Are you fairly new to plant-based eating? Or have you been vegan for years? Are you able to maintain optimal health? Or are you feeling frustrated and searching for answers? No matter where you find yourself on your journey to wellness, the Holistic Holiday at Sea experience is designed to meet you exactly where you are. Our next vegan cruise is a 10-day voyage in the southeastern Caribbean, February 15–25, 2018.
Among all of the activities we have planned, one of our most popular sessions is the Recovery Panel. Many people around the world have adopted a whole foods plant-based diet when faced with a life-threatening diagnosis. Each year on the panel, a dozen people share their personal stories of how they triumphed over a serious illness using holistic and alternative therapies.
In part one of this series, we wanted to share with you some insight from three of the participants: Judy MacKenney, Jarod Jacobs, and Jodi Seitlin. Stay tuned for part two in August when we chat with Jane Quincannon Stanchich, Tricia Slimbarski, and Kim Hoffman. We hope you find their journeys to health as inspiring as we have!
Our Bodies Want to Heal
Judy MacKenney is a macrobiotic counselor who has attended the cruise for the past 12 years—and has participated on the Recovery Panel for all of those years. In our previous Recovery Panel blog post, we spotlighted Judy, who has been free of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma for 25 years.
After she was diagnosed in 1990, she was advised to do chemotherapy. After seven months of radiation, the oncologist showed her the X-rays. Her tumors had shrunk considerably, but he said, “I must tell you, please don’t be excited. It’s not natural for you to heal like this. It will come back with a vengeance. You must be prepared for this.” Disheartened, Judy knew there had to be another way to heal. She read about Michio Kushi and the Kushi Institute. A macrobiotic counselor told her she could be healed and that food was going to heal her. Today, Judy has been cancer free for 25 years.
“It’s such an amazing thing. Our bodies have that opportunity to heal—of any condition you have,” says Judy. “It’s just a matter of being able to change your lifestyle and really put your mind to it. Our bodies do want to do that.” One takeaway Judy shares from the 2017 Recovery panel is a common thread she noticed. “The different types and magnitude of health challenges this panel faced was extraordinary and how nutrition, love, support, persistence, and positive reinforcement played such a huge part in each person’s recovery!”
Judy adds, “There’s a special joy I get from being among like-minded people who are eager to learn more about the benefits of good health and how to obtain it. This year’s schedule of classes and fun events was outstanding and I so appreciate the efforts of Sandy Pukel, David Magaziner, and their excellent staff for the extensive preparation they put into this cruise. It truly is a life-changing event for so many people!”
Every Day is a Gift
In 1986, Jarod Jacobs was just 29 years old when a doctor told him he had multiple sclerosis and that he’d be in a wheelchair by age 40, and possibly dead by 50. Jarod says he was in denial until 2006 because he was asymptomatic. His neurologist prescribed him drugs that he started taking in 2006. At the end of 2007 he was told that the drugs weren’t working and he shouldn’t take them anymore. For the next two years, Jarod was detoxing and bedridden. He says he had an aha moment one day while lying in bed: If I always do what I’ve always done, I’m going to keep getting what I’ve always got. So if I do nothing and keep having a bad time, then I’m probably going to die. Or, if I do something different—change my lifestyle, change my diet—I might get better. “Sure enough, that’s what I did.” By the beginning of 2010, he’d adopted a vegetarian lifestyle.
In 2010, he began physical therapy and chiropractic care. He went to Palm Beach’s Hippocrates Health Institute in 2012 and became vegan. In 2013, he went raw and walked unaided for the first time since 2007. “Not eating hot food made all the difference,” says Jarod. “Digesting hot food is tiring. Heated food kills digestive enzymes the body needs.”
Celebrating his 60th birthday this year, Jarod says that men his age with MS 30 years are not usually alive, let alone cured as he is. This was Jarod’s first year on the panel and the cruise. He told the audience, “I’m so vegan, I don’t even go to Kevin Bacon movies.”
When asked what’s on his bucket list, Jarod answers simply, “Tomorrow.” His advice to people who have been given a diagnosis and are having to figure out the next step is “Be scared, not dumb. Taking a drug and thinking it can do anything is stinkin’ thinkin’. Change your diet and lifestyle. Go raw vegan. Get physical therapy and chiropractic.”
When Life Gives you a Second Chance
After law school, Jodi Seitlin embarked on a career path dedicated to helping others. She became licensed to practice in 1990, starting out as a criminal prosecutor before moving into civil prosecution for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. She went into private practice in 2007, representing children directly. She describes her style as “the Wonder Woman technique,” that is, “not slowing down long enough to feel.”
She blamed a pain under her left thigh on a yoga injury and hoped it would resolve itself. It didn’t. After an X-ray, MRI, and other tests it was discovered she had spondylolisthesis, a condition of the spine. The pain got worse each day and after a year and a half, it felt like the whole left side of her body had become immobile. In May 2008, she underwent surgery. She described recovery from the surgery as a “walk in the park” when compared with the nerve pain that had “poisoned everything.”
Soon after, Jodi returned to work and continued her non-stop lifestyle until a traumatic event. She received a call in October that a client and the client’s father were murdered. While making phone calls to ensure that her client’s children were safe, Jodi was trying to catch a flight to visit her mother who wasn’t doing well.
“I’m beside myself,” she recalls. “I’m dragging my luggage behind me. I’m going through scanners in the airport.” She says she would’ve kept going like the Energizer Bunny except that the lower half of her body from the waist down went numb. All of her muscles were working, but she felt like her skin had fallen asleep. This was the beginning of a series of emergency room stays, neurologist visits, and many tests. On Halloween evening, Jodi was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 51.
Today, Jodi says she has a sense of humor about the whole thing, but her journey to find the right care was anything but easy. She has nailed down a regimen that works, found a neurologist who respects her preferences, and has chosen to live a simpler life with no more high-stress cases. She has incorporated holistic therapies, including a regular yoga practice, and through them seeks unity of mind, body, and spirit
In the middle of 2014, she began her recovery from alcohol and found a 12-step program. Now, her first preference is to treat things as naturally as she can. She told the Recovery Panel audience, “I can’t tell you what a joy living life without chemicals, without alcohol, the clarity, the purpose that has come back.”
Like Jarod, this was Jodi’s first year on the cruise. She loved all of the learning opportunities and the inspiring people she met. “I wasn’t a vegan before,” she says. “I had no knowledge base on the distinction between vegetarian and vegan… In two days on that ship, I was convinced my body was telling me so clearly that this was so right and everything was just working better. It was remarkable how much better I felt and how much easier things seemed to be in terms of how my body functioned. In tune with all that—much more so because of recovering from the worst of MS—I’ve done a lot of work on making sure that mind-body connection is really drawn. It never occurred to me that I’d jump in with both feet and that it would be so easy. It feels right.”
Recovery is Possible
As all of the Recovery Panelists participants finished their stories, a palpable sense of inspiration and hope filled the room. When it comes to wellness, there is always something new for us to learn. We invite you to join us on the 2018 Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and experience a voyage with such optimistic and inspiring people. Book your spot today!