For all my 47 years, I thought I was extremely healthy! After all, at that time (1982), I’d been a daily runner for 14 years, had run 3 marathons, and ate what I considered a very healthy diet — lots of chicken, fish, and low-fat dairy.
I’d been heavily involved in my career as a military logistician. In fact, as a management-level female in a male-dominated world, I was being groomed for a top-level position in the Pentagon. Little did I know there was an insidious cancer growing in my right breast. When it grew to the size of a golf ball, I was rushed into surgery. Even then, I was sure it couldn’t be cancer because I felt so healthy. A frozen section was done immediately; I was then told it was invasive cancer, and later, that it had spread, not only throughout the whole breast but also involved my bones and one lung.
While recovering from the surgery I saw a newspaper item asking for volunteers for a breast cancer/diet research study. I ran to the phone and was told to get my medical records, and get in to see Dr. McDougall right away. After being shown the results of the breast cancer/diet research thus far, I was convinced that Dr. McDougall was on the right track and left his office a low-fat vegan. I also decided against chemotherapy and radiation, electing to use the vegan diet as my sole weapon against the cancer.
I found the dietary changes very easy to implement. I already loved brown rice, whole wheat bread and oatmeal. I just had to add veggies to replace the chicken, fish, and dairy. My body responded immediately. The next morning I discovered I’d been constipated all my life but didn’t know it!
It was at this time that I saw the Ironman Triathlon on TV and immediately said, “I’ve GOT to do that!” Then it hit me, I was now a cancer patient. When I realized I still felt healthy, I thought this would be an excellent way to show people that you could do one of the toughest races in the world, the Ironman Triathlon, on a vegan diet. I added biking and swimming to my daily runs and since my diagnosis in 1982, have completed the Ironman 6 times, run 67 marathons, have won over 800 racing trophies, have been declared “One of the Ten Fittest Women in North America” in 1999, and have a Fitness Age of 32 although chronologically am 67! I’d also been working on a Ph.D. in Psychology and soon realized that I was far more interested in diet and exercise, and so I changed my field of study and completed my Ph.D. in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.
Because I was concerned about a strong family history of osteoporosis, I tracked my bone density and found that from the age of 47 to my last test at 64, my bone density INCREASED significantly with each test. I was obviously getting enough calcium on this diet! I was also very pleasantly surprised to discover that my arthritis disappeared, that I could stop taking Naprosyn. This was the drug that had been prescribed for my arthritis which I’d been told I would have to take for the rest of my life! My joints today not only are not arthritic, but are very supportive of my running. Running obviously doesn’t wear out your joints since I’ve now been a daily runner for 34 years. And, this diet obviously provides all the nutrients I need since I’ve been extremely healthy for 20 years now.
My future plans are to keep on running (and winning) races. My book, A Race For Life, (Lantern Books, NY,NY, 2000), covers the theory of how the diet and exercise program works, how to put it into practice, and details how I went from a cancer patient to a world-class triathlete, winning trophies in Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, Canada, Russia plus all over the U.S. With this diet and exercise program, I feel that anyone, at any age, can avoid most of the diseases afflicting us: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, obesity, and even impotence! And, speaking of age, this program comes as close as possible to reversing the aging process!
Comments (by Dr. McDougall):
Ruth Heidrich demonstrates the miraculous healing properties of the body with the right diet, exercise program, and supportive environment. I know many of you believe that you are incurably ill. After over 25 years of practice, I can say without hesitation, I have never seen anyone fail to improve their health when they changed from the typical American diet to the McDougall diet. The principles are too basic to be unsuccessful. It would be equivalent to seeing a smoker’s health not improve after giving up 2 packages of cigarettes a day, or an alcoholic failing to become healthy after drying out.
Ruth achieved three dramatic benefits from a healthy diet and exercise program that are rarely talked about: “cure” of her cancer, cure of her arthritis and reversal of her bone loss. The McDougall Program for Women book discusses in great detail the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise program for women with breast cancer. Essentially, the rich American diet is the most important controllable cause of breast cancer according to many experts. If you believe this, then it makes no sense to “throw gasoline on a fire.” In other words, once you get a dietary-caused cancer one of your fundamental treatments must be a change to a healthy diet. I published the first study on the dietary treatment of breast cancer in a medical journal in the early 1980s (the results of the study Ruth mentioned above). I was considered radical back then. Over the past 20 years there have been many similar research papers published in the world’s best medical journals that come to the same conclusion: women who get breast cancer and eat healthier live longer (you will find most of these papers cited in The McDougall Program for Women).
Most people consider bone lost to be irreplaceable. Bone is a living tissue and given the right stimulus, like exercise, it will try to build itself stronger. The one thing that prevents this for most people is the highly acidic American diet (meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, and hard cheeses are very acidic). The acids we eat in our foods must be neutralized – the bones are the primary buffering system of the body. They dissolve in order to neutralize the acid and the bones are then washed out into the kidney system (making kidney stones along the way). After years of such treatment they become so frail they break with the slightest provocation, like a friendly hug. A complete discussion of diet and osteoporosis is in The McDougall Program for Women.
Let Ruth Heidrich be an inspiration for those of you who have little hope and so much to live for. The greatest medical miracle ever experienced is the human body properly supported by the right foods and surrounding environment. Don’t delay; you will never have the opportunity to live today over again.
You can find information on the cure of arthritis on my web site under “Diet: Only Hope for Arthritis.” [https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/education/mailings/featured-articles/articles/diet-only-hope-for-arthritis/]
[The McDougall Program for Women book will provide information on the most important and controversial medical issues facing women today. The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook may be the best recipe book investment you have ever made. If you need the motivation to get going, then don’t hesitate to get the 6-video tape series, “Dr. McDougall’s Total Health Solution for the 21st Century.” This is $5000 worth of education – the very lectures Mary and John McDougall gave at their 12-Day live-in hospital-based program. See www.drmcdougall.com for ordering information.]
Ruth, at 81 years old at the time of the interview
There are many interviews at this web site.
Ruth Heidrich: The 81-Year-Old Triathlete On Going Vegan And Aging Gracefully
Have any of you triathletes heard about World-Class athlete Ruth Heidrich? Ruth (84), a runner and triathlete, was 81 years old at the time of the interview in this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH7YS02r5zE.
This next link gives Ruth’s take “On Going Vegan And Aging Gracefully”