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.
Recurring heart health issues, extreme weight loss, radiation therapy
When He Went Vegan
How Jeremy Did It
For Jeremy and Christina Bartel, life was all about food. Although his wife had been vegetarian for years, Jeremy was a chef, and animal-based meals were a huge part of their livelihood. Pizza and enchiladas were staples for the couple and their two young children, and giving up cheese simply “wasn’t on the radar.” Life was what they considered “normal.” But in May of 2009, everything changed. Jeremy was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and their world was turned on its head.
Christina wasted no time. On the day of the diagnosis—while they were still in the hospital—she began extensive research on the relationship between health and diet. Soon, stacks of medical journals, print-outs of online articles, and countless books adorned the Bartel’s home. The evidence pointing to a healthy vegan diet was clear, and in a bold move, their entire family became vegan.
For a couple whose passions, work, and identities are based in food and the food industry, the hardest part of the transition was trying to maintain their foodie lifestyle while still managing a vegan diet. They recognized that, in spite of themselves, the yearning for those familiar, go-to comfort foods of their vegetarian days remained.
Their answer came in the waiting room for Jeremy’s oncologist. As the couple endured the often tediously-long wait times, they noticed how the other cancer patients passed the time—eating. Namely eating comfort foods, like burgers and fries, vending machine candy, sodas, and takeout pizza. There, in that waiting room, the two began to seriously think about all the connections between food, disease, and well-being, and they had an epiphany. Jeremy and Christina wanted to find a way to provide cancer patients, and those suffering from other diseases, with the same comfort, familiarity, and warmth that fast food often offers—but without the health risks. They wanted to provide the same joy that fast-food provided, but through the power and deliciousness of plants. It was then that the seeds were planted for what ultimately became the couple’s project, Let Thy Food—a company seeking to empower and comfort individuals through the consumption of plant-based foods.
As the vegan diet continued to have a positive impact on Jeremy’s cancer—and he was able to maintain his weight and strength through their plant-based meals—their lives and careers took a new shape along with it. Jeremy has since left his job as a Whole Foods buyer to become the Chef de Cuisine at a local all-vegan restaurant. His recent tests have all come back totally clear.
Seven years later, Jeremy is totally cancer-free and the Bartels are raising their two young children with a 100 percent vegan lifestyle. Jeremy and Christina remind themselves every day how important veganism is, not only to their own health, but to the health of the world around them—plants, animals, and the ecosystem. Their desire to spread joy and comfort, Christina says, does not stop at the human species. Thanks to a positive attitude and some creative teamwork, veganism has indeed become a delicious family affair.
“Be willing to step aside from the well-worn path and ask questions.”
What Jeremy Eats in a Day
A hearty, healthy smoothie blended with hemp hearts, cacao, stevia, organic vanilla bean, and spinach.
Thai curry with coconut milk, broccoli, quinoa, spinach, chile, cauliflower, onion, and coconut amino acids.
Queso Blanco black bean spinach enchiladas with guacamole, salsa, greens, and onions.
Baked Apple Crisp with coconut oil, stevia, ground almonds, cinnamon, and sea salt.
A sugar-free cashew milk pumpkin spice latte, and some chips and cashew “queso” dip.
Have your own incredible vegan health story? Apply by Sept. 8, 2017 to be featured in the 2018 edition of Veganism Saved My Life!
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.