In this series, we share stories of people who have witnessed extraordinary health overhauls thanks to a plant-based diet.
A dire diagnosis can turn your life into a timeline grimly defined by “before” and “after,” making you face the unimaginable—the looming possibility of your early mortality. But for some, a frightening diagnosis is also an opportunity to heal. As a complement to VegNews’ popular annual feature, “Veganism Saved My Life”—available now in the January+February issue—we are bringing you even more heart-wrenching stories of three individuals whose lives were saved by veganism.
Rare form of cancer
When He Went Vegan
How Andres Did It
Andres Vallejo was working as an attorney in San Francisco, California—a city once famous for having the most restaurants per capita in the country. It’s not hard to see why food was a huge part of his life; it was embedded in his social hours, hobbies, interests, and identity.
When he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer—one whose slow, malignant growth has an unpredictable prognosis, but can include early death, he immediately started the overwhelming process of researching the link between nutrition and cancer. Andres admits that the process was difficult due to the seemingly infinite sources that report an animal-based diet as a healthy plan. He was initially partial to those meat-centric diets that promised health benefits, yet required very little lifestyle changes.
But his wife Lilly made him promise to open his mind up to a diet that would require he ditch the fancy steaks for cauliflower. She felt a radical diagnosis required a radical shift in behavior. With a frightening, unpredictable illness looming over his head, he quickly decided to give himself the best fighting chance possible. Andres and Lilly sought the guidance of leading oncologists and dieticians, and with their help, the couple learned how to decipher medical fact from fiction. The research spoke for itself and Andres switched to a vegan diet.
Andres’ supportive family quickly followed suit. His father, who had suffered from advanced coronary heart disease, diabetes, and early signs of kidney failure, was perhaps the most suspicious of all regarding the benefits of the new lifestyle. But within weeks of trying it on for size, Andres’ father lost weight, cut his medications in half—which had once been a staggering 17 medications a day—and felt a renewed sense of wellbeing and health. Lilly also adopted the vegan diet, and almost immediately stopped suffering from her recurrent rashes and digestive issues. Within his large community of family and friends, the health benefits became widespread, dramatic, and impossible to ignore.
The most remarkable example of the dramatic benefits veganism has on overall health, however, was with Andres. Six years after his diagnosis, the cancer is at bay, and his most recent medical exams have been totally clear of any signs of cancer. Ironically, Andres reports that he’s much healthier overall now then he was before his diagnosis—having lost 40 pounds, reduced his cholesterol, and normalized his blood glucose levels. Veganism marked both a physical and spiritual transformation for Andres, and his positivity has spread throughout his community.
“You have nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain.”
What Andres Eats in a Day
A shot of wheatgrass, a green juice with lemon, lime, and ginger, and raw sprouted buckwheat with homemade almond milk.
A legume-based stew with mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and a lot of greens.
A huge salad with watercress, red lettuce, mixed greens, mache greens, kale, broccoli sprouts, carrots, peas, radishes, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and a homemade dressing.
Emily Hunt Kivel is a writer based in Los Angeles whose fiction and poetry have appeared in the Nervous Breakdown, Midnight Breakfast, Harlequin Creature, and Artillery Magazine.