Hi everyone, my name is Stefanie and I am brand new to the forum. :) I bought Alicia's book a few weeks ago and finally had time this weekend to start reading it, and I couldn't stop- it's very engrossing, incredibly informative, and very clear and concise. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend doing so!
My vegan journey began for health reasons.
Being the survivor of a rare form of childhood cancer, life is very precious to me. When I was diagnosed at the age of 6 with germination cell cancer of the ovaries, the doctors told my parents not to expect me to live to see my 7th birthday. It was a tough battle, but thanks to experimental chemotherapy, excellent doctors, and frequent doses of love and laughter, I entered into remission just before Christmas that year (three months after my 7th birthday).
With one problem out of the way, a new one entered that would be my nemesis for the next twenty years- a weight problem. Chemo had left me with no appetite, so I had not been eating much during treatment, which meant I had become underweight. The doctors told my parents that if I didn't put on weight, I could start facing a whole new set of problems since I was so unhealthily low.
Following doctor's orders, I began putting on weight, but I never stopped. By the time I was nine, I was the fattest kid in class. When I was 16, I began going through premature menopause and was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (a.k.a. PCOS). Chemo had messed up my reproductive system and hormones. My doctor told me that if I didn't get my weight down, I would never have kids and my PCOS would only worsen. Being a teenager, I didn't give it much thought.
After high school, my weight ballooned up. At my highest weight, I was 235 pounds and miserable.
Having my life is a gift, and each day is precious when you know you've been given years you weren't expected to have. I am grateful for my life, but because of the cancer I live with what have been dubbed "late effects," which I will live with the rest of my life. It finally hit me about eight months ago that by not being my healthiest, I was wasting my second chance at life- why not live instead of merely survive? Why have I thought of being tired, grumpy, and having other health issues as just "part of the territory" and something I can't change?
Both the PCOS and the "late effects" are fueled by unhealthy eating and living. Years of fad diets gave me little results, usually ending with me comforting my frustration with a cheeseburger and giving up. Eight months ago, I started reading about the vegetarian lifestyle. I was intrigued, and I started phasing out meat from my diet. As of November 2012, I officially became a vegetarian. Just by eliminating meat, I lost 10 pounds in two months.
As I continued learning about vegetarianism, I started learning about veganism. I began devouring (and still do) all the information on the vegan life I possibly can, and I have come to firmly believe that, when done right, it is the healthiest and most ideal lifestyle a person can adhere to. Right now, I am about 95% vegan. I've lost 30 pounds and have gained a new perspective.
But there have been some unexpected side effects to the vegan life....
I've always loved animals, but I remained willfully ignorant of the cruelty of the meat and dairy industries. I could find all sorts of (now clearly illogical) reasons why it was acceptable and even necessary to eat cows and chickens but why it was wrong to eat a dog or cat. Once neutral on the idea, I am now a supporter of animal rights. I see now how each creature deserves to live their life in a healthy and full way and how the meat and dairy industries harm our bodies and our environment.
Another side effect- Since transitioning to veganism (I aim to be 100% by the end of the month, and then I'm going to start eliminating sugar), three relatives have jumped on the bandwagon. While they have not given up meat or dairy entirely, they have all significantly reduced their intake of animal products. One relative is planning to go vegetarian (and, she says, maybe even vegan) and I'm helping her along the way. My husband, whose favorite meal was once steak and cheesy mashed potatoes, is going vegan right alongside me! The feeling of being an inspiration to others is unsurpassable and indescribable, and I plan to keep doing my best to do so.
After years of just "surviving" and floating through life, I feel like I'm finally starting to LIVE! Just in the last year, I have become a published author, a published playwrite, am producing films (short and full-length), acting again (my deepest passion, along with writing), and am working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Now, with my health getting better, I feel like I am seeing clearer than ever a beautiful future laid out before me, with endless possibilities.
Life is beautiful! I don't want to waste a single minute of it. :)
I truly believe that everyone and everything has a purpose. Your story is so inspiring. I am excited to begin this new lifestyle, the one I feel I've always wished for. I'm so glad your bright future is blossoming. :) One question, how did you gradually diminish meat and dairy from your diet? I'd love to know your method! Congratulations again!
Hello, Stephanie! I too am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago, shortly after my father died from lung cancer. I was a vegetarian from ages 15-24 and sort of fell out of habit during medical school, having no time to eat or sleep. During radiation therapy, I found that I could not stand the smell of cooking meat and since then, I have been a vegetarian and am in remission. I am now looking to go completely vegan and encourage you in your journey as well. Welcome and best wishes for a happy future.
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