The Daily Beet

29 Mar Week of Inspiration: Day 2, Kara

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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 Rescuethere 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!


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

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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!

  • GC
    Posted at 11:55h, 29 March

    This is a great story. Thanks for sharing. I wish more people would listen to our amazing stories and get free of SAD side-effects. I’m so happy for you and for me.

  • Laurie
    Posted at 18:28h, 29 March

    It is hard to believe your neurologist isn’t on board with a plant strong program after having witnessed your amazing results! Your story is inspiring and awesome! Congrats and thanks for sharing!!

  • Sunita Kapur
    Posted at 13:45h, 30 March

    This is so amazing, no, you are so amazing! Because you were willing to try something for your health and willing to go the whole way..and it’s thrilling to hear how a disease such as you describe (i have never even heard of it..) can be so much affected by a plant strong diet…way to go Kara!

  • Elle
    Posted at 07:01h, 01 April

    I love that you chose the book in part because it’s red and matched your purse; it can be a challenge getting into the plant strong lifestyle when it seems ‘elitist’ and worthy. Then Lance Armstrong turned out to be a huge fake and you wonder if can trust anyone talking about health and nutrition. Really enjoyed reading your story and I’m going to start over with the 28 day challenge as I’ve slipped and more oil is creeping in (although I’ve managed to stay vegan for a year I haven’t lost weight). The smell of health food shops turns my stomach and some primary colours wouldn’t hurt the animals y’know;-) I wish we could get Engine 2 products in the UK! Thanks Kara, for keeping it real!!!

  • Brenda Rowe
    Posted at 14:24h, 03 April

    I have fibromyalgia I am hoping that eating plant strong will help me to feel better. I am 58 and I had 75 pounds to loose. I have lost 25 pounds since I started eating healthy. I think I would loose more faster but the pain is so bad I have troubles even doing house work. Has any one improved chronic pain with this wonderful life style?

    • Lisa cannon
      Posted at 13:23h, 20 April

      Yes, Brenda, me! I had fibromyalgia for 6 years before I became plant-based. I have been plant-based 1 year and 7 months now and completely pain-free for a little over a year. I started feeling a difference after a few months and I kept feeling better. I had chronic, constant pain over my entire body, but it was especially significant over the entire left side, from head to toe. I also tired very easily. It is a horrible, debilitating condition and the pain can consume you. I would suggest reading Super Immunity by Dr Fuhrman. Building a really good immune system is tremendously helpful. Here’s a website also. http://www.drfuhrman.com/disease/Other.aspx I eat a lot of berries, daily, and lots of kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, brussel sprouts. I eat a lot of soups and stews also and keep grains and sugar minimal. Even a vegan dessert can be unhealthy. I have also found that doing a total body light aerobic workout to be much more beneficial than just plain old walking for me. Hang in there, you will get relief!

  • Brenda Rowe
    Posted at 14:47h, 02 May

    Thank you Lisa, You have given me encouragement. I will check out the web site. I like to eat berries also I love the vegetables you mentioned so I will make sure I eat them everyday. Again I am so happy to hear how this has helped you. I will keep on going.

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