Monday, September 15, 2008
A Passion That Lives On....
Yesterday I went to a farm stand with my father, Raymond Germain. He enjoyed picking out local produce and I chatted with two other customers that were milling about the barn. The woman at the barn began telling us how a relative of her's just came off of dialysis and received a transplanted kidney from an anonymous donor. This woman was currently going through dialysis and was on the list to receive a transplant as well. The man who was also shopping related to us that he had been on dialysis for several years before receiving his transplant.
I became struck by the fact that every customer at this little farmstand had kidney disease! My father was born with an adult onset form of Polycystic Kidney Disease. He was diagnosed in 1982 and received his transplant in December of 2002. There was one key difference between my father and the other people in the barn. My father went twenty years without ever needing to be hooked up to a dialysis machine.
Many claim he was lucky. They explain this was a result of a gradual enough cyst formation to sustain him until 2001 when his sister, Sue, was declared a match. There cannot be a more incredible gift than life and that is what his sister was able to give him. My family is quite thankful.
What sustained him for so long? The answer is the inspiration for this blog. My father knew long before his diagnosis that being positive was the key to a vibrant and enjoyable life. This lesson he bestowed on his children and all those who were fortunate to come in his presence. However he began to take an even more active role in sustaining his life. He began to eat in a way that was positive as well.
His loving wife of thirty seven years, Jean, took to the library and began looking at the way food affected kidney function. Incrementally, they began to make shifts that worked for the entire family. This is where I was blessed to be born to such enlightened people. We woke up every morning to fresh fruit before heading off to school or play. In the evening, we came through the door to a fresh salad every night before eating a family dinner.
In addition to adding in more fresh fruits and vegetables, they began to limit foods that taxed kidney function. Sodium was cut tremendously and water intake went up. Cranberry juice became a pretty constant staple around the Germain household and we needed two water pitchers in a fridge just to keep up with H2O demand. Meat and dairy intake was reduced slowly and methodically over a period of ten years. Animal protein produces many acids that are tough on the kidney and the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle favors a person with such a diagnosis. Thanks to this process it became very easy for me to take dairy products completely out of my diet...a transition that is difficult for many.
Most importantly, Jean and Ray continued to create and share food together. This act of love may have been the most healing aspect of the entire diet they constructed. Even though they are responsible for everything that drives me to learn, live and teach the positive and healthy lifestyle, they maintain an eagerness to learn more and continue to make shifts that aid their wellbeing.
My passion was born from this. Eating is a positive and fun experience for me but that is just an outward expression of a deep understanding of its true importance. Food truly does sustain us and for many of us without a life threatening illness we forget that it keeps us alive. This is a conscious act of survival and I believe it nourishes much more than our anatomy. This is why food is so interwoven with love. What is sharing a meal with someone? It is the decsion to share with others the very matter that is nourishing our physical bodies, our growing minds and our loving spirits. When we create and share food together we are actually creating and sharing life.
By medical standards I am lucky to have shared as many years with my father as I have. The doctor's at Massachusetts General Hospital are to be regarded as angels and my mother a saint for all they have done to make this possible. We all can do something to sustain ourselves and those around us. The steps we take to actively improve the quality of our lives have a tendency to ripple out and benefit all those that are close to our hearts. The heart beat itself can almost be thought of as the source of this rippling effect. The strength inside our hearts determines how far out the waves will travel. Strengthen your own heart and you will truly affect others.
I wish you strength and well being and hope to hear from you soon!
"Food is the one thing that is everything"