"Humans shall be called to account for all the permitted pleasures they failed to enjoy."
This quote by an unknown author reminds me to avoid trivial matters that usurp life's precious moments and embrace those that enhance it.
Married by the age of 20 and the mother of four in as many years, there was a time I thought I’d never see over my tummy to my feet again, let alone be able to touch them. All that changed when, naïve and wide-eyed, my young family and I moved to the fabled land of "The King and I." Little did I know I would soon experience events as riveting as the young Dutch governess who wrote the book on which that movie was based.
But eight jet-set years in Southeast Asia as a reporter and editor for two top newspapers at the height of the Vietnam War took its toll on my health. My job was not the culprit. It was challenging and exciting and more encompassing than I could ever have dreamed. In retrospect, I describe myself as a cross between Forest Gump and Barbara Walters: the former because like the fictional protagonist in the Academy Award winning movie, I was always at the right place when history was being made. The latter because, like Barbara Walters, I was able to share my reports and good fortune with an international audience from all walks of life.
Royalty and rogues, Dignitaries and Diplomats, Business Moguls, Celebrities and people-on-the-street. They all became grist for my daily reports. Most memorable, however, was the honor of becoming the ONLY journalist privileged to travel with and report on the highly revered King and Queen of Thailand.
Indeed, it was high on a windy mountain top at the crux of the Golden Triangle (so named because it bordered 3 countries where Opium, the cash crop, wreaked havoc on the Western World) when His Majesty King Bhumipol, 13 foreign ambassadors, and I received word the Vietnam War had ended. His Majesty called for a moment of silence so all might reflect on that momentous news.
I reveled in the challenge and education provided by world leaders and other newsmakers who allowed me to spread their works and their lives across my pages. The first week in my new position I turned down an invitation to join Pan American’s Jumbo Jet Inaugural flight to the World’s Fair in Okura, Japan. A few years later, more secure in my position, I did accept Philippine Airlines invitation to take part in their inaugural flight to Europe and witnessed the “Munich Massacre: the worst tragedy in modern Olympic history” and the forerunner to the 9/11 terrorists.
To expand the cultural boundaries of myself and my readers I wanted to do a series called Ambassador Row with in-depth profiles on the numerous foreign countries represented in “The Land of Smiles.” Because a misquote could cause an international incident, this was easier said than done, however, and I had to call 29 ambassadors before securing my first interview. But by the time I did three the Ambassadors were calling me requesting a turn.
During round-the-world trips on Home Leave, I initiated another series called “Man-of-the-World” which featured Presidents and Heads-of-States (Germany, India, Philippines, etc.). Not to exclude the accomplishments of females, I also began a “Woman-of-the-World” series featuring prominent female dignitaries like Imelda Marcos.
But my jet-set lifestyle was catching up. I didn't smoke but often went for days without sleeping and eating and then went on wild binges of "eating, drinking and making merry." Only my youth allowed such abuse and after nearly a decade my body cried out with a vengeance.
On returning to the United States, I became a Health Educator with the High Risk Maternal and Infant Care Project at a major metropolitan hospital. As a reporter with access to the world's authorities on health, and a fitness instructor to boot, I thought I had an edge on health. That illusion came to a halt with the diagnosis of an ovarian cyst that eventually grew to the size of a cantaloupe. It was precipitated by Premarin, the most prescribed drug in America.
I later learned that 75% of the women put on Premarin, so named because it is derived from a Pregnant Mare's Urine, develop tumors, cysts or other type growths. Extensive research of the Medical Literature revealed thousands of women die annually of Ovarian Cancer. Less known is the fact their deaths are caused by complications from the traditionally prescribed treatment and surgery, not to the disease itself.
Much to everyone's concern, I refused the surgery and immersed myself in study which eventually led me to Natural Hygiene (the Science of Life), whose practitioners embrace a strict vegan diet and fasting, when necessary, to overcome disease. But my new lifestyle was unacceptable to my family and friends, and my family came first. As I grew sicker and more depressed, I realized I would soon become a burden to my family if I didn't change my ways, therefore if they couldn't accept my change I must sever the relationship and follow my own convictions.
It took 3 major fasts over a 3 year period and a close bout with death before my body had the resources to resolve the cyst (minus drugs or surgery) and rebuild health. Ironically, about 6 weeks after a 20 day water-only fast, about age 48, I was tested by doctors at NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration-- along with college Physical Education and Pre-Med majors younger than my children. My test results put me in the top 5 percentile of female college athletes age 18 to 29 (male athletes aged 24 to 37).
The doctor and former Olympic Coach who facilitated the testing was a consultant to the Air Force and Astronauts. He thought my spirometer test (ability to utilize oxygen) had malfunctioned, so had me retake it. He was amazed at the results, as was I, because I knew my health was not optimal. If I tested so well, what did that say for our youth?
An addendum to this story is after 3 years of skepticism ("If a plant- based diet could solve health problems, don't you think doctors would be shouting it from the rooftops!"), my husband had his own health crisis and had to undergo numerous tests so was required to abstain from eating for 3 days. The problem (Diverticulitis) healed itself, and he decided there might be some credence to my way of thinking.
For nearly 2 decades we have invested the majority of our time, energy and finances learning from the few world luminaries who truly practice health promotion, not disease treatment. The results were wonderfully transforming. Due to my work in the print and broadcast media, (Bachelor of Science Degree in Radio, Television & Journalism) I had a high profile in the community and the rumor of my demise during my 3 year absence proved obviously premature. People often cornered me and wanted to know my "secret."
To oblige this need we began private consultations with great success. In order to reach more people with this life-giving information, we offered free monthly classes at the regional library called HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES: Disease-Free-Living Through Nutrition & Fitness.
Over the past 16 years our impact on the community has been gradual but steady. The media now considers us a reliable resource for health and diet related questions. Our counseling even saved a prominent TV newsman from paralysis, experimental surgery, and most probably the end of his career, if not his life. He is now better than ever with a renewed appreciation for life and all its goodness. Another prize pupil is an 84 year-old woman whose cholesterol was over 600. Doctors told her medication wouldn't help, to go home and "wait" because her days were numbered.
Within a few weeks after following our "prescription," she'd lost 22 lbs. and her cholesterol had plummeted to 240. Her husband, a cancer victim and vocal skeptic, lost 19 lbs., threw away his medicine, and they recently took a 6 month trip around the country in their motor home. ("I used to get lost every time I drove to the store," he laughingly recalls.)
We also became certified Health Ministers with Hallelujah Acres, a program based on a predominantly raw, vegan diet similar to Natural Hygiene and whose success in combating even severe physical ailments and disease has attracted millions from some 33 countries, including many disillusioned Medical Doctors, Dentists and other Health Care Providers. My media experience came in handy when I was hired to join a team of experts commissioned by Hallelujah Acres to make a series of Videos and Manuals for instructors and students following the Hallelujah program called “Get Healthy, Get Balanced.”
In order to attract more people to the benefits of consuming a fresh, uncooked plant-based diet (The American Cancer Institute now recommends 9-A-Day), I completed an intensive series of courses to become a Certified Chef by the Living Foods Culinary Arts Institute in California. That was followed by the World Vegetarian Congress* in Edinburgh, Scotland, where my spouse and I had the pleasure of introducing several hundred people from 27 countries to our special DREAM CREAM, the No Fat, No Sugar, No Guilt, earth-friendly ice cream. We also demonstrated how to make fresh, uncooked Peach Cobbler and Banana Crème Pie.
An unexpected pleasure at the World Congress was the privilege of chairing the Plenary Session on the Environment. This was particularly rewarding since my good friend John McConnell, the Founder of Earth Day, was perhaps the foremost person to tap the world's conscience on the need to become "Trustees of Earth."
As a Councilor and Public Relations Officer for the International Vegetarian Union, I drafted a Press Release which could be tailored for each country's delegate. It pointed to valid reasons why a vegan diet could be used as a healthier and more cost-effective tool to feed the world's starving masses while providing the best possible care for the earth and all its benefactors.
My former radio and TV talk shows were called Coffey Break w/Gerry. Through that venue I was able to pair health and fitness luminaries with policy makers in a position to effect change and a call-in Public to make them accountable. As the world grows smaller through the internet, the opportunities abound for reaching an even larger audience desperate to learn the truth about foods that can make or break the world's health.
The internet is the great equalizer. People from all walks of life can communicate with the person next door or across the world. They have access to worlds of information, not all of it good. Our goal with our website is to help people cut through the nonsense and hype by providing down-to-earth information that educates and informs. We provide articles, an advice column, interviews, book reviews, a resource list, inspirational essays and quotes, and will always be open to suggestions on how we might make it better.
As we tell our class attendees: We don't live in this world alone, and if we want a better world in which our children and grandchildren might thrive, it's up to us to do something about it. I did just that not long ago and was arrested for my efforts. See Arrest articles Grandmoms Arrested at Supermarket.When asked to take part in Pure Foods National Supermarket Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, I thought it important to let the public know that 2/3rds of the food they purchase contains genetically modified organisms.
By refusing to label untested foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as human cancer cells--to promote rapid growth up to five times normal** -- and fish genes in tomatoes, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables--to extend shelf life-- Supermarkets are using Americans as human guinea pigs without our knowledge or consent.
Moreover, while 32 other countries ban GMOs UNTIL they are proven safe for human consumption, under pressure from the greedy food giants who make large campaign donations, American lawmakers allow GMOs to be used in foods UNLESS THEY ARE PROVEN HARMFUL.
We believe HEALTH IS (the ONLY true) WEALTH! and we want to surround ourselves with healthy (ie., wealthy) people. We want to show concerned people how to take charge of their health, well-being and longevity, and in so doing enhance all with whom and with which they come in contact.
--Gerry Coffey: wife/mother/grandmother
Health Educator/Writer/Councilor/Public Relations Officer:
THE VEGETARIAN UNION OF NORTH AMERICA and
THE INTERNATIONAL VEGETARIAN UNION
* GMOs may well be the reason for the current epidemic of obesity: the forerunner to disease, premature aging and death. See Arrest articles, Grandmoms Arrested at Supermarket.