Reasons to Vegan

My friend Denise had Marla and me over for dinner. She was thoughtful to have a vegan option especially for me. Her special Morrocan-style chick peas and potatoes with naan and salad. Can you smell the spices through the screen? Looks good and tastes even better.

The Sunday School Picnic had lots of vegan options. This was when I debuted my vegan cupcakes. They were a hit!

My before total thyroidectomy

My after is on the right

Some have questioned my desire to go vegan especially considering the "tribal war" my body has been through with the removal of my thyroid gland, 3 out of 4 of my parathyroid glands, and some lymph nodes. Now it's time for an ANATOMY/PHYSIOLOGY lesson: The thyroid is responsible for a myriad of functions including protein synthesis, energy, and metabolism. (It's shaped kind of like a butterfly hence the name of this blog.) The parathyroid are tiny rice-shaped glands which are responsible for the amount of calcium within the blood and bones. And now I am preparing for radiation therapy in the form of Radioactive Iodine (RAI) which I take in a pill or liquid form. That is next week. For the week following, I will be RADIOACTIVE and have to remain in isolation for the first 3 days and after that limited contact with people. Freaky. I know. Sorry science fiction lovers, I will not be glowing green. There is no cause for thyroid cancer but there are definite links to genetics and radiation exposure. (Think Chernobyl, Hiroshima, the recent Japanese earthquake.)

Anyway, when I got out of the hospital after my surgery, I spent time reading about diet and foods. In particular, I read "THE KIND DIET" by Alicia Silverstone which discussed the benefits of going vegan. Then I read "ANTI-CANCER: A New Way of Life" by David Servan-Schreiber. What I was discovering was that food (among other things like lifestyle and genetics) but especially nutrition can greatly impact your health. I have always eaten healthfully but I became more mindful of the actual benefits on a molecular level of certain foods. Another book on my TO-READ list is FOODS THAT FIGHT CANCER: Preventing Cancer through Diet by Richard Beliveau and Denis Gingras. The long and the short of it is that food is medicine and I wanted to get the best medicine to fight off this cancer. I WANT TO KICK CANCER'S ASS AND MAKE SURE IT'S NOT COMING BACK. The amazing thing about our bodies is that we all have cancer cells but not all of us get cancers. In most people, the immune system kicks into high gear destroy those cancer cells. In other people (like me), the conditions become as such which permit the cancer cells to go. Many plants have properties which actually fight cancer by, for example, releasing anti-oxidants and creating more alkaline environments so malignant cells do not grow.

Food is something I can work with. I cook so much anyway and it feels amazing to find good things to put into my body. (That didn't come out right. Get your mind out of the gutter people.) Anyway, I decided to try out my veganism during Lent. Forty days. The first few days were tough. I was feeling weaker and "airy" and having headaches. I decided to give it a full week before thinking of quitting but not without doing some research. I went online and found THE VEGAN PYRAMID.

I follow this pyramid religiously and record my food intake daily to ensure I am getting enough. Once I began this on days 5 and 6 of my vegan journey, I felt so different. I felt more energy and I felt very full. I also felt positive and happy that I was doing something good for my body. I get lots of recipes from THE KIND DIET, CARIBBEAN VEGAN, and 1, 000 VEGAN RECIPES. (I promise to post photos of all the awesome dishes of made.)

Since reading THE KIND DIET and THE ANTI-CANCER, I have read other books about veganism such as SKINNY BITCH (loved the book but couldn't they have chosen a less misogynistic title?) and this amazing magazine called VegNews. I watched FAST FOOD NATION and now I am reading the book. As I learn more about factory farming, slaughterhouses, environmental impact, and the ethics, veganism is looking much more appealing. I have watched two documentaries: EARTHLINGS and THE FUTURE OF FOOD.

So far, I don't feel deprived but instead amazed at the plethora of wonderful foods and the combinations that I can eat. I even got to meet Woody Harrelson. Yup. Woody fuckin' Harrelson. (If you watched ZOMBIELAND, you'll understand that reference.) You'll also understand that I was totally like his character Tallahassee was when he met Bill Murray. I got his autograph, told him my life story, and had to snap a photo. Besides inspiring Alicia Silverstone to become vegan and being a Hollywood actor, Woody Harrelson is an environmental activist and so fuckin' cool. He was so not pretentious and very embracing. (Other cool people that I admire and love who are vegan include Persia White, Erykah Badu, John Salley, and Saul Williams as well as a 'hole 'eap a roots reggae artists.)

Saul Williams and Persia White

Erykah Badu (below right)

John Salley

Tarrus Riley

Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee in Zombieland

Ikeila Wright, Woody Harrelson, and me

Anyway, I'm feeling like this might be more of a permanent choice for me. The dishes can be a little time consuming and the food items a little tricky to find but for now, part of my healing therapy, is coming from the whole process of food and I'm loving it.

I am still a new vegan so beyond my readings, I am trying to learn more about veganism and meet other vegans. Toronto is a wealth of vegan events thanks to local organizations like the Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA). There were two last Saturday (on the same day!): The 1st Annual Toronto Raw/Vegan Festival and then the Compassion Marketplace (part of the TVA Compassion Week.) I love these kinds of events. Festivals are my thing! (I used to organize film festivals. Mine nationally touring one was called ICED IN BLACK. Plus I worked and volunteered for others like the Toronto International Film Festival. I also worked for the Francophonie Games are like the French-version of the Commonwealth games.) I love festivals for the opportunities to bring a large group of people together and to learn, appreciate, and showcase our cultures. Plus I love the entrepreneurial spirit these events often bring together. I chose to profile these two events through pictures.

1st Annual Raw/Vegan Festival being held in a building. I used to live across the street from this place. Last I knew it was a Chinese Buddhist Temple and before that a church but now it is 918 Bathurst, a new arts, culture, media, and education space.

When I first went past the entrance, it was packed. This was pretty full for the first of its kind. They did well. Inside there were so many vendors and entrepreneurs selling their wares. There were shiatsu masseuses, natural vegan retreats, perfumes and natural beauty products, herbs, vegan snacks, healthy cooking pots and containers, and Thai vegan tatoos. I even saw Suzanne Wyman selling organic clothes from Yes World Boutique. I have not seen Suzanne for a while and have known her for years. She travels the world, imports clothes, and sells them. Her business is doing well and expanded. I love the entrepreneurial spirit!

I had to sample this vegan Nanaimo bar. Although it the price was a bit 'tief at $5, I had to sample this raw creation. They made the cream filling with ground cashews.

I'm afraid this is where my Compassion Marketplace photos start. It was held at Wychwood Barns. I was in such a hurry to get there that I forgot to take pictures. (I'll get to why I was in a hurry soon.) No fear, here is Jenny of Apiecalypse Now. She can also be found on facebook. Jenny is a grad student in Environmental Science in my alma mater. (Hi five, Jenny!) She bakes and sells vegan goodies at farmer's markets and events. I love the entrepreneurial spirit!

Her food was so popular that all she had left were these vegan marshmallows. Yum. My very first. They were so sweet and slightly lemon-y. I could have bought more. I asked her how she made them. She said mostly sugar but other natural ingredients. I love it!

Now, the reason why I came here in a hurry. This is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks. I did not know too much about Colleen before other than what the bio on the Compassion Week site told me. She is an author, educator, activist, and vegan chef based in Oakland, California. Her talk was entitled, "Getting to the Meat of the Matter: Debunking the Myths about Being Vegan". I attended it and loved it. I have not listened to any of Colleen's podcasts before but as soon as I got home, I began to listen to some of them. After her talk, I asked her one question. Basically, "I just became vegan in March, I learned all this stuff now about animal ethics and environment beyond the health benefits, now I feel isolated. I don't know any other vegans. How do I meet other vegans?" Her answer? 1) Listen to her podcasts about social situations with vegans, 2) Find groups and activities on-line where you can meet other vegans, 3) Go to different events, 4) Volunteer with TVA, and 5) Know that this will change after the first year. I love it and know that this is very similar to how I went about meeting other young adult and thyroid cancer survivors/patients. Colleen stuck around to do a book signing. I haven't read any of her books nor bought them but I definitely recognized them. Right away I recognized COLOR ME VEGAN and VEGAN BAKING. You go, Colleen! Keep doing the great work that you do. (She's also very sweet. She gave me a CD. I love gifts.)

Now as I got ready to leave, I began to devour these amazing lemon raspberry tarts by PinkHart Diner. They were soooooo good. I almost ate them all before I got this photo. I left the Compassion Marketplace so inspired by what I saw today. I met such inspirational people. I also met some inspiring women (Liz Marshall, a director and Nina Beveridge, a producer) from Ghosts Media Inc. They are working on a film about factory farming and animal rights through the eyes of a famous photographer. They are currently fundraising for the film. Having run film festivals and worked with filmmakers, I know that fundraising can be a huge feat but I wish them luck. Unfortunately, I do not have photos of these ladies but you can also visit them on facebook. Please check out their site and support them.

I was so excited by what I saw today! People are being compassionate, care about their health, and sharing their creativity with the world. So inspiring!