starch Solution to thank. I’d stick that diet that for the next 6 months, and the health improvements continued. Without even realising, my chest was back to normal. I could finally breath properly and had no pain whatsoever. It was a relief. It was a surprise. But most of all, it was an eye opening experience. A deadly disease, that most people live with for between 10-20 years was completely gone. It opened up my eyes and sparked my interest in many other methods of nutritional healing. There are people who have cured cancer though diet, people who have revered diabetes, heart disease and even H.I.V. you just need to seek and you will find. Cancer: the Forbidden Cures was an eye opening documentary for me. I recommend everyone take some time out of their day to watch it. It shows how scary the pharmaceutical industry really is. But there are hundreds of other documentaries, books and thousands more personal accounts of diseases being reversed and medical issues being cured using nutrition alone.
At the start of my journey, I had absolutely no intention whatsoever to help any animals. I didn't want to be vegan, and I didn’t care about animal suffering. I just wanted to selfishly heal myself. But something happened, something magical, something mystical showed me the light:
You guessed it…
Forks over knives, Cowspiracy and Earthlings. Three documentaries decided to magically present themselves to me in a short space of time. They got me, those dam vegans. They sucked me into their little ethical vegan club and made my ‘empathetic’. I found myself lurking on online vegan groups and finding out more and more about the meat, dairy and egg industries. It wasn’t that I never knew what was going on before, but it was like I didn’t allow myself to imagine their pain. Something in me had changed. I’d become open to actually truly considering animals feelings. I started to see them as living beings, with personalities, desires and the will to live.
Its not just about me anymore.
Its about ‘us’.
I’ll never go back.