For me, life has always been dichotomous. I look back on years that were filled with intense physical weakness and yet the need for immense mental strength in order to survive. I remember all too vividly the relentless indescribable pain that I went through, and so it is that I appreciate with infinite gratitude the moments of peaceful beauty that I have felt since then. I know how it feels to be dying, and I therefore know what it means to be truly alive.
When asked to tell my story, I am always unsure of how to do so. Primarily because it is hard for me to return in any way to that period of my life when I was so sick and when there was, for a long time, no hope of a way out, other than my then seemingly inevitable death. I am aware of how dangerous it can be to look back, of how easily we can become lost in the darkness of our past, and so I do so always with caution, and seeing not the pain of what I went through but what that experience has given me.
As much of a cliché as this is, a picture really is worth a thousand words. These photos don’t show me at my sickest, not by a long way, but I think they suffice in showing the trajectory my life was taking at that point, and the degree of ill health I was subject to. To tell the truth, I am incapable of describing in any detail what I went through at that time—which is something of a problem because I am so frequently asked to tell my story!—but there are some things we just cannot relive.
But I will say this: Almost two decades of extreme sickness, with practically every possible symptom known to man and all the resultant problems that accompany a long-term illness—from bedsores to a weakened heart—my health deteriorating till I was right at the brink of death. All of that was caused by eating what is considered food in our society, and yet is in fact poison to so many of us, if not all. My ill health was caused predominantly by celiac disease along with a severe intolerance to dairy, eggs, grains and other standard “foods.” Of course, these still are just names invented to describe symptoms that really can just be summed up as “what happens when we eat things not suitable for human consumption.” (I could write a whole book on this. In fact, I half have already, a project I will certainly finish.) I found out the true cause of my ill health only in the very nick of time, when death was almost upon me. And it was only by some strange chance, and I suppose an unquenchable determination to survive, that I found out at all, coming across the condition while searching online for answers and then subsequently requesting the relevant testing. I cannot help but live in gratitude for whatever brought me the answers just in time.
Not one doctor in all those years of illness ever even considered that my health problems could be in any way related to food, other than their constant attempts to suggest I was intentionally dieting in order to lose weight for aesthetic reasons, and that that was in fact the root cause of my health issues. This was not only blatantly untrue but ridiculously unfeasible given that I had to be fed all my meals by the end as I was too weak to even lift my head. One “expert” doctor even suggested my “unexplainable” weight loss could be caused by excessive exercise at a point when I had been bed-bound for some years. The insult that accompanies such treatment can only truly be understood by those who have lived with courage through the haunting pain and the deep indignity of, what was at the time for me, a terminal illness. To suffer such things while receiving abuse in place of much-needed support is something from which you never really recover.
It was for me that experience of real cruelty that changed me more I must say than the illness itself. It has given me a deep respect for those who live with integrity and kindness, and a deep disdain for anyone who acts out of self-interest, malice, or with the intent of hurting others. And I have learnt very well that letters after a name are pretty much meaningless unless they are accompanied by knowledge, intelligence, open-mindedness, and the true desire to do good.
The experience of facing death as the next destination on this journey and then being given a second chance to live, that has also had a profound effect on me. I had the unusual opportunity to know what my regrets would be at the end of life, because I was there. I had the chance to think about what truly mattered to me, to know what I wished I had seen or experienced, and then to come back with that knowledge and be able to act upon it to make my life really mean something. Nearly losing it all, that has given me a deep gratitude for the everyday beauty of life. I never expected to feel a day without pain, I never expected to walk again, to step outside and breathe fresh air, to swim, to run, to see spring, to talk, to laugh, to live. All of it, all these beautiful moments of life, are for me a miracle.
I normally never talk about being sick and the (mis)treatment I went through at that time, as I don’t want to give it any more time in my life than it has already taken. All I know is I have the chance now to follow my dreams and to truly live for the first time. And I intend to do so with radiant passion.
Recovery both physical and mental from what I went through was not always easy. By the time I discovered what was causing me to be so sick, my body had been almost destroyed. It took patience, perseverance, and a lot of raw fruit and vegetables to get me better physically. And I ended up eating raw food almost by chance, though of course it was really my body steering me toward exactly what it needed. After a period of intense sickness following various medical tests, it conspired that the only food I could eat without a severe reaction was organic grapes. And so, that being significantly better than the prospect in the rather bleak days before I found I could eat grapes, I embarked with relief on what turned into a six-month grape cure. This enabled me to gain 100 pounds and reversed the majority of my health issues. Those that remained needed only more time and more time on good food. (After the grapes, I first introduced other fruits to my diet, then greens and vegetables, and gained more weight in the process.)
I became strong again, learning first to walk and then setting about climbing mountains, swimming in rivers (all year round!), and swinging from trees just like we’re supposed to. Mentally, I try to channel everything bad that happened to me into something good. I have worked with countless other individuals over the past few years, helping them also recover from health problems via raw food, something that has been incredibly rewarding. I write and am currently working on a novel. Additionally, I am launching a new YouTube channel this month, which will capture my experiences of coming back to life from the very edge of death, talking more about my journey so far and my continuing journey through this world. I also recently took up playing guitar and immediately fell in love with it. I write songs now and intend to pursue this with just as much conviction as I put into surviving before.
I am happy now with what others I suppose might see as very little, but, for me, is everything. To eat food that doesn’t harm me but instead nourishes my body, to spend time with the people I care about, to walk, to breathe, to be alive. I am still conscious of everything I do, I still think about walking when I walk, I think how amazing it feels to have fresh air in my lungs, or to feel the rain on my face, and I’ll never lose the memory of starvation, nor have the luxury of enough money, to ever take food for granted or lose my appreciation for nature’s perfect simplicity. An apple is a banquet once you really value it.
I have immense gratitude for every moment of happiness in my life, for every sunrise and every starry sky, for every season I will always welcome as a friend I thought I’d never see again, for every meal I have the privilege to eat, for every kindness I see that makes this world a better place. When you thought you had lost it all forever, the world is incredibly beautiful. Take a moment, every day, to look around at the mundane loveliness of this Earth. That moment is life.