Thank You from the Bottom of my Healthy Heart

So, my journey began with being born in the south on a pig farm. Growing up on garden fresh vegetables (boiled to death in ham), fresh sausage, ham, and fresh chickens fried in Crisco. Not to mention eggs, biscuits and all the red dyed hot dogs I could want.

Then we moved into town where my mother discovered Hamburger Helper, Little Debbie oatmeal cakes, which I ate by the box, and many other packaged foods.  My brother and I had Oreo sandwiches on Bunny bread and many other creative things with what we had on hand.  School lunches would have been a step up, but without the money we would skip lunch then eat boxes of cereal when we got home, leaving us in a sugar coma.

My mom’s side of the family is steeped in diabetes and heart disease. Dad’s side is not quite as bad, but still genetically predisposed to heart disease.  My brother is 58, I am 61.  He has suffered for at least 20 years with diabetes. He weighs about 340 and is 5.6. He gets shots in his eyes for the bleeding. My mom passed from kidney failure after having diabetes for the last 40 of her 74 years.  She opted not to have dialysis after seeing that it only prolonged the suffering.

I have been fortunate however,  at 18 I joined the Navy, and traveled to Guantanamo. There I met my future husband who was raised in New Jersey by a mom who taught me to steam, not boil, bake or broil, not fry and introduced me to many vegetables I had never heard of before, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi.  It was a whole new language for me.  The next few years were better, but still heavy with meats and fats.

Then my daughter had to write a paper her freshman year in college on factory farming.  That’s when our “vegetarian” phase began.  This was yet another new adventure.  I have always been a sponge when I am learning something new.  I began to listen to Dr. Greger, Dr. Hyman, Dr. Furhman, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Campbell, Dr.  Esselstyn and others.  My 7 year old granddaughter and I watch “Jane and Ann” almost daily. (By the way, she thinks Jane might be bossy because she tells Ann what to do. lol) We watch the Campbell’s on Plant Pure and many other cooking demo shows. Keep them coming. Wow what a new world!

I had the support of my husband, my daughter and her husband. Without family support it may have been much different.  My blood work has been checked pretty much yearly at the VA clinic.  My levels have remained good since this phase, with the exception of a 6-month period when after a menopausal episode I allowed the “new studies” on fat and protein to get in my head so I allowed (clean) meat products and “healthy” fats back in my life.  Cholesterol levels shot up immediately.

My doctor suggested statins knowing I hate drugs.  After watching my mom take loads of drugs and my brother follow suit I was determined not to go that route.  I told him I would recheck in 6 months and I immediately removed the animal products and started again.  I still wasn’t clued in on the oils since the coconut oil fad was going strong.  Fortunately, my levels began dropping back to where I had been prior.  Since then I have learned to also reduce or practically eliminate the oils using only nuts and avocado in limited quantities for my fat.

Today I am still learning.  I listen to my favorite vegan doctors everyday, sometimes the same thing I’ve heard many times before.  But I always seem to learn something new.  My latest adventure is SOS free cooking and sprouting.  I like to experiment with cooking as much as I can. I have been told my food is really good and I treat it as my creative outlet.

I am heartbroken that my brother, though we have had many conversations, seems to be unaware of his addiction.  I know I have addiction tendencies so I am uncompromising when it comes to allowing even just a taste, though I don’t beat myself up if I slip.  I try to be gentle in my talks with him, letting him know I understand the struggle.  He assumes I don’t struggle because I maintain a healthy weight. His most recent attempt is the unhealthy type of keto diet.  I have to hold my tongue so I don’t completely get shut down.  He is on very high doses of insulin which he abuses.  It seems to me like he is dying from the inside out.  He has resigned himself to giving in to his genes.  I have the same tendencies and same genes, yet he says I’m just the lucky one according to him.  I try to tell him it’s a minute by minute struggle for me also but he can’t hear that.

As heartbroken as I am over him, I am over the moon grateful that my daughter and two adopted grandchildren (both black with unknown health histories) are going on a journey that will hopefully break that pattern.  The kids have been raised vegan and though they do have a fondness for tortilla chips, that’s probably the most processed food they get on a regular basis.  The rest is lentils, beans, rice, broccoli and a multitude of healthy foods.  I am grateful to you all and the work that you all do obviously with a passion to help people.

Should anyone have any suggestions for my brother I would love to hear from you.  I have managed to introduce him to Dr. McDougall’s starch diet, but he’s on so much insulin I fear he can’t do that without medical help. And since he’s on medicaid, I seriously doubt the doctors will allow that.

Thank you from the bottom of my healthy heart.
Stay strong and stay true.
Sandy Pienski

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