David’s story- straight from the horse’s mouth
In the summer of 1988, I first went vegetarian, based on my love for animals. After all, here I was in a punk rock band singing about the cruelties of vivisection and the inhumane slaughter of those cute little harp seals, but I still ate meat?!
Just the thought of these things made me cry, so why didn’t I tie the two together before? This is when my first epiphany hit me…’why the hell don’t I stop eating meat if I love them so much?!’ So I stopped, cold turkey (get it?!). Unfortunately, this lasted for only 3-4 months as I felt a definite lack of vitality and a drop in my immune function. It wasn’t immediate, but developed over some weeks. Little did I know at the time that this made perfect sense. When I think back now to what I replaced the meat, a ‘relatively’ whole food product, with it all makes complete sense. I just integrated more of the yummy standbys of the day….pasta, rice-a-roni, mac-n-cheese, french fries, potato chips, ice cream, soda, grilled cheese sandwiches…you get the picture. So basically, I felt bad enough, and scared enough, to start eating meat again. I had nobody to walk me through this process so I continued on with business as usual.
The early days with Asthma
In the Fall of 1988, and shortly after getting my 2nd indoor cat, I quickly started to have issues with catching my breath and getting enough air into my lungs. I self-diagnosed myself with asthma and went to the local pharmacy looking for an ‘over-the-counter’ inhaler. I found an epinephrine based one and started to use it. Wow! It was good to breath again! But this didn’t last for too long…The more I used the darn thing, the less it worked. And, I started to cough up mucous with blood in it. I’m foggy on when I finally went to the doctor to get an ‘official’ diagnosis of asthma, but am guessing it was in 1989 or 1990. These were the beginning of some tough times for me. I wondered ‘why me?’, and ‘why asthma?’.
Setting the stage
Now I look back beyond those years and realize that I had a pretty good head-start in the direction of some chronic disease or other. I was a formula- baby, and as a traveling military kid, I was immunized heaps and actually used to ‘show-off’ my vaccination record to my friends?! How cool was that??? In the evenings, my mother would smoke. I have no idea why she only smoked in the evening but that’s how it was during my whole childhood. I actually think she said it relaxed her, so that’s how it stayed. If we wanted to watch TV in the living room, we would have to put up with that darn layer of smoke creeping across the room at us. Sometimes I chose to watch TV on the floor just to remain below the ‘fog’.
Then my parents moved into a new trailer in 1978 that had such high levels of formaldehyde in it, that for the first few weeks of living in it (and desperately trying to air it out), we would always have stinging eyes, inflamed throats, snotty noses and a mucousy upper chest. Over time though, we got used to it while we performed unpaid duties as walking carbon filters for the damn stuff.
Then in 1980, of all things…a volcano blew up and covered our town and region with ash which was horrible to breathe, I would later find out. Shortly after, my father developed asthma.
So that’s what I pretty good foundation for my newly diagnosed ‘disease’.
Leading up to escalation
Sometimes my asthma attacks would get so bad, I would start praying to God and whoever else would listen to spare me and let me live. Let me learn what I have to learn from all of this and let me be healthy again! And all this from a staunch agnostic (at the time)…. Sometimes I got really scared and had no idea how to get better. I felt as if my lungs would only stop tightening when there was no more room to tighten, or breathe! So I started on prescription inhalers at this time. And ‘thank god for this’, I thought. Once again, they worked to open my lungs, and for that I was grateful. Over time though, their efficacy lessened and I could hear the phlegm rattling around in my chest and feel that my lungs were still quite inflamed, pretty much all of the time. In videos from that time period, you can hear me talk differently, being quite mucousy, hear me cough a lot and taking more breaths in between sentences. I became pretty embarrassed about that.
I knew the cats were a trigger for me but I wasn’t ready to give them up. There had to be another way…although for the moment, I was too busy to actively figure it out for myself.
Going vegetarian… again, and this time for life
In 1990, I finally committed to being vegetarian and I never looked back. Sure, I was still consuming more dairy than any weaned human should ever be allowed to have, but my new choice felt right. At this time, I had no idea that calves were being torn from their mothers and often killed to provide me with the elixir that was clearly not meant for anyone else but a baby cow. This epiphany was to come later, in 1997, while working on a Swiss farm.
My first BA, and I didn’t learn a thing
In the summer of 1992 I was graduating with my first Bachelor’s degree. Rather than feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride, I couldn’t shake the notion that ‘I hadn’t learned a thing’ and had wasted 5 years of my life. With a brief but unwise meandering into Economics, it was only a 4 year degree in Anthropology & Geography and I knew that I would need more schooling should I want to ‘seriously’ pursue these fields. But I didn’t and I didn’t feel properly prepared to continue on, even if I had wanted to!
Little did I know that this disappointment would become a major catalyst in my life.
1992-A whole new world
Right around graduation time, a friend of my mine gave me a book which presented me with a whole new perspective on human history. One that seemed quite solid and vastly different to what had been taught to me. Up to that point, I hadn’t heard much about these amazing people, the ‘Sumerians’, and even less about their ‘cylinder seals’ and all they conveyed. How could that be when this information seemed so significant?
In school, I had been finding a number of holes in what was being presented as ‘fact’ and more dogma than I was comfortable with. A position I thought that was very a-scientific considering the plethora of other/anomalous data which didn’t fit the current paradigm but was nevertheless, there.
Regardless, this book my friend gave me opened up a whole new world for me.
Summer 1992… I was heavier than I have ever been, a whopping 190 pounds, 40 pounds over my ‘ideal’. I felt fat, had a pie head and stretched out my t-shirts to accommodate my expanded torso, but kept right on truckin’. But all was not lost, ‘a switch inside me’ had just turned on! I finally wanted to read anything I could get my hands on, which offered new perspectives to what I felt were old worn-out and failed dogmas. And this from a guy who had no interest in reading outside what was forced upon me as homework!
This ‘new outlook’ took me for a ride and I started to read about anomalous, esoteric, alternative and concealed information. That summer was so exciting for me. I had numerous books going at the same time, topics ranging from….perhaps I’ll save that for later . But I was starting to meet new people with similar ideas and was turned onto videos which corroborated much of what I had learned from other authors.
The Gerson Clinic… another can of worms opened
It was during this summer that I learned of the Gerson Clinic/Therapy and the subsequent political supression forcing them to move across the border into Mexico. We’re talking about a modality which was acclaimed to cure a huge range of diseases including the biggees! There were plenty of records to prove it, it seemed, but nevertheless they were persecuted by the government and forced across the border to be able to practice. What?! This opened up a whole new can of worms! I needed to know why this was happening, if this procedure was really having so much success with everything from TB to cancer. It seemed like it did. My research took me back beyond 100 years, finding out about the ‘Big Money Players’ of the day and the influence they had on our government to monopolize medicine. The Gersons were by no means the only ones being persecuted either!
What did strike me was that their technique involved mostly raw food. I thought at the time…if this diet is that powerful to bring many of their patients back to good health, perhaps this is a diet we should ALL be on, ALL THE TIME?! Just think…never waiting until you get sick because the diet you always eat is so therapeutic. This began my adventure trying to figure out what diet humans thrived upon most.
A cursory look at the animal kingdom and insect species on the planet and their diet supported my notion that we had strayed very far from the ideal indeed. Although I did not go raw at this time, I continued to accumulate more information on the topic.
Bad News from Home
The end of this summer brought me news that my mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer. I tried to share this ‘new’ information I’d come across with her. It conflicted so much with what she was being told by her oncologist, that she finally asked me via my Dad not to talk to her about it again. It was a sad time as I saw her go through chemo therapy and radiation, have a colostomy bag installed and then watched her health slowly decline over the years. How ironic that I learned so much but was unable to share this with my own mother. I still wonder today if a different approach would have worked…
In 2006, while I was in the middle of embarking on a new adventure, my mom passed away. This was one of the saddest moments of my life. My mom was the coolest. She was mouthy, feisty and very caring. And I was intensely sad for my Dad who had just lost his wife of 52 years.
No more milk for Milk Boy
In the Fall of 1992, I decided to stop drinking milk. This was a big thing for me as I had been a ‘milk boy’ my whole life. I could easily down one gallon in a day, especially if I had yummy ‘chewy chocolate chip cookies’ to eat with it! I consider quitting milk a significant next step in regaining my health, but it wasn’t quite good enough as I had let myself get too unhealthy.
Escalation: Status Asthmaticus
In 1992, my then-wife, our 2 cats and I moved out to an island which was a 20 minute boat ride from the city we worked in. My asthma continued to get worse and I was now on 3 inhalers: Albuterol, Intol and my steroidal inhaler. I kept using increasing amounts of all 3 until one evening in December 1993.
That night, during a New England snow storm, I went to a Christmas party at a friend’s very hot & humid house on the island. While I was there, I could feel a cold coming on. Uh oh, bad news for an asthmatic! When we got home, we went to bed as usual. However, in the middle of the night, I woke up having trouble breathing. I’m guessing this was around 3am in the morning. My rescue inhaler didn’t work. I tried it again, and still nothing. My heart started pounding faster and now I was really worried as no more boats would be running until the morning. And as most people with asthma know, this kind of anxiety can only make the situation worse. My lungs kept tightening slowly but surely. I got up without waking my wife and made my way to the kitchen. Standing up allowed me to breathe slightly better. I went to the kitchen and sat on a stool and continued to fight for breath. My buddy, Schooner the Cat, was with me. He finally decided to wake up my wife, who shortly after called 911.
The island we lived on was small and had no hospital. Her phone call went to the 2 rotating island policemen that doubled as our ambulance and would take people down to the docks to be met by the fire boat. Then you would be taken to the mainland where you would be met by a proper ambulance taking you for a quick ride to the hospital. Well, my then-wife had to call these 2 policemen again as they still hadn’t yet arrived and I was close to going unconscious from lack of oxygen. It felt like someone had put a big plastic garbage bag over my head and neck and slowly closed off the opening. From what I understand now, I was in a state of ‘status asthmaticus’, where the drugs are no longer helping and I was on my way out.
I was still conscious when the 2 policemen finally arrived. They tried to soothe me by saying ‘everything would be ok’. Great… clearly they had no idea how close I was to being unable to breathe on my own. I was gasping like a bird to get anything in my lungs to stay alive. Anyway, they took me out on my back, on a stretcher. This was the worst possible position for me and I tried sitting up to gasp for what little bits of air I could get. The policemen obviously had no idea how to deal with an asthma attack and well-meaningly kept pushing me back down into a horizontal position. Man…I thought this was it.
We made it down to the docks where the school ferry was in the process of loading. They carried me right in front of the kids which is one of the last things I remember. The next thing I know, I’m on the fire-boat and the paramedic is giving me adrenalin and telling me that I would be ‘ok in a few minutes’. It wasn’t working and I couldn’t tell him so. Somewhere on that boat ride I lost consciousness. I was loaded into an ambulance and taken to a hospital. And that was it…
Lots of phlegm and a new zeal for life
I was put on a ventilator to do my breathing for me as I could no longer do it myself. Apparently, my pulmonary specialist tried to bring me around a number of times that day and I did not respond. They finally told my wife that she should prepare for the eventuality that I would die, and asked her to let my family know.
The next day, on what my wife was told would be their last attempt at reviving me, I started waking up and coughing. My first memories were of dark brown phlegm going through a tube in front of my eyes. Yummy! As I was waking, everyone was encouraging me to keep coughing to get up what was in my chest and impeding my breathing. Well, I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to, so I kept hacking it up.
I had lost a whole day and had no memories of where I had been! This really shook me up! I was certain that I could have prevented this ordeal if I hadn’t been so ignorant about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. I woke up with a new zeal to take life more seriously and learn to treat my body with the utmost respect. I realized I had failed it and wanted another chance at making things better.
I was discharged the next day and saw my pulmonary specialist that week. He told me that I was lucky to have survived, which I already knew. He also said there was no cure for asthma but that I could live a ‘long and productive life’ with the proper medication. I knew right then that this was not the way for me. I was determined to find and address the root cause of my illness rather than just supress the symptoms. From that moment on, I was a changed man…
To this day, I am still hugely grateful for having a second chance at life. To have further experienced what I have in life. And especially to have met Judith, my beautiful wife (in every sense of the word), and to have these 2 great daughters of ours. I would have never guessed…
Well, I made it through Christmas 1993 and past the New Year. Things were looking up! I went to my first alternative practitioner in January who put me on a wholefood vegan diet. Still mostly cooked, but nonetheless, much healthier than what I had been used to. It was foreign territory to me but I welcomed the reduction in animal products and my chest responded appropriately. I also lost most of the excess weight that I hadn’t been able to shake for a couple of years. I still had asthma but it bothered me less now and that was great!
The whole episode scared me shitless about living on an island and ‘being stuck’ on one in times of emergencies, and I knew I had to get off ASAP. If not for just the mental peace. After talking with my wife, we decided to move into town a few months later. This gave me substantial peace of mind.
Speeding through the years, my wife and I divorced in 1995 and I took up a new type of job which involved working in environmental retail and that morphed into a long history of working in health food stores. I learned a lot and found an ilk of people who I really enjoyed being around as we had much in common.
June 1995, the night of a big show for our band and I had my last substantial asthma attack, canceling the show. It was less severe than the ’93 attack but his time, I decided to go to the hospital before it got out of hand. I was released the next day and realized that it was time to reconsider keeping my cats, including my best buddy Schooner, who woke my ex-wife up on that one fateful night. I asked my ex to take the cats and she agreed. I felt ok with the decision as I would still be able to visit them plus have an easier time breathing.
Through deep breathing exercises and holding off on using my inhaler as frequently, I watched my asthma slowly dissipate. This was exciting! I had gotten myself into a big mess with regards to my health, and now I was on the right track and my body was reacting as I hoped it would.
Dabbling in the Raw and yucky yak food
Although 1998 was my first year being vegan, I think it was 1999 when I did my first big segment of an ‘all raw’ diet and went from vegetarian to 100% vegan, for good. This was on the heels of a whirlwind round-the-world trip which made it quite hard to find vegan food, especially in China, Nepal & Tibet. Tibet was particularily hard… almost impossible to find something to eat that didn’t feature Yak in one form or another. Yuck! Love Tibet though!
I believe it was also around this time that I switched to mostly organic food. My first raw ‘marathon’ lasted for a few months and all during a harsh New England winter. Contrary to a commonly held belief, I noticed that my internal temperature was warmer and more consistent than in previous winters. My thoughts on that are that I was not stressing my body with damaged food and the food I was eating was intact, i.e. more nutrients and less the toxins created in the heating process. Also, the raw food I was eating was oxygen rich, at a time of year we close up our houses and re-breath far too much CO2 and not enough O2, in my opinion.
No longer having any ‘pressing’ health conditions to keep me motivated, I yo-yo’d between raw and cooked until 2006 when I finally committed to the 100% raw food lifestyle together with my wife Judith. We had met in 2003 in New Zealand and she was just as tired of the back and forth between cooked and raw as I was. At that time, I felt the evidence was too overwhelming to ignore, so out of respect for my body and my second chance at life, I happily made the transition then and there.
Raw Food Weirdos in Trucking School
Until our ‘raw commitment’ in March 2006, we used every opportunity to deviate into the cooked food world. Traveling as much as we did gave us plenty of excuses!
Proving our point that it was going to be different this time, we promptly undertook a long road trip from Maine to Oregon and became long haul truckers. We were tired of making measly wages and really wanted a decent living for a change, plus work with each other day in and day out! We had just come back from tour with my band and didn’t feel very settled where we were in life anyway. We soon found a school in LA we liked, so we signed up and were accepted. We got a ride with a number of other trucking students from Oregon to LA, which felt a bit like being sent to summer camp. We were being put up in a motel during our stint at school. Every morning the ‘school bus’ would pick us all up, and return us some time in the early evening. The days were divided into theory lessons and hands-on learning. And then there was the lunch break… . Up until then we could maybe blend in a little, but lunch just blew the lid right off and exposed us for what we were: freaks ! We’d give our cafeteria coupons away and instead munch on our own raw-organic-vegan food, usually a large bowl of salad to share with each other.
Finding organic produce in that part of LA was a bit of a mission because we didn’t have a car, but compared to learning the ropes of driving a big rig, this was small potatoes.
On the Road with Dave the Raw Food Trucker (to be)
School was over soon enough and we were sent on the road with an instructor: Dave the Raw Food Trucker. Or at least, that’s what he was going to be. When we met him, he was a ‘portly’, meat-eating seasoned truck driver who had just confided in us that he was on his way out… . Ironically, news of our strange diet had preceded us and there had been plenty of jokes about Dave turning us on to junk food within a week. Little did he know the shoe was going to be on the other foot! Neither did we, for that matter. We were exceedingly happy to have a non-smoking instructor willing to stop at health food stores for us. We never expected him to jump on board and join the raw food lifestyle! What a ride.. the first couple of weeks as a raw foodist were no treat for Dave but he hung in there and has certainly earned every ounce of our respect. Learn more about Dave and his story here.
Apart from teaching us how to stay safe and sane on the road and having blast in the process, Dave also became a close friend and continues to inspire us with his enthusiasm. The last day of driving with Dave was a sad moment for both of us, as we would have gladly stayed out there trucking with him. But alas, it was time to make some real money. Thanks, Dave!!
On the road
Well, my wife and I loved trucking as it did offer us what we had been looking for at the time…a lot more money and an ‘exotic’ lifestyle together. We were captains of our own company big-rig criss- crossing the States stopping at health food stores and raw restaurants we could manage to park near.
This ‘love affair’ didn’t last long though and we started dreaming about our future on the other side of trucking, and this time, we decided to go back to New Zealand and become Naturopaths. We’d spend another few months trucking in between college semesters, but that ended when we chose to have kids.
But we still have fond memories of our trucking days and dream of the day we can go back!
Naturopaths in the making, or Continental Ping Pong
So in 2007, we went back to New Zealand and started training to become Naturopaths in what would become a fairly constant ping pong back and forth between there and the States. To New Zealand to go to college and because it had become another home for us, and to the US because, well, for me it IS home and Judith is rather fond of it too. The US also meant trucking, going on another tour with my band and a new baby Mia ( ‘A financial disaster but a musical success’, in the words of a former band-mate), and cheaper real estate (which, we learned, doesn’t make a huge difference if you don’t have any savings in the first place;-)). In between, we’d squeeze in a visit to see Judith’s family in Germany… never often enough though .
Moving has been tedious at times, and the discussions leading up to them possibly even more so. You know, the talks about ‘what if’s’ and ‘what do we really want in life’ that leave you feeling frazzeled and not a little bit confused.
Once we went full circle so quickly, that before our shipment from New Zealand ever arrived in the States, we were phoning up the shipping company to ask if they could forward it back. Yikes! That was embarrassing.
But the constant back and fro has not been in vain… if nothing else, it has made us humbler. And we’ve had some first-class experiences along the way!
Starting our Raw Veganic Family
In 2008, during another stint of trucking in the US, we had the epiphany that it’s never the right time to have kids, so we might as well get on with it and trust that things will fall into place. So we did, and Judith got pregnant right away. Scary and exciting at the same time!
Together, we completed our first year of the Naturopathy degree in New Zealand before Judith gave birth to our healthy baby girl Mia in Februay 2009. We had an easy-peasy home-birth…. just kidding! I know it was hard work, but as far as births are concerned it seemed to go really quick and the result was obviously phenomenal .
After some more jumping from one continent to the other, always for very good reasons, be assured, we are currently living in New Zealand again. Here, our second daughter Jamie was born in July 2011. Another gentle yet speedy home-birth in the wee hours of the morning in July 2011.
I’m grateful to have been involved as much as I could in the process, and wouldn’t want to have missed any of it. Our midwife was in either case a reassuring presence, but according to our wishes, not much more . After being horrified of almost losing grip of Mia when she shot out, I now consider myself a pretty good catcher of slippery slimy babies.
Two weeks after Jamie’s birth and I was in school again starting my last year of school. A busy time for all of us!
If all goes according to plan, this year I will walk away with a Bachelor of Naturopathy and diplomas in Nutrition and Herbal Medicine. Sadly though, these diplomas and degree will not translate to the U.S. So we will be ‘forced’ to be raw food coaches or health & wellness coaches when we move back to the States again. That is fine by us too. But it is one reason Judith is hesitant about finishing up her degree. Plus, she’d rather find a way to stay home with the kids.
Judith’s 2 cents
No dramatic near-death experiences here…
I went vegetarian when I was 13. It was a really quick transition from what I remember. My friend introduced me to the idea one day (she got it from her big brother ) and there was no turning back. Vegetarianism seemed so obvious, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made the connection before. Sausage= dead animal. Duh! And ‘no, thank you’!
Luckily I had very supportive parents. My dad was a little worried that I would develop anemia, but he never tried to talk me into changing my mind. My vegetarian friends and I parted ways soon after, but it didn’t feel like a big deal to be vegetarian amongst mostly meat-eating peers.
In my later teenage years, even my then-boyfriend’s mum made special vegetarian meals for me without batting an eye lid! I was used to preparing my own meals, but she insisted on spoiling me .
Nevertheless, I didn’t make it to Veganism until I met David in 2003. Of course, I had heard of Veganism before and even knew of a couple of vegans in my little German home town, but I was fairly clueless why I should join their ranks. David made sure to tell me though. Thanks!
In 2003 I went to New Zealand, wanting to spend a year traveling, working, and hopefully figuring out where to take my life from there.
‘Wwoof’-ing (Willing Worker on Organic Farms) at a beautiful retreat centre in the Waitakere Ranges outside of Auckland, I met David who was in the process of getting his residency in NZ. I’m convinced that I learned more in that one year after leaving Germany, than in all my years in school combined!
After committing to the raw food lifestyle in 2006, I’ve had a couple of ‘non-raw episodes’, both during my pregnancies. This lasted 6 weeks in my first trimester with Mia, and 3 weeks in my pregnancy with Jamie. Yeah, that was NOT what I had in mind. I was nauseous in the beginning of both my pregnancies, and didn’t want to eat anything raw but fruit. That was far from satiating to me at the time. Now it seems obvious that I just wasn’t eating enough quantity! Back then, I thought too much sweet fruit was bad news, so instead I had some cooked vegan food until I could face a salad again. Seems really silly in retrospect!
I’ll expand on my pregnancies and births soon on our blog.
Despite our somewhat tumultuous lifestyle, what remains constant for us is our vision of living in a community with like- minds, raising our family in a clean, healthy & stimulating environment, growing our own organic food in a permacultur garden, spending as much time as possible as a complete family, home- and ‘un’schooling our kids, playing music together, seeing more of our extended family, perhaps building our own house… and helping other people along the way where and how we can. And all while making an adequate living. Yeah!