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.
Lives in: Aberdeen, NJ
Diagnosis: Type 2 diabetes, muscular dystrophy, chronic sinus infections
Prognosis: Insulin dependent, lifelong medication, shortened life expectancy
Norma Wheelock has been in a wheelchair for 39 years, ever since being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy (MD). And so when she was given the additional diagnosis of type 2 diabetes—a difficult diagnosis for anyone, but a devastating one for someone in a chair—Wheelock felt utter despair, and knew that unless there was a radical intervention, this could be the beginning of the end. It was her daughter and primary caretaker, Jennifer Wheelock, who started to research natural healing approaches to diabetes. Jennifer couldn’t sit idly by as her mom became insulin-dependent, unable to hold up her own head, suffering from chronic respiratory infections (which could lead to life-threatening pneumonia for someone with MD). Her frantic research led her to Neal Barnard, MD’s book, Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, which spoke to the necessity of adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet. Jennifer joined Norma on this quest, and—as a last resort before the disease took a stranglehold on her beloved mother—the two of them went vegan together. A year later, Norma’s weight was down, her ankle swelling was gone, her hemoglobin was normal, her chronic sinus infections were greatly improved, and her blood glucose levels and fatty liver enzymes were average again. Whereas before, a simple infection could prove to be life-threatening—due to uncontrolled sugar levels’ effect on the body’s ability to heal wounds—Norma now heals from them quickly and easily. “I know it is because of the strong foundation of health gained by my vegan diet,” she says. And whereas before, she was unable to hold her head up, now she holds it higher than ever—proud of the fact that her diet is in alignment with her fundamental needs. “For someone like me—unable to walk, confined to a wheelchair—the ability to regain my health simply with food as medicine is miraculous.”
“People often think you need to go to the gym to get healthy, but I took control of my health with my fork!”
What Norma Eats:
Oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon
Lentil soup with carrots, tomatoes, and chickpeas over quinoa topped with steamed broccoli or other greens
Moroccan stew with butternut squash, chickpeas, tomatoes, red potatoes, garlic, olives, lemon zest, cumin, and cinnamon stick over couscous
Baked apple or seasonal fruit
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.