The Daily Beet

24 Feb Kara’s incredible story: “For the first time in 10 years, my memory is working again!!!”

Share this story

Kara before and after.

Plant-Strong for a Reason

Thanksgiving 2001
While sitting completely still listening to my mother talk at the dinner table, my entire body flung itself forward causing me to lose control of my back, hands & arms. I literally threw my knife & fork across the room involuntarily.

My older sister burst into tears & demanded we find out what was wrong with me. I had been twitching, kicking & jerking as I fell asleep since I was a teenager. However, the movement was getting worse. It was preventing me from sleeping & waking me up. There was also pain running through my body with every large surge. Facing the fact that I would be kicked off my mother’s insurance when I graduated college in the spring, I agreed to go to the doctor.

Spring Break 2002

As floods of college students headed to the beach, I prepared to become a medical guinea pig. Since I’m a woman, they wanted to eliminate the possibility that my female system wasting causing my malfunctions. I’ll spare you the details of all the testing. Let’s just say I came away knowing that all my lady parts were fully functional & I could even have a baby someday. After ruling out female problems, the focus turned neurological. I was MRI’d & CT scanned from head to toe, with & without contrast. It was incredibly hard & painful to lie still for the CT scans.

My doctor had begun to suspect the cause of my moving problems was myoclonus. He put me on the most common medication used for patients diagnosed with myoclonus, klonopin, to relieve my pain & help control my spastic movements. He wanted to perform more tests himself as soon as I got another break from college.

When he prescribed the klonopin, he took me into his office to talk. He told me about the most common side effects of this “medicine”. Fatigue, weight loss, increased anxiety, memory loss, constipation, headaches, loss of coordination, confusion, difficulty thinking or remembering, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior, weak or shallow breathing, unusual or involuntary eye movements, pounding heartbeats, pale skin, easy bruising, drowsiness, dizziness, muscle weakness, changes in sex drive or ability, slurred speech, drooling or dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision and insomnia. Wow! That’s some list isn’t it?

I was in my final year of college as a public relations major at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Not UT Knoxville where the Vols play. Martin was much different. We had the number one rodeo team in that nation! And I was their intern when this unbelievable prescription was handed to me. I also held three positions on the school’s newspaper staff & worked for The Office of Public Relations at my college.
My doctor knew how busy I was at school, all the places I worked & the nature of the degree I was trying to obtain. He was concerned the immediate side effects of introducing this new drug into my body would greatly hinder my studies. He handed me a letter to give to all my teachers explaining my medical situation. Since it was my senior year I was close to many of my professors in the communications program. The school administrator for the newspaper cried when she read the letter. The teacher of my advanced Mark Twain class was stunned. How can one retain Twain when one can’t manage to focus or stay awake? My doctor was right to be concerned. If I’d been given klonopin my first semester of college, I never could have graduated.
From the list of side effects I experienced dramatic weight loss instantly. Fourteen pounds in fourteen days. Chronic fatigue set in. My right eye began to sag like I’d had a stroke. My short term memory was shot to pieces. I couldn’t think straight or concentrate. My anxiety level went through the roof! Pooping became a thing of the past. Bowel movements occurred once every four days. Then came the blinding, pounding headaches that left me crippled in my one bedroom apartment with all the lights off in the dark. Depression set in. I bruised easier than a banana. My best friend demanded to count all the bruises on my body. There were 26 including a matching pair on my hip bone where wearing my set belt left visible marks. I lost my coordination so bad I tripped over a weed growing out of the cracks of the sidewalk leading to my apartment, knocking myself out cold. The sun was out when I fell but it was dark when I woke up. I stumbled into my apartment to find my face had broken my fall. My nose was bleeding, broken & 6 of my front teeth were no longer in place. One tooth went completely through my bottom lip. All of this I could handle. My saint of a dentist fixed my teeth, my teachers were kind, caring & patient. What I couldn’t handle was losing my memory. My mind turned in mush within a month of starting the klonopin. It was like being slapped in the face with a wet squirrel.
Study Break Before Finals 2002

While most of my friends were putting the finishing touches on papers or cramming for finals, I was off to the neurologist for 5 days worth of outpatient procedures. For five days I went back & forth to the hospital for test after test. Each got more invasive as we moved along. Sleep deprivation tests, nuclear medicine tests & a strobe light test that sent my brain waves off the chart! The spinal tap almost did my in. I’ve had a lifelong fear of needles & after days & months of people talking about brain tumors, cancer & a slew of other terrifying things that could be lurking in my body, I was not a happy camper about having to lie completely still for a spinal tap or risk being paralyzed. What part of I can’t be still didn’t this doctor understand? I had begged them to sedate me for fear of accidentally moving but to no avail. The spinal tap was terrible but nothing compared to the last test they ran late that same afternoon. You’ll have to ask a medical professional the exact name of the test if you want to use the information. About two hours after a huge needle was inserted in my spine to draw out fluid, I was escorted to a room where the next test was explained to me. In short, the doctor stuck a smaller needle into 3 different places in each of my legs & proceeded to electrically shock me. Knowing my medical rights at a young age proved useful. I had to ask the doctor to stop before he could finish. I thought I was going to die. Right then, right there sitting in that chair. Luckily, I didn’t.

The final diagnosis was myoclonus. I was thrilled there were no signs of cancer or tumors but still devastated to be tied to klonopin for life. Graduation was 11 days away when the final diagnosis came in. I felt like my career ended before it even had a chance to start.

It All Started with Steve-O!!!
Fast forward to the fall of 2011. Most of the world knows what facebook is. When you opt to like a person or product their posts automatically begin coming to your newsfeed. Humor is always a helpful tool no matter what. I get my laugh on with the crew from Jackass. One day, Steve-O, who is famous was swallowing a live goldfish whole then puking Goldie back out alive into her fish bowl, shared the link to Forks Over Knives urging any of his fans to go see the movie because it could save lives. I decided that if Steve-O, then man I’ve watched snort a worm up his nose then pull it out the other nostril, shot bottle rockets out of his behind & get sling shot into the air strapped sitting down in a full port a potty was taking something serious, I should too.

Lucky Me

One quick Netflix search later, Forks Over Knives was in my que ready to watch. By the end, I was crying tears of joy. It all made perfect sense. Fruits & vegetable are the answer! Meat has been a no-no for me personally for a long time. Then there’s milk. Milk has smelled rotten to me my entire life. Even chocolate milk! As soon as I found what is referred to as plant based milk, I was on the milk train for the first time! Almond milk for me, thanks. Transition to vegan lifestyle was immediate & easy for me. Not only do I have myoclonus, I had just endured a long battle against breast cancer with my mother. Rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy & way too much radiation later, she is considered to be cancer free. My first thoughts after watching FOK were of her. How much she suffered. I knew if I followed Dr. Esselstyn’s plan, my chances of developing breast cancer would be greatly reduced. I headed straight for the FOK website for the companion book.

While I was there, I noticed his son Rip’s book, Engine 2. It is bright red just like the purse I tote it around in every day now. His name is cool, his dad is the doctor who pioneered the life saving plant based eating revolution, he’s a firefighter from Texas & I love to read. I couldn’t wait to read Engine 2! Rip brought it to the table like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Engine 2 To The Rescue!

After watching Rip’s Kitchen Rescue, there was no doubt left in my mind that if I followed the E2 plant strong plan not only could I fight cancer & heart disease but I stood a good chance to fight my myoclonus as well. I believe reading this book not only saved my life, it gave me many healthy years of it back.
The results have been nothing short of a miracle for me. My goal was to cut the amount pills I have to take in half. GOAL!!! I went from having to take 9 mind numbing, side effect riddled pills a day to manage my symptoms to only 3!!! Think of all the pills my liver & other vital organs won’t be exposed to! Now when I go to take my medicine at night, I thank God for the Esselstyn’s, Dr. Campbell & Engine 2. There are so few pills now in comparison to before I began eating plant strong. My neurologist thinks I’ve lost it. He said not eating meat was fine but that I still needed to consume other animal based foods because he believes that is why we evolved to what we are now. I don’t think so. My body rejects animal based foods, especially dairy, like they are poison. My neuro & I have agreed to disagree.

For the first time in over 10 years, my memory is working again. This is so important I think it bears repeating. For the first time in 10 years, my memory is working again!!! Do you have any idea how brilliant this feels? My brain is able to retain information long term again. Not only can I work now, I am successful in the insurance industry. I’ve also become confident enough volunteer at my daughter’s school 4 times a month. I have the wild energy it takes to go on bike rides with her. You can’t imagine how much this means to my family, especially my six year-old little girl. None of this would have been possible without E2. Eating plant strong not only saved my life, it has improved my quality of life more than any medicine I’ve ever been given. My body feels as fresh as the food I eat!

Let me just go ahead & say it. Holy crap! Constipation cured. I went from painful poop every four days to easy poop three to four times a day. All thanks to lovely, delicious fruits, vegetable & whole grains.

There’s one other thing you guys talk about that caught my attention. You know how clogged arteries prevent a man from raising the flag? Well, thanks to klonopin, I could never reach the finish line. I can now. Many, many times over.

The benefits of eating plant strong continue to amaze me. Following the E2 plan has brought back many areas of my functionality. My balance has steadied. My pounding headaches are gone. Allergies have disappeared. My skin is clear. I actually look younger! My hair & nails grow like weeds. Another plus I never expected. My cellulite has diminished. It’s not gone but there is far less of it. Who doesn’t want to look younger, feel better & eat incredible food?

I don’t wake up in pain anymore. Chronic fatigue syndrome gone. Yes, gone! I wake up every morning pain free with as much energy as I had when I was a kid. This is HUGE for me! I can get up & function like a normal human being. Every morning is the beginning of a beautiful new plant strong day for me.

Started E2 with a BMI of 25.23. My smarty pants Wii informed me that is overweight for a five feet two inch tall woman. Engine 2 BMI now is a healthy 23.79. My starting weight was 154 pounds. Today I weigh a healthy 133 pounds for a total loss of 21 pounds. My once smarty pants Wii got worried weight was coming off me so fast. I feel more than incredible all thanks to eating plant strong. You can tell the drastic difference in the attached before & after pictures. Yes, both of those people are me.

I want as many people as possible to know about eating Engine 2 plant strong for their health, mind & bodies. Eating E2 plant strong has made the biggest difference in my quality of life. My hope for sharing my success story is that it will inspire at least one person to go plant strong not only for their health but to help manage their pain & the side effects caused by many medicines. Eating plant strong has done wonders for me no pill will ever be able to. I think it’s important for people to know that no matter what particular malady you may suffer from, eating plant strong can either cure or greatly reduce your symptoms. I had no idea delicious fruits, vegetables & whole grains could do this much for me. Who doesn’t want to avoid disease, feel amazing all the time & eat incredible food? I am proof that by being Engine 2 plant strong, you can have your cake & eat it too!

Eat plant strong to live long!

-Kara

Thank you for sharing your story Kara! Please leave Kara some plant-strong love in the comments!

Do you have a story you would like to share with us? Please e-mail us: engine2family@gmail.com

Share this story
Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • http://katesgreatkitchen.blogspot.com Kate

    This is an inspiring story. I’m so happy that you found a way to kick your drug habit and heal your nervous system. It gives me such hope for things I’m still trying to heal.

    Like you I always though milk a disgusting beverage and only used for cooking after getting out from under my parent’s bullying over it as a teenager. I didn’t have any trouble giving up meat and dairy. Meat never appealed to me either. I missed cheese briefly, though. After not having any for a few months, I ate a bite on some Mexican food and was really grossed out. The hard part for me was pastries. As an excellent cook, my whole wheat bread, muffins, cakes, pies, cookies, ans so forth were a big part of our family eating culture. No we eat banana-blueberry ice kream with chopped almonds for dessert. I also didn’t like giving up eggs. It’s not that they were delicious or anything, but I loved raising chickens.

    Anyway thanks again for sharing your inspiring story.

  • Aggie

    Thanks for sharing your story Kara, you are an inspiration.

  • http://missrowanoak.typepad.com/tonya/ tonya parham

    This is SO cool! I went to UTM as well and know the people you are talking about! Even without their names! I was there in 2001 as well!

    Great job Kara! Don’t know if you still live in Martin but it’s so great to see a testimonial for this wonderful way of life that’s so close to home!

  • http://www.CarolLoftus.blogspot.com Carol Loftus

    That is so awesome!!!!! I am so so so happy for you!!!!

  • http://yahoo michele jackson

    Congrats to you! I believe everything you are saying because I also have had amazing results. I was the featured person on here several weeks ago. I wish more people would be open minded and use the resources right in front of them! I am so happy to hear your story! It takes courage to share. Cheers to you and the rest of your life being healthy and happy!!!

  • Judy Chaffee

    Thank you for taking the time to put into words an amazing, inspiring message!

  • Susan Long

    WOW you are such an inspiration. I love the fact you have worked hard to listen to your body and seek out a way to heal it yourself. I am 52 and just started this way of life. Very excited for you and your future of good health!

  • Katie

    Congrats Kara! Such a journey to find out that a simple diet change could bring on life changing results! Its always the easy answers that get ignored the most! I am so happy to hear you have switched to a plant based diet and I feel positive you will live a long and happy life!

  • Dina O’.

    Amazing!! You are a true inspiration! Thank you so much for candidly sharing your story.

  • Debbie

    Thank you for sharing; this is very inspiring to me. I don’t have a big scary illness, but I do have some of the “little” things you mentioned that were improved by going plant-strong. It’s a miracle to me that simple changes in diet can have such a HUGE impact. I’m so glad your story has a happy ending (or new beginning?) and I wish you the best!

  • Ashley McCullough

    First of all, thank you so much for candidly sharing your amazing story. My husband and I are on week 2 of the challenge and already have very little desire to reintroduce animal products.

    The only thing that stood out to me as problematic about your story was your doctor’s attitude. My husband has a seizure disorder and we’re hoping to find a neurologist who’s on board, so to speak. I would really encourage you to seek out someone who gets it since having a medical mentality that is able to focus on prevention rather than medicated fixes is crucial to longevity. (at least that’s what I believe.) Congratulations!

    • Sara Evans

      Hey there, having your doctor on-board is key. I’ve been vegan since 05/2002 and came off meds for the first time in my life in 06/2011. I have had epilepsy (very bad) my whole life. I was clear with my current doctor (who I started seeing in 11/2009) that I was vegan and he would have to work with that. I ended up educating him and he says I am his healthiest patient. In fact he’s cut back on meat as a result of treating me. I’m not saying it was all diet (who knows with the brain) but I definitely think my vegan lifestyle has improved my health.

      • jules

        Hi, my daughter has developed seizures and I was curious how being plant strong affected you? The drugs dont stop them, shes tried a variety and they are high doses and so toxic.

  • lisa

    Hooray for you, Kara! Isn’t it an amazing feeling to have your life back? I know how that feels, I feel like a giddy school girl every day thanks to a whole foods plant based diet. I was suffering from fibromyalgia 6 months ago and within 1 month most of my symptoms disappeared. I am SO happy for you and your family! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Lori Pratley

    Kara, congratulations! Like you, I have had dramatic results. I was diagnosed with a very life threatening auto immune disease and told my liver would not tolerate the drugs and there was nothing else they could do for me. I too changed my diet to a whole-grain plant-based diet, hoping it would improve but not actually believing it would. So many things have improved, but like you so beautifully put it, my memory has improved and the “fog-like” feeling has gone! I don’t know why, but each day I am amazed at how dramatically things have changed and how the body is able to heal itself. I just want to shout it from roof-tops, and shake people to say “you don’t have to be sick !” Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have developed such a passion for others and hope that others will try it!

  • Kathy Grant

    Wow. A truly amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve been plant strong for 2 months now and feel better everyday. It is appalling how some doctors are in denial. Keep strong!

  • Lynne Calender

    Thanks for sharing your story, Kara, very encouraging on all fronts!

  • http://Www.Michellecady.Com Michelle Cady

    Wow! What a journey you shared with your readers. Thank you! I started this path a few months ago after seeing Forks Over Knives. My sinuses feel so different. No infections, pain, or pressure. This has tormented me for years but is now gone. I have lost about 5 pounds and some inflammation in my foot has decreased. My two teenage daughters miss dairy especially cheese. They also prefer milk but I have stopped buying all dairy. Hope they can adapt and see the benefits before they leave for college. I miss cottage cheese but hope I’ll stop thinking about it someday. When I read about others going this way, it strengthens my resolve. Thank you and congrats on discovering this way of eating while still young.

  • Amy Erdman

    Great job! i am nearing my 5th week on E2 and plan to stay forever. i have lost 18 pounds so far and i didn’t have any major health probs just over weight. in my start up week i had my blood work done and found my numbers to be higher then i would have liked. 28 days later they have dropped quite a bit and i am looking forward to testing again in 3 weeks to see what else has changed. your story is awesome and i am excited to see more changes along the way. i often will start talking then just kind of forget and not be able to finish. i hope that this will change with time. I live in MN and can not wait for nicer weather so i can get outside for my bike rides that i have missed so much. thank you so much for sharing :O)

  • http://facebooknewsfeed Leslie

    Thank you so much for sharing!
    I too love the FOK movie and book, the recipes are great.
    I come from a family side on both sides of heart disease and I dont want to have the problems my family has.
    I found out at 19 I have borderline high cholesterol, welp after changing my diet it went down 36 points and now no meds for me:)
    I tell everyone about the movie and why I am a vegetarian(not quite vegan yet but want to be)
    I hope and pray all works out for you and your family.

  • Christine

    Awesome! Can’t wait to see movie, from YouTube I love the fact they promote baby steps, that’s really important for people not to get discouraged! I have been plant based with fresh fruits and veggies sea veggies, nuts and seeds for 24 days now and feel wonderful. I was diagnosed with ms and my neuro said diet doesnt make a difference. I hope next time I see her to be a living testimony of improved health without medications she suggested. BUT we will see. Thank you for your inspiring story. It’s so nice to see there are a lot of people out there supporting this through their own personal experiences!

  • http://www.plantstrongliving.co.uk Linda Sims

    Kara, what an inspirational story. Everybody should read about your incredible journey. Stories like yours can turn the doubters around. I am posting the link on my website to spread the news. Well done.

  • Sheila

    Love this story! Thanks for sharing. It is encouraging to see that this way of eating has come through on more than just heart disease and cancer, but a neurological problem as well. The proof is in the pudding!

  • Heather

    Kara, your story makes me want to cry. I, too, have a neurological disease, multiple sclerosis. As recently as 1 year ago, I had an attack and it was probably the worst I’ve had since diagnosed in 1998. Just before Thanksgiving, I saw FOK on Netflix, and just as you said, it changed my life. I have chosen the eat whole, plant based foods and avoid anything processed or non-organic. I felt 100% better within days! I now hit the gym 5+ times a week. I can’t get rid of all this energy! Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so wonderful to hear that others have been able to reap the rewards of Dr. Esselstyn’s work. GO VEGGIES!

    And oh, by the way, my neurologist looked at me like I was an idiot when I told him what I was doing. He actually walked out of the office, threw his hands in the air and said “You’re on your own with that”. Seems like someone isn’t as smart as he thinks his is, doesn’t it?

  • Windy Troutt

    Typo: “The spinal tap almost did my in”

    I look forward to finding out if Engine 2 can help me cure my hyperparathyroid. I added Spirulina to my diet in Jan 2012, and my level droped from 105 to 70. I’m almost in normal range. I feel better, and I hope to soon feel great!

  • Carol Kenny

    Way to go Kara!! I wish more people with medical issues would follow the plant based diet. Wishing you happy and healthy days ahead!!

  • Jacqueline

    Very encouraging story!! I have Lupus with neurological involvement, daily headaches, cardiac issues, gastrointestinal issues and overwhelming fatigue. I had not been feeling well for months(dr said I was just “depressed” because I worked so many hours as a nurse) then it happened…a huge flare up and a stroke. Have been on chemo medications and steroids for past 3 years almost. Unable to work and just not understanding why my body has turned on me…I always ate healthy (so I thought) and exercised 5 days a week! Well I have been a vegetarian for the past 7 years and then about a month ago my daughter said that she watched FOK on Netflix and she said I had to see this! I did and have been completely vegan for almost 3 weeks! I am noticing changes… My gastrointestinal issues=GONE… No more abdominal pain and my fatigue seems to be improving! I’m absolutely shocked at how giving up dairy seems to be changing the way I feel! I can’t wait to tell my neurologist and Rheumatologist about the changes! I hope to be able to wean off all these medications and get back to being a Nurse sometime very soon! I am thankful for FOK and I hope that this becomes “the norm” for society! How amazing would it be for people to reverse their type 2 diabetes and heart disease and cancer etc…. My husband has also adopted this new lifestyle and has lost weight and is feeling more energized!! Thank you for your story and God Bless everyone in their journey to wellness!

    • Iceskater1

      Those darn autoimmune diseases, they are the scourge of womankind (mostly women..) I am so sorry for your stroke, chemo and steroids. How very difficult. I’m glad you are feeling better. That is so wonderful your husband has gone along, mine won’t even though he is an ER doc, sees all kinds of strokes and heart attacks and cancer, has had all the education via me in the world has seen FOK, Vegan Gal, Kitchen Rescue and so on and so forth, and even works with a vegan doc, but still persists in eating meat cheese, french fries, and so on and on and on. My sons are even worse than he is. It makes it hard for me when my whole family is against this or at best dismissive. Well, I have had a good E2 day so far, and plan to complete my day in strong fashion. To LIFE!

  • Iceskater1

    Thank you so much! Your story is very inspirational. I feel this is the way to go, but I keep tripping up on my habits and addictions (cheese and ice cream, thy name is Satan). I’ve been vegetarian for 7 years, but have Graves disease and Hashimotos and had my thyroid radiated 10 years ago. I am fatter than ever with a moon face despite an athletic lifestyle. I am a figure skater and coach, and train actively 4 days a week on the ice. I just took a series of pictures of myself in a swimsuit, and hope to have a much more pleasing set in a number of months of a plant strong diet. Today is a day I can control and I can be Plant Strong! Anyone else with thyroid problems who has lost weight on this diet? Every time I go low fat vegan I gain weight. Maybe I need to cut out soy, I just don’t know.

  • Diane

    What a shame your doctor was so poorly educated in nutrition that this approach was not offered to you before the drugs. What can we do to get this information in front of the medical community?

  • Rosie

    I, too, love FOK…I would like to recommend my favorite vegan cookbook: GIVE THEM SOMETHING BETTER by Sarah Frain & Stephanie Howard. I got mine at a private showing of FOK. Every recipe I’ve made is delicious! There is so much helpful information….and it’s full-color, too! The cookbook is also endorsed by Dr. Hans Diehl, Lifestyle Medicine Institute & CHIP Founder from Loma Linda, CA

  • Michele

    Congratulations on your transformation to a healthier you!!! I switched to a plant based diet after watching FOK and having an area that showed up on my mammogram that my doctor is watching. I have to go next month for another mammogram and I have been on a plant based diet for 5 months and have certainly noticed a change in my complexion. My parents passed away last year mom in April of complications from Frontal Temporal Degeneration and dad in November of bone cancer. My mom had breast cancer, colon cancer,triple by-pass surgery throughout her life of 81 years, dad had prostate cancer, bone cancer and a lot of other issues in his 76 years of life. I have decided to not let it continue and have achieved this change in eating for me and my 10 year old son since I am a single mom. Trying to get him to like
    all the different beans is a big challenge but I stress the importance of this change in diet to him whenever possible. So Congrats again and “thanks so much for sharing.”

  • Natalie Coffman-Tyre

    Wow! This is such an inspirational story. Thank you for sharing it!

Copyright 2014 Engine 2 Diet | Terms Of Use | Privacy Policy