Holistic Holiday at Sea, Part 3 March 8, 2012Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , trackback
When Dr. Martha Cottrell turned 50, she was a mess. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and severe allergies. She didn’t think it could get much worse – but one day, it did. She was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous lesion of the cervix.
“I was doing everything I had been taught,” she told the audience, an attentive theater full of more than 1,200 vegans and macrobiotics. She had healed thousands in her career as a family practice physician, but she didn’t have a clue what she was doing wrong in terms of her own health.
As she waited in her doctor’s office for injections of cortisone for her arthritis, she began paging through an old dog-eared copy of the Saturday Evening Post when she came across an article by Anthony Sattilero, then president of Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Sattilero overcame a grim prognosis and went on to become a leading advocate for the macrobiotic movement.
Cottrell’s life changed in that moment. Her research led her to the Kushi Institute, named for Michio Kushi, the Japanese health crusader who helped to introduce the concept to the United States in the 1950s.
“That was 34 years ago,” said Cottrell in her genteel North Carolina drawl. “I’ll be 84 years old tomorrow, and I hope I’ll be around to needle all of you about your diets for many years more.” I was stunned; this tall, striking woman looked younger than most of the 70-year-olds I know.
Cottrell was one of a lineup of more than a dozen people from all walks of life who shared a litany of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction on the Recovery Panel, a highlight of the annual Holistic Holiday at Sea and a source of inspiration for many – including my father, who sat next to me and listened transfixed, with tears in his eyes. Dad would be 73 tomorrow, and shared more than a birthday with Dr. Maggie, as the physician-turned-macrobiotic counselor is known. Dad started this journey last August, hoping to overcome mesothelioma – one of the most intransigent and lethal forms of cancer known, having resisted any kind of cure from the medical establishment. This panel – in fact, this cruise – is medicine in itself for him and my mother, who don’t find too many kindred spirits in rural Missouri as they pursue this path.
Cottrell was followed by a powerful lineup of testimonials from people of all walks of life, whose ailments read like the roster in a hospital. Janet Fitzsimmons, a nurse from Cleveland who was given three to six months to live after being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. Judy MacKenney of Massachussetts told of the day 21 years ago that a bone marrow aspiration revealed Non-Hodgkins lymphoma throughout her lymphatic system and in her spine. Doctors could offer no cure, only a temporary remission – it became a treadmill of medications: one to move the bowels, and one to stop them moving; one to help me sleep, and one to help me eat.”
“I went to a class to learn how to die gracefully,” she recalls, and found “Love, Medicine and Miracles,” a book by Dr. Bernie Siegel, in the library. It was the first indication she’d had that a change in diet and lifestyle could save her life. Her research took her down the same path as Dr. Maggie: “I realized that I just have to go back to Mother Nature and eat the grains and beans and vegetables,” she said. “From that point on, things began to change for me.”
Then there was orthopedic surgeon James Conway, diagnosed at the age of 56 with the coronary heart disease that had killed his father and all four grandparents – “My father had every cardiac procedure known to mankind, and I saw that as my future,” he recalls. He woke up in 2009 with severe arm pain. A cardiac catheterization was scheduled and his doctor recommended a triple bypass. While he was waiting for his surgery, a friend gave him a copy of Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s groundbreaking book, The China Study, which discussed the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in using a vegan diet to reverse coronary disease.
He called his doctor and canceled the bypass.
“I wanted to try a different way,” he said. “Most people get a bypass and then five years later it’s another bypass or a stent.
“This gave me hope that I could be in control of my health – and as a surgeon, I like to be in control!”
Conway went and saw the documentary “Forks over Knives” featuring the stars of this cruise/conference – Drs. Campbell, Caldwell and Bernard – and he was sold. Three years later, he’s a committed and healthy vegan.
The stories went on and on: Rose Parker, stricken with the breast cancer that had just taken her sister. Ellen Doremus, polycystic ovaries; Betty Hoehn, non-Hodgkins lymphoma; Rose Parker, breast cancer; Robert Pirello, severe osteoporosis; George Morris, heart disease, pleural myopathy and prostate cancer; Jim Miller, non-Hodgkins lymphoma; Dr. James Conway, coronary heart disease; Roger Mulley, chemical hepatitis caused by environmental exposure to mustard gas; and Ginny Harper, Krohn’s disease. Each adopted a plant-based diet; and Christina Pirello, leukemia. Each recovered, most within a question of months.
Each of them had somehow been given a lifeline when they learned of plant-based nutrition as a healing strategy, and each of them were able to take control of their lives and turn them around.
Each story was an inspiration all on its own. I looked over at my father from time to time and saw him at rapt attention – more than once, on the verge of tears. Two hours of these heart-rending accounts drew a standing ovation. I wish I had time and space to share each story. But this was just one panel on one day in the Cruising to Wellness lineup. It seemed to me that I might need to get my own dietary house in order. Certainly the inspiration is here.
-Tracy L. Barnett
Freelance writer Tracy Barnett is reporting from the Caribbean from the Holistic Holiday at Sea, She will be documenting the holistic cruise over the next week through a series of blog entries. Stay tuned!