Kamal El-Wattar, Author at Vitanova

Taking Charge of My Life – Sandi’s Story of Rebirth

Sandi Pearce’s life had been marked by medical problems; she had been bitten by a tick and stung by a scorpion, and she was afflicted by Lyme disease, multiple allergies, and chemical sensitivities. Her life was defined by her sickness. When she was in tachycardia in 2006, the ER doctor had to stop and restart her heart. Sandi knew it was time to stop life as she knew it and start living a new, healthy life.

I met Marie on the very first day of work back in 1999. We were in the same orientation class. It was obvious from the start that we had a lot in common. I was already struggling with some sort of illness, and I didn’t know what was wrong. Marie suggested her doctor to me. I blew it off. “Yeah, yeah. I have plenty of doctors.” She just gently said, “You’ll come to me when you’re ready.” She left it at that and didn’t say another word.

Six months later, I was even sicker. It was then that I remembered what Marie had told me when we first met. I went to Marie, sort of sheepishly, and asked, “Could you please give me the name of your doctor?” She never said a word about our prior conversation. She just gave me the number and said I would love this man and he would heal me. I made an appointment to see him (a naturopath and osteopath) right away. And after he tested me and listened to my symptoms, everything Marie had said that she thought was going on with me was correct. I was allergic to sugar, dairy, soy—a long list of different foods—and they were making me extremely sick. When the doctor told me all that I was allergic to or sensitive to, I thought: 1) I need to tell Marie she was right, and 2) I would have to make some really drastic changes, quickly. I cried. I didn’t want to give up every yummy, wonderful thing I loved, which were all processed and full of gluten and a ton of carbs, and yuck. But, I quit everything the doctor wanted me to quit to calm my system down and get healthier.

I immediately lost 20 pounds in the first two months, and I’d never had that much energy. I was strictly sugar-free for two years after that. I’ve been gluten free for 17 years since—except for a few mistakes—mostly sugar free, soy free, corn free, all these different foods “free,” and I always feel better if I stick to that regimen.

The life I was living back then was basically not in concert with who I felt I was, if that makes sense. Inside, I was this really healthy person, but I wasn’t living that on the outside. Sick meant that I had no energy, no desire to do anything. Once I changed my life and started living and eating healthier, everything changed. It was remarkable. My energy level, my excitement for life—everything. It was so pivotal in my life.

After going to Marie’s doctor, I found a new path, even if I didn’t have a true diagnosis for the allergies at the time. Being on that path gave me new energy and excitement. Bringing that into the rest of my life was surprisingly easy—easier than for other people because I had no choice. It was change or die.  Other people can say, “I don’t think I should eat pizza so often, but it’s hard to change.” But I had to say, “I can’t ever eat pizza again or I’ll get really sick.” I parlayed that into getting healthy in general. I started running again. I learned kickboxing. I quit smoking and cut back on alcohol. Because I felt so good, it was much easier to stay on that course. Like anyone else, I backtracked a few times, but overall I’ve stayed the course.

I now know that my multiple allergies are from chronic Lyme disease, which wasn’t diagnosed for many years after the tick bite, and also coincided with becoming really ill. It created permanent allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, and pain that persist to this day. The bacteria even invaded my brain, causing permanent lesions.

My morning ritual is a series of things I need to do for my dogs, but I also take supplements in the morning, too. My favorite ritual is my afternoon ritual, though. I walk my dogs for a full hour every afternoon, and that’s the cornerstone of my exercise routine. Even if I don’t have time for anything else, the dogs have to be walked, and it’s my time to just be present with the dogs. It’s amazing how easy it is to see the world around you if you watch it from a dog’s eyes. It is what keeps me going. We charge through the open space and cruise around. I have three 100-lb dogs, and I also walk my parents’ little dog.

My supplements and vitamins are also a huge ritual to me. Genetic testing showed my body doesn’t make certain key enzymes for processing B12 and folate, so supplementing active enzymes is vital for me to stay alive and healthy. Folate and B12 are key because they provide the body with much of its energy. I did some research and discovered how many things are synergistically complete if they are taken together—or also messed up if they are taken together! For example, most vitamins or supplements should not be taken with vitamin D, so I take that alone. I make sure that I take certain vitamins together to give me the best bang for my buck.

One of the things I now say is, “I affirm that this is how my life will be now.” I stick to that and believe in that. Making my vitamins part of a morning ritual is one of the best things I’ve discovered. I link everything together. When I take my vitamins, my affirmations are playing in my mind. “This is helping my body. This is making me stronger. This is giving me the energy that I need.” Making that mind-body connection is so important.

Then, on October 16, 2006, my heart became erratic when I was out to lunch with a friend. I was in tachycardia and my heart rate was above 200 bpm. When my friend and I arrived at the hospital 15 minutes later, my heart rate was still 186 bpm, and the doctor couldn’t get it back to normal with any of his usual methods, so he had to give me a drug to stop my heart and restart it. After my heart was back to a normal rhythm and my doctor was about to release me, he said, “Sandi, whatever it is you’re doing to cause this much stress in your life, you need to stop it immediately. I looked at him and thought, “Okay, this is it. My life has to change.” It was even more pivotal in my rebirth, and changed me forever. From then on, I was working out much harder—three hours a day in that first year—and even more committed to living a life filled with things that are good for me. I quit smoking that day after leaving the hospital. I knew my job was killing me slowly (or quickly), and I turned in my notice two weeks later. Everything from then on has led me to where I am now—far healthier 17 years later than I was then.

Respect – Powering Communities Around the World

Too many of us live as though our lives are already scripted for us. We don’t realize that we are the agents of our own rebirth. When Ibrahim was startled out of passively playing his role, his real, purpose-driven life began. Now, he’s changing the world. 

I remember a day in middle school when our religion teacher said that he would tell us a story of the good woman and the bad woman. He started to describe his version of a bad woman: a sovereign, independent woman with her own dreams and aspirations who doesn’t necessarily cover every inch of her body, who chooses to express herself in her own style, and who doesn’t spend every ounce of energy on her family.

As he spoke, I thought of my mother, who has the most integrity and kindness of anyone I know. The fact that he put her in this category of a bad person jolted me into the awareness that not every narrative that children inherit from adults is true or right. It was a pivotal moment, when I realized that I could apply my own filter to every conversation and decide what works for me and what doesn’t.

Before that day, I would inherit conversations and perpetuate them, conversations that had continued from one generation to the next. That was the moment when I developed the kind of critical thinking that changed the trajectory of my life. I am thankful to that teacher for his perspective; because of him, I allowed my own perspective to enter the equation and guide my decisions. I determined to use my own judgment in my decisions from that point forward.

In the early 2000s, I had built a successful career in general technology investing. I could see the great damage that humanity was doing to the environment in California and around the world. I wondered how we could sustain this path of destruction of the earth without destroying ourselves. When a gentleman pitched the idea of investing in a new subdivision outside of Los Angeles, my partner and I saw the path ahead: buying a lot of land, cutting down a lot of trees, and contributing to urban sprawl, leading to more burning of fossil fuels for people to go to and from work.

The safe financial choice was clear, and we rejected it, just as I had rejected the narrative my religion teacher prescribed for me years ago. We chose, instead, to pursue a path that will help save the earth and invested heavily into waste energy. Humanity generates a lot of garbage, and even after recycling what’s recyclable, there’s still a lot of waste left—waste that can be turned into a fuel. We don’t need to bury it in the ground or throw it into the ocean, destroying so much of our world and its ecosystems! We can turn it into clean, consistent energy that can fuel five, if not ten, percent of our energy needs.

For the last decade, we’ve successfully only invested in socially and environmentally sustainable enterprises. Watching the world begin to reject the old, dirty ways of generating energy and replace them with sustainable solutions has been rewarding from not just a financial perspective but also a humanitarian and environmental one. It feels fulfilling to be part of that.

When we are young, we think we live forever. I wake up now with just enough awareness of how short a human life is. My awareness propels me to move quickly to make a difference because I know we don’t have as much time as we think we do. That’s why I wake up every day feeling happy to be alive and able to do more of what I love. My life is purpose-driven. Living a purpose-driven life is really natural, but we don’t know that until we choose to live it and have the courage to pursue it. I consciously choose to embrace my purpose every day through my morning ritual of oral hygiene, vitamins, and exercise before I start on my work. I love the planet, I love people, and I want to contribute my gifts to creating a world that sustains everyone.

Ibrahim AlHusseini is a partner in the Full Cycle Energy Fund, created to finance and own projects that revolutionize our relationship with waste by converting a costly environmental problem into clean, valuable fuel that can be used to power communities around the world.

Bonnie McCoy Comes Alive – A Story of Rebirth

Bonnie McCoy had been in a cocoon for 30 years—a cocoon of dedication to her family, caregiving, and self-sacrifice. Inside of her cocoon, the musical gift passed down from Memphis Minnie to her father waited patiently for its time to be reborn in her. When her husband was paralyzed, she realized that it was time for that gift to spring to life and touch the lives of many.

Blues music has been in my family for many generations starting with the great Memphis Minnie, a groundbreaking 1920s-era female musician in a genre dominated by men. My father, too, was an amazing musician. I have always known that they gave their musical gift to me, but for the past 30 years, I have placed myself on the back burner to do everything for my family, including my beloved four grandchildren who are in my custody. I have no regrets—my family and my grandkids are my greatest joys. Now, I am ready for the world to get to know the real Bonnie McCoy and to pursue my own dream. It’s time to step out on a limb and live!

My dear father, who taught me so much about the music I love, whom I took care of until he died, told me on his deathbed, “Bonnie, you’re going to have to start taking care of yourself.” I finally realized what he meant when my wonderful husband Marcus, the man who sang original songs for his coworkers and helped me care for my grandchildren, became paralyzed. He’d been diagnosed with spinal synopsis and a herniated disc two years before the horrific snowstorm last February. He went outside and tried to shovel the snow. I yelled out to him, “You don’t need to be doing that in your condition!” But he said he knew what he was doing and would be okay. Three days later, he went to the ER with shooting pains in his back and shoulder. He became completely unable to walk, and the doctors told us after his 3-hour MRI that he had a 50% chance of never walking again.

I saw my husband paralyzed and thought, “That could have been me.” The realization that someone could instantly lose something so important and miss out on ever accomplishing their dreams hit me so hard. I told myself, “Bonnie, now is the time. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been true. I’ve been there for people. But I have so much to offer!” My body was ravished with inspiration.

Marcus had surgery and surprised his doctors by walking again in less than a month—they’d never seen that happen. My husband walked himself out of that hospital with no wheelchair or ramp. I thought, if Marcus can do that after all we have been through, it’s time for me to step up to the plate and finally do all the things I can do. He inspired me so deeply, and with him by my side, I finally saw what my daddy meant when he told me to start taking care of myself.

My health hasn’t been the greatest, but I’ve seen improvement as I do a lot of positive things each day to keep myself healthy. I see my doctors on time, I eat well on my road to becoming a vegetarian, and I say a little prayer as I take my vitamins each morning.

There’s so much I know I am capable of doing, and I want to share my experience the world. I want the world to know me. It’s time.

Every bit of pain and every bit of joy comes to life through Bonnie’s passionate singing. This summer, through Vitanova’s “Dreams Come True” program, Bonnie and her husband Marcus May will record an album of original music to share with the world.

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