In my Facebook memories today, there was a picture from a vacation two years ago. It was a picture of pulled pork tacos with melted Cheddar cheese and a Bloody Mary with bacon-infused vodka. That picture was the end of one era and the beginning of another. That was my last meal with meat. I had watched Forks Over Knives the week before and committed myself to going vegetarian (not yet vegan) when I returned from vacation. After that meal, I returned home and never touched a piece of meat again. When I look at that picture today, I honestly feel repulsed by it!
Over the course of the next year, I avoided meat entirely but continued to eat dairy products, processed foods, oil, and sugar. I gradually got to a point where I chose to avoid those foods on the weekdays but allow them on the weekends. Those weekends sometimes included Monday and maybe even Tuesday. I began to have some medical issues and a few strange episodes that led me to see a neurologist in June 2016.
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The neurologist ran extensive blood work and ordered an EEG. The results were not good. The blood work showed very elevated autoimmune antibodies, and the EEG showed that I had been experiencing partial seizures. She put me on seizure medication and wanted to repeat the blood work in September before referring me to a rheumatologist. I began to experience gradually worsening joint pain and thought it might be a side effect of the medication. I went off the medication, but the pain only got worse.
Some days my hands and fingers were so painful and swollen that I could barely move them. I was terrified. I write extensive psychological reports for my job as a licensed specialist in school psychology. How was I going to write if I couldn’t move my fingers? I discussed this privately with my boss, who suggested using dictation software. This only amplified my fear that I might be disabled for the rest of my life.
In September, the neurologist ran my blood work again. The results were exactly the same, and I was referred to the “best rheumatologist” in my large city. On my way to the appointment on November 15, 2016, I cried nonstop just knowing that the news would be bad. After my examination, the rheumatologist looked me in the eye and told me I had lupus. I called my loved ones, crying because I didn’t know what future lay ahead of me. Then I went home, re-watched Forks Over Knives, and read every single success story I could find about individuals who had overcome an autoimmune disease.
Many success stories had a common theme: a whole food, plant-based vegan diet with no oil, salt, or sugar. Some people had also eliminated gluten.
For the first time in months, I felt hopeful. On that day, I changed my diet for good. I cut out all animal products, oil, salt, sugar, gluten, and even coffee. Within a week, my finger pain had diminished. Over the next few months, my overall pain, hair loss, and extreme fatigue gradually lessened until the day I realized I felt normal again. There were days that I even forgot that I had lupus. And, I have not had a seizure in the last year and a half.
Today, nine months after my diagnosis, I feel totally healthy and normal, with no symptoms of lupus. I am 100 percent compliant on this diet, even on the weekends! I lost 10 pounds and take no medication at all. I walk three to four days a week and do resistance training at home with small weights.
I eat out and travel extensively, always sticking with my WFPB lifestyle. My partner, my friends, and my family know that wherever we go I will order a plant-based dish and request no oil. I have learned to research restaurants ahead of time so I know what to expect and what to order. I love to talk about my eating habits and how it has changed my life. I have insisted that my friends and family watch the Forks Over Knives documentary so they understand exactly why I am doing what I am doing and how it can benefit them as well. As a result, I have inspired many others to explore the WFPB path.