Dottie’s Tragic End

My mother-in-law was a loving, positive woman.  She was short in stature, but she was long on friendliness and love for others.  Dottie had been an elementary teacher for a number of years and was active in her local Methodist church.  Her church friends were like family and each week they would all get together, taking turns hosting family pot-luck dinners and evenings of card games.  

After her husband’s death in 1992, she got back into golf.  She first took up golf as a young girl taking lessons from her father, but while teaching school, raising three children and caring for her husband, golf had taken a back seat. 

Dottie loved getting back out to the golf course and had a group of women golfers to compete with a few days each week.  Her family and friends were delighted to see her able to participate fully in life once again after caring for her husband who was bedridden for many years before his death.

One fall afternoon in 1998, at the age of 79, Dottie went for a walk to visit some friends in her neighborhood.  She began to have some scary symptoms and the friends called 911.  She was rushed to the hospital and her grown children were called.  Dottie had suffered a massive stroke, which left her totally debilitated - unable to speak or to move her arms and legs.  The only way she could now communicate was with her eyes.

She was placed in a skilled-nursing facility.  Most Sundays for the next 6 months my husband and I would drive 2 ½ hours to visit her and then turn around and drive home.  How horrible to see that once loving and vibrant woman in such depressing circumstances.  The facility was clean and the caregivers were doing the best they could, but it was full of people (mostly women) who were in terrible shape being kept alive with feeding tubes or respirators.

My brother- and sister-in-law lived in her town and bore the brunt of visiting her and making the health-care and estate decisions that had to be made.

We all say we don’t want to live like that.  We say we don’t want to be a burden on others.  We say, “If I ever get like that, please just shoot me and put me out of my misery.”

What we forget to say is “I want to find a way to prevent that from happening to me.”

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I have studied health and nutrition for nearly 40 years.  I am not a formally trained scientist based in a research lab.  I am the wife of a dentist and I am a mother.  Many years ago when our first baby was born, I took the responsibility of that baby’s health very seriously.  I read every book I could find that was related to child development, diet and exercise.  I attended seminars and heard many of those authors in person.

All of that information was confusing.  I had my family on a new regimen with every new book I read.  We went from Pritikin to Barry Sears to Dean Ornish to John McDougall to John Robbins to Ken and Millie Cooper to Joel Furhman and even to a vitamin and supplement company called Body Wise.  The list is long and exhaustive.  

After our kids left home, I went back to work and my husband and I started eating out for lunch and most dinners.  After a few years of that routine, I was overweight for the first time in my life!  It was time to get back on the health routine, for myself, this time.

During this long period of confusion my husband handed me a book, which he said I would love.  It’s title, Younger Next Year.  The premise of the book is that through energetic exercise and “healthy living” we could remain vigorous until we were in our 80s.  I got so excited about that message; I wanted to share it with all of my friends.  I contacted Chris Crowley (one or the co-authors) and invited him to come to Tyler to speak so I could share that good news with others.  I had to get busy and figure out a way I could pay for his speaker’s fee and expenses.  A few months of planning culminated in a large luncheon for women during May of 2007, with Chris Crowley as the keynote speaker.  He was entertaining and motivating and the event created quite a stir.  I think most of us who were in attendance left with the desire to do more to improve our health and vitality.  

The next major book I read was The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell.  Another powerful book that caused me to completely change my diet (once again).  My husband and I switched to a plant-based diet almost immediately.  We have continued eating that way since the summer of 2007.  I even lost those extra twenty pounds in the first few months without even thinking about it.

As you know, there is a new diet, a new study, a new finding or a new opinion about health every single day.  This definitely leads to a mish-mash of ideas, uncertainty and total confusion for most people.  When we are given too many options, we become confused and we stop making decisions.  This is when apathy can set in.  

We look around and see that some people who we thought had healthy habits get sick and die while others who seem to do everything wrong outlive them.  So we don’t know what to believe or which way to turn.

What do you do?

I think you have to do your research and then you have to choose your own path.  That’s what I’ve done.  

After doing the research for - and writing the book, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection? I unabashedly believe that plant-based eating and moderate exercise will not only keep me slim, but most importantly – healthy.  So, that’s the path I have taken and will continue to take.  I still listen to other points of view, but I look at them through the prism of the important scientific studies that I have come to believe in.  I may refine some habits, but I no longer switch back and forth with the wind. 

And, let me tell you – after years of confusion, it feels good to finally be sure of my conclusions.

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