When I was 60 I had been working out and eating well for decades - or so I thought.
Sometimes that included lots of meat and for a few years I was a vegetarian. I worked in health clubs as a boy, starting at age 13, cleaning toilets and showers at a club in Rat City Washington (Goggle it, there is such a place. I lived in the housing projects near by, those who lived in Rat City looked down on us).
In college I studied exercise physiology and psychology because I wanted to be able to work with people in the fitness business and to make lots of money too. In high school, managing the little club at nights and on Saturdays I took in a guy that was badly injured in a car wreck. I got the owner to let him come for free and sign a waiver because we really didn't know what we were doing for sure, and in a year he was stronger, stretched out, still crippled but much better. He was so grateful he named his son after me. Living in the housing projects there were not many successes like that for a young man.
Recently a girl friend from 50 years ago contacted me. Her husband, a man that had a couple of "health clubs" had had a heart attack and half of his heart wasn't functioning well at all. My brother Rick, ten years younger had had a heart attack -- and had another just last week. Jeff, another brother 18 years younger than I, also had heart attacks. Everyone was given stents to treat their heart disease.
I thought I was healthy, but 6 years ago, at age 60, I got cancer. During the chemo, radiation, CT and PET scans, they saw calcification on an artery to my heart and said that was "normal" for a man my age. It wasn't a clear picture, we were not focusing on that area. Just trying to beat cancer (I don't every think you beat cancer. I do think you can prevent it. I have seen beautiful people, far too young, die of cancer the last few years and I am not a better person because I made it five years or six. There is luck in life.)
As a boy I worked the bean and berry fields breathing in what we now know are harmful pollutants, and eating DDT off the vine. At age 18 I was using toxic chemicals to clean paint off wings for Boing Air. I worked hot tar roofing and worked on boats in the Gulf of Mexico. I put Gunnite on walls of swimming pools in Hawaii.
Many men's jobs are toxic and even when not, the decades of stress from other jobs take men's lives far too young. 94% percent of the deaths at work are male, and where women outlived men by 1 year in 1920, today women outlive men by 6 years on average.
I mention all those things first because I don't believe diet is the entire story for either heart disease or cancer, but I am 100% sure today that when I was a personal trainer and I was telling others to eat more protein, especially meat, eggs and dairy -- I was 100% wrong.
I also have a 100 % disability from the military, a screw in my left hip, two screws in my right shoulder and like most vets with a lot of PTSD, the odds of dying young from stress are pretty high. So insurance companies refuse to insure people like me.
Add anemia, and add bone on bone on both hips, and the Veterans Admin telling me I have severe degenerative arthritis in both hips, add my physician telling me when he saw the tests that were to measure the calcification near my heart saying "Congratulations, you have the highest score I have ever seen and the family history of this disease!"
Well how the heck did I make it to age 66?
My wife is a kick butt and take charge woman. When she started doing the math, and she noticed that I got a Toy Poodle service dog and figured out that if the dog lived 15 years and I didn't last long, she would at least still have company. But she started doing research on diet, cancer, heart attacks and such and of course the China Study showed up. And so did Forks over Knives. Not too longer after, I watch films on animal cruelty that would make you cry.
So, we have been vegans for a year -- or maybe it's two; part of my disability is slight brain damage. Too many concussions. I have trouble with dates, but it's over a year and less than two that we've been vegan.
The heart doc put me on statins right away and said he takes them as a preventative measure. My local doc agreed, "go statins," he said. But my wife found the statin research that made them not look so great, and I found more.
I was seen on a plane two months ago heading to Costa Rica wearing Dr. Fuhrman's "Kale is the new Beef" T-shirt. I am doing more research on both food and respecting animals.
My 23 year-old daughter is almost 100% on board despite hanging around with college students that just don't care.
My 27 year-old son has looked at a few items I have shared, and my friends on Facebook? They don't want to hear any more about it. But when my brother tells he had "really cut down on meat" and then he is going in for MORE stents, well I know that he isn't willing to do the work that it takes to change his life for a better life.
It took a few years for the food and drug industry to indoctrinate us and to teach us short cuts to eating that are killing us. If only people would learn that you can learn a better way for your health and spirit. I understand avoidance but after seeing the sickening films of factory farming, and when I realize a lot of my friends and family are still eating terrible food... Well, as a man that just doesn't quit, I need to teach and try not to preach.
So, the photo is one my brother-in-law took of me, my wife and his wife in Costa Rica on my 66th birthday. Friends that knew me as a very strong 190 lbs on a medium frame described me as almost dead when I got down to about 140 and beat down, soft, cancer will do that. But when I went Vegan and decided 150 was enough for a 5 ' 9" tall "elderly man" like me.
It makes me laugh still, can't believe I will be 70 in 4 years or that some friends have died of cancer and heart attacks, and yet with all my issues I am still going. I feel like the energizer bunny most days and I am hoping that the anemia will improve on this diet too.
My friends from high school live in Seattle. When they have seen me, dressed, they wonder if I am still sick. Almost all of them have gained 30 to … well, my twin sister weighs 300 lbs and some of my male friends are around there too.
When I share Vegan info and they see some of our heroes the say, "They don't look healthy" and "they are too thin." And they mean it.
I tell them to look back at Robert Redford, Paul Newman and even Kirk Douglas who played Spartacus. They all looked tthin. Hoss Cartwright from "Bonanza" was considered huge when that show was big in the 1060's. Yet few would barely notice him today. A football player today who was the size of Hoss would be considered small.
I posted this photo on my FaceBook and said I wanted to counter rumors from afar that Steve DeLuca is emaciated.
"It's ain't braggin' if you can back it up" was something I learned in the army.
I don't know if I can make it another year or to age 70 or to 80 + but I do know that I love my wife, kids, grandkids, and my wonderful dog Roxanne, my service dog. I do know that I have a lot of issues from years of stress and getting banged around boxing and karate and car wrecks and prison fights (I wasn't the prisoner) -- and from the horrific diet I was on.
The worst line I ever read as a teenager was reading a weight-lifting magazine. It described a huge, powerful man during a body building contest. as follows: "The blood of a thousand steaks was coursing through his veins."
Even as a housing projects kids with uneducated parents I knew something was wrong with that. Today it's much worse.
My hope -- and Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Furman have both encouraged me with this -- is that by not cheating on this diet, the damage done many not get worse and some repairs may be made. I know that sticking with this diet is the best chance I have and it's also living in a way that I want my children to see.
I have already been here longer than the calcification score would suggest. 1 to 10 they say is good. 400 means you have a 10% chance of a heart attack or stroke in the next year. I was at 2,700 which means, doing the math, I should have died a few times just from that.
Since going vegan, my arthritis is better. I feel less pain in my hips, having lost a lot of weight. I have a rowing machine in my bedroom, exercise bike in the bathroom and I take my dog walking twice a day.
KNOWING that I am meeting cancer and heart disease head on rather than being a wimp while pretending to be "macho" with "Ya, give me a burger and some fries..." Nope: kale baby, bring it on. I have been a fighter all my life and I am not giving up my health without a fight today.
Even if it's too late, and I only get another year or two, when I had cancer at age 60 I asked for 5 more years. (Don't ask who I asked. I have mixed feelings about religion. A friend suggested I pray. 2 AM on drugs in pain, hospital room, I tried to pray. "God, are you there?" Silence. God, if you are there say something. God said, "Who's this?" and I said, "If you are God then you should know!" God said "Yeah, I was just messing with ya, I haven't heard from you since your voice changed.")
I am a spiritual person and have worked in social work to help others. I no longer understand how spiritual people of any denomination or kind can ever see what we have been doing to millions and millions of animals as we destroy the earth and risk unleashing a virus from the billions of unhealthy disease riddled, feces contaminated, drugged up and suffering animals that many still call food.
Well, you're on VegSource, so ya'll know this already, dontcha?
I am writing this to share my story AND to thank you for your work. You and the many others. I think of the others I ignored a few years ago and now I can only wonder if I had listened more carefully, done some research, if I could have prevented the cancer despite the years of stressful and toxic work and stress of Post-traumatic Stress. I do know that I finally listened and that I have helped.
Steven C. DeLuca
US Army Retired