Some days I feel like I only started, other days, it feels like a lifetime. That said the 6+ years now in on my plant based journey and 3.5 years as STLVegGirl have not offered up a dull day yet. Simply put, I can't imagine not doing this. I think it's in our innate human nature to help others, especially when we have trekked a tough road we see others are also destined for.
I am the first girl born into my family in 42 years. I was the apple of my dad's eye - the oldest and only girl was quite a place to be in a family tree. I was (is?) a bit of a wild child, but even as I had him kept wrapped around my finger, he kept me grounded, stable and clear headed. He taught me that a good work ethic and generally just keeping at it, will bring success - that success is subjective to your own definition.
I have always been a late bloomer, you name any mile stone in life and I was just a hair behind. No big deal though, sure, I'm a bit of an excitable (ah-hem) person, but generally I stop to smell the roses and do my best to take life in. Cancer struck and my dad passed away in the arms of my mom, my brother and me, and that rocked my world. All of us were off kilter and about to go through those stupid phases of grief. (I still hate when people tell me what I'm about to feel).
Then cancer struck again. Ten weeks to the day after my dad passed, I received a diagnosis of malignant melanoma. Ricocheted from grief to fear is interesting and though the place was dark, I felt a fire ignite. I was unsure of this weird energy, I let it burn on its own for a while, not really knowing how to act on it. Weeks after the tumor was successfully excised and the healing began (in all aspects of my life), I now know, that fire I felt was the desire to take control. Never being labeled a "control freak" (no thanks!), grief and fear can soon send you into a tailspin and taking control of my health was my lifeline.
I went down many different roads before I stumbled upon this crazy vegan diet (it was 2008, not many people were saying whole food, plant-based yet). I read and read and read.... and read. Truthfully, the more I read the more I wanted to find a reason why NOT to do this. Eating a diet free of animal products was shrinking tumors, reversing diabetes, boosting immune systems, healing eczema, relieving migraines, relieving sinus issues and ear aches and well, dropping pounds (and that was a side effect!). But, become a VEGAN, good God, this Catholic school raised girl wearing knee highs and grosgrain in her hair, was a far cry from Birks and dreds...I'm prep, not hemp. Boy, was I wrong.
So, in an effort to check off a box, I gave it a try. Purging the kitch and heading to the grocery proved to be no less than comical. If it was green and in the produce section (a section I merely heard something of in my former life), it was in my cart. Not having or perhaps just not knowing of the cooking resources available in 2008, I was lead to believe that steaming was the preferred method of cooking um, everything. One word: barf. Sure, I minded, but my main objective was to strengthen my immune system, if I actually had to go through the effort to learn how to cook AND make this stuff taste good--- well, can I just check off that box please? Say I tried the crazy vegan diet and it just didn't work!
No such luck.
After attending a vegan cooking class where the instructor (and soon to be a lifetime friend) Bridgette Kossor, taught us to cook several meals using only 5-6 basic plant ingredients, I was hooked. She saw my excitement, called me after class and asked me to assist her in upcoming classes. We did this for for over two years at our local Whole Foods Market locations and when she moved out of state; I flew out on my own.
I now continue to teach and help others either adopt a plant-based diet or simply offer meals. Why? Because that learning curve for me in 2008 was so sharp, so disconcerting, so difficult; I simply cannot imagine doing it again.
You will NEVER hear me refer to myself as a cancer survivor. I had a brush with it. I lost my dad. I had a potentially fatal tumor cut out of my arm. But, I was young and I was not bogged down with the life sucking chemo and radiation that I see so often in my classes. I cannot imagine being told I have cancer (or some other chronic illness), being a parent, going through treatments AND understanding that completely overhauling my diet - every single thing I eat - will help me though the journey and might even prevent it recurring. Pardon me, but no.
And this, is how STLVegGirl began.
What do you think?
I post all of my classes under the EVENTS tab and you can contact me though my CONTACT page if you'd like to set something up.
I'm a big fan of frozen fruit! That said, I'd encourage you to see a plant-based nutritionist in your area to make sure you are rounding out your diet with all the nutrients you need. I'm not a raw vegan, but rather on a whole food plant-based diet. It is vegan, but it is possible to be on a vegan diet and still remain unhealthy, there fore my description of choice: plant-based notes an emphasis on health.