Too many of us know someone whose life has been turned upside down because of cancer. Or heart disease. Or type 2 diabetes. These ailments are among the top 10 leading causes of death in our country year after year, but perhaps the most tragic part is the fact that these diseases are oftentimes thoroughly preventable, and even reversible. Though veganism is certainly no magic cure-all, for many, the switch from a meat-laden diet to one revolving around plants can work wonders. VegNews’ annual feature, “Veganism Saved My Life”—available now in the Wellness Issue—features five individuals who were sick and tired of being sick and tired and how veganism saved their lives.

Ricky & Starla Maurer
Age: 57
Lives in: Lusby, MD
Diagnosis: High blood pressure, asthma, allergies, and hypertension
Prognosis: Lifelong medication, early death

Age: 57
Lives in: Lusby, MD
Diagnosis: Colon cancer, ruptured colon wall
Prognosis: Colostomy, lifelong medication, chemotherapy

Husband and wife Ricky and Starla Maurer have a lot to live for: four children, 10 grandchildren, and eight “fur babies,” to name a few. Yet when Ricky was rushed to the hospital for excruciating stomach pains—only to find out he had stage 3 colon cancer which had ruptured his colon wall, their lives came crashing down. Starla herself was no stranger to health concerns. Suffering from chronic high blood pressure, intense headaches, and asthma that required two inhalers and daily medication, her own path of healing started when she was selected to take part in a study conducted by health organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), in which her self-described “high-fat, veganish” diet was transformed to low-fat and fully vegan. Experiencing incredible successes from the study—including ceasing all of her asthma medications and saying goodbye to her headaches and the seemingly endless doses of Motrin that accompanied them—Starla was so excited that she ran out to get the word “vegan” tattooed on her forearm. So when her dear husband wound up in the hospital, she knew she had to act fast. Sending off a frantic 1am email to her PCRM study group describing her husband’s dire situation, she was immediately met with open arms. To her relief, Ricky was invited to join the study immediately. Though his diet up until that point centered around animal products, Ricky joined Starla in adopting veganism. The results speak for themselves: upon his dietary shift, Ricky became increasingly healthier, finding an endless supply of energy that resulted in taking five-mile walks a couple times a week, leaving his doctors (but not his wife) flummoxed. Now cancer-free, Ricky has shed 60 pounds, and finds the idea of consuming animal products—once his staple food—repulsive. Starla was so moved by the results that she now works with PCRM to change the ironically meat-heavy menus at hospitals, ensuring that there are always vegan options. As for Ricky, he not only credits the switch to veganism with saving his life, but he points to Starla, the love of his life. For these two lovebirds, there was simply too much to live for to let the Standard American Diet steal their tomorrows.

“The one thing very few people talk about is the sense of peace that comes over you when you give up meat and dairy. If you want to live a long and happy life, you don’t eat dead things.”

What They Eat:

Cereal, unsweetened almond milk, and banana

Spring salad with fresh vegetables, seasonal fruit, and rice vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Organic pasta with steamed kale and homemade tomato sauce

Fresh berries, frozen fruit bars, or vegan chocolate

Fruit, vegetables with hummus, popcorn, or black bean tortilla chips with salsa


Jasmin Singer is the Digital Director of VegNews, and documented her own story of how veganism saved her life in her memoir, Always Too Much and Never Enough.