I Am Going Vegan, and I’m Doing It Cold (Tofu) Turkey

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

December 4th, 2010 • Nutrition for Natural Pain ReliefPrint Print

Three weeks ago, I went to a vegan potluck with speaker Gene Bauer from Farm Sanctuary. His talk was moving, eye-opening, and inspirational. During the Q&A, I relayed the story of how my parents and I were driving out near some pastures when I was 11 years old.

Being a city kid, I was excited to see cows. When I pointed them out, my mom informed me that they were steer cows. I asked what those were, and she basically said that they were the food on my plate. I became vegetarian that second, and I remained so for the next three years. The thing is, I kept getting these near-blackout spells that were pretty scary. So the doctor advised me to eat meat again. I did, and the spells stopped.

But I didn’t eat a lot of meat. Throughout my teens and adult life, I ate meat occasionally. Usually I’d eat it when I was not feeling well – when I was feeling weak and out of sorts. I’d have some steak, and whamo! I was good to go for another two or three months.

But then sometime in the past decade, I was seeing a nutritionist who specialized in nutrition for pain management. This practitioner basically got me back my energy, in the early days of my pain saga, through kicking my diet in the ass. One day, she was doing an evaluation of different foods and how they make me feel. At some point in our conversation, she said, “Loolwa, I have to stop you and point out that you’ve just said, five times, that when you eat meat, you feel stronger and have less pain. I think you need to eat more meat.”

So I did. My pain levels went down, and I felt much stronger. “What do you recommend for someone who needs to eat meat at least occasionally but whose values are in alignment with vegetarianism?” I asked Gene. He had a cool answer, but it was not nearly as cool as the fact that after the event, I was approached by several people with helpful tips, including two vegan nutritionists who told me about numerous resources on how to manage pain through vegan nutrition. I was intrigued.

On Thanksgiving, I went to a vegan potluck put on by the same group. The food was totally delish. I was especially interested in the yummy fake potato salad – made with cabbage as the main ingredient. “I don’t get it,” I told the guy who made it (the same guy from the camera flash story – people are complicated!) “Why fake potato salad? Potatoes have no animal products.”

As it turned out, he only ate raw food. He then proceeded to tell me a funny story about how bears once got into his food on a camping trip, only leaving him with raw potatoes to eat for the duration of his stay. “You wouldn’t want to try it, trust me,” he laughed.

I asked this guy about why he chose to eat only raw food. He explained to me that this or that book challenging the American diet affected him profoundly when he was in his teens. Meanwhile, he had a benign growth somewhere on his body (can’t remember where). Shortly after he switched to a raw foods diet, the growth disappeared.

Bam. The next week, I was diagnosed with a big fat honkin’ nodule on my left thyroid gland, plus a few more little ones on the right gland. Initially, I was given the impression that there was a good chance it was (Gd forbid) cancerous. I later found out that there was an 85% chance that it was benign.

When I asked about the procedure for treating a cancerous thyroid nodule, I was told the entire thyroid gland is removed, leaving the patient on meds for the rest of her life. I pressed, asking about any possible risk to the voice. I was informed that there is a voice-related nerve that runs very close to the thyroid gland. For a few reasons, which I blogged about previously, I decided that I would not get surgery regardless, but that I would utilize all my tools and skills in holistic health, to get rid of the damn thing myself.

I am grateful that I’d had the experience of the two vegan meetings. By the time I was informed about the nodule, I already had a support network at the ready. I decided I was going to adopt a raw-foods heavy, vegan diet, regardless of the outcome of the biopsy. Over the past week, I’ve thus been saying goodbye to my dairy and meat products. I decided to taper off them, simply not replacing them as they go.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, I went on a bike ride and stopped at my usual 12 mile benchmark. There was a guy sitting on the bench (it’s a literal benchmark), and I asked if I could join him. We ended up talking – his name was Mike – and for no apparent reason, unsolicited, he launched into a discussion about his favorite organic farmer’s market and how it’s the best fresh produce, and how the co-op has wuss-ass produce in comparison, and how I should totally go to this market, and oh yeah, make sure to arrive at 8 am, to avoid the yuppie rush.

Then Mike told me about a few different bike activist communities in the area — which I’d just been wondering about (unbeknownst to him), because I’ve been wanting to petition for a stop sign for cars, at a particular bike crossing that is dangerous because of oncoming traffic.

I’ve been planning on hitting up this early morning farmer’s market tomorrow morning, to start my plunge into all things cruciferous. Meanwhile, today, I became aware that the thyroid gland seems awfully close to my trachea. After Shabbat, I looked up the thyroid biopsy procedure and found that, in fact, the thyroid sits right over the trachea, not to mention right under the voice box.

I then looked at all the risks involved in the biopsy procedure. Mind you, the chances of any mishap are very slim. But here’s the thing: There’s still a chance. And as I have found over the years, all the studies, all the odds, and all jazz don’t really mean shit. As David Simon says, something can be effective for 97% of the population. But if you’re that 3%, what does it matter?

My body frequently seems to be a mystery to Western medicine, and diagnoses have never changed my course of action. So the bottom line is this: In the biopsy procedure, someone will stick a needle into a part of my body that is right. over. my. breathing. pipe. And here’s the thing: Even if Gd forbid the thyroid nodule turns out to be cancerous, I’m not getting the surgery. I’m going to engage energy healing, a radical change in my diet, meditation, guided imagery, amped up exercise, and dance directed to shrinking this nodule.

So I started thinking, why put myself through the risk, anxiety, and discomfort? With that question in mind (and tears in my eyes, I might add), I went to my third vegan group meeting – a gathering at newly-opened restaurant. Serendipity sat me right next to the president of the group.

I’d emailed the president after the outta-control-camera-flashing incidents, telling her how that made me feel unsafe and questioning why people in a vegan group (purportedly higher up on the caring-human chain) would behave with so little consciousness about disability issues. As those of you following my blog know, she’d emailed back a super caring note, saying she’d like to speak with me about what she can do to facilitate a safe space for me.

Which all goes to say, I was super psyched to be sitting next to her. But wait, there’s more. It turns out that – ta da! – she had a cancerous thyroid nodule two decades ago. “I wish someone had told me about diet,” she said. She had the nodule frozen through an iodine treatment, but now she has no thyroid function and has to take meds. Once she learned about and implemented the vegan diet, however, she had a dramatic transformation in her body. Other growths (not malignant), as well as her heart disease, disappeared. Her cholesterol cut into half in three weeks.

That’s it. No biopsy. I’m cancelling it. And three hours ago, in that restaurant, I became a vegan. (Although, being that I don’t yet have soy milk in the house, I’m gonna have a little bit o’ cow in my coffee tomorrow. Full disclosure here.) I’m also initiating these changes post haste:

  1. Emphasis on raw foods in general and green leafy veggies in particular. I’m going to the organic farmers market tomorrow, to say hi to Mike before the yuppies arrive.
  2. No bread, except maybe the refrigerated whole sprouted thingies — need to look into this.
  3. No sugar (cringe)
  4. Cut back on honey, maple syrup, and other sweetners, with goal of cutting them out (double cringe) 
  5. No fried foods, possibly no oil at all (oy oy oy)
  6. Meditation and/or chanting for a few minutes, each morning and night.
  7. Early to bed, early to rise.
  8. Singing exercises daily (more on that later. Long story short, I reduced or eliminated pain through singing, and singing vibrates the nodules – direct access!)
  9. Dancing daily
  10. Energy healing from Mama daily
  11. Prayers and energy healing from others who care
  12. Regular exercise and outdoor activity – primarily through biking.
  13. No engaging other people’s drama.
  14. If someone is not healthy, they are outta my life. Blood relation or not.
  15. Bodywork as frequently as possible
  16. Develop community by going out to events where like-minded spirits gather (vegans, bike activists, meditators, dancers)

On that note, I invite loving, positive, healing, supportive thoughts, prayers, and energy healing to come my way. If you are in prayer circles that ask for people’s names, please include mine. I also welcome tips and strategies re diet or any other natural means of healing a thyroid disorder.

With blessings and gratitude for those who help me along my journey,


Steve Metzger, RN-CMT December 5th, 2010

Amazing story Loolwa. You are on the right track. Your interest in body work and other healthy, healing measures is a holistic opportunity for you body to do what it is made to do–heal itself. Body work will effectively remove harmful stress, increase circulation and balance hormone levels. Craniosacral therapy and work around the head stimulates the endocrine system, of which the thyroid is part. Lymphatic drainage massage will promote immunity and specific work around the head, neck and upper chest will stimulate the flow of lymphatic fluid that area, thereby increasing the body’s ability to fight the thyroid growth. Best wishes and God bless you Loolwa. You are making amazing contributions to many people’s lives, including your sharing about these experiences.

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