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Editorial: Why Do People Get Sick?

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Why Do People Get Sick?

by Morgan Jones

04 May 2004

Do you ever wonder why people get sick?

Do you believe that constant swings between illness and good health are a fundamental and inescapable part of life?

Is it natural to for us live for weeks or months or years with so little energy that we can barely get through each day?

Do you think it is part of the human condition that so many of us should suffer for years with allergies, low-back pain, PMS, constipation, arthritis, asthma, acid reflux, ulcers, tendonitis, bronchitis, sinusitis, diverticulitis, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, or ...

If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, I have a personal story to share with you about how I came to understand the origin of a horrible disease that struck down a close friend. This is how I began to see that we each choose the health we experience
consciously or otherwise.

When I was about 16, my dad got me a summer job sweeping up in a small printing company in South Austin. I guess I did OK because soon I was working in the front office every day after school. A couple of years later I had become the bookkeeper. When the company started a self-insurance plan, it became part of my job to handle all the claims. Not long after we got the plan up and running, the wife of our cameraman sent in a claim. Seems she was having some pain in her lower abdomen that wouldn't go away. The doctor didn't really know what was going on so he suggested she get some tests done at the hospital. I filled out the little one-page claim form we had made up, and sent a check to the doctor and one to the hospital to pay for the tests.

The lady and her husband were not old, about 35 I guess, with 2 beautiful little girls (around 4 and 6). Ronnie was the calmest, steadiest guy you ever met. And Ronnie was a generous man, always volunteering to be the one to work late to deal with whatever last-minute changes the customer wanted to make. Trini, Ronnie's wife, was just like him, only more so. She was a sweet and gracious soul who was always smiling, and never uttered an unkind word about another person. Trini was a great mom. The two little girls were their parents' greatest joy. These were people who were humble, decent, loving, spiritual, giving, and content. Not exactly the kind of folks who you would expect to get really sick.

The tests came back, and we were all in shock. Trini had colon cancer. At 35 the doctors gave her little hope for recovery and at most a year or so to live. So for the next 12 months I filled out more forms and wrote more checks to doctors and hospitals. And I read all the details of what was happening to Trini. I knew every time she went back into the hospital, every new piece of her they cut out in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of the cancer, all the drugs they had to give her for pain, the physical rehab after each surgery, and on, and on, and on …

It was making me sick just to read about this stuff. I dreaded Mondays when each new batch of bills would inevitably show up on my desk.

Oh, just so you know, there's no happy ending here. After what had to be the worst year of her life, Trini died. Or, if you happened to be one of two very special little girls, your dad tried to explain to you why your mom wasn't coming home any more.

For the next few years, I often asked myself why someone like Trini had suffered so much pain and indignity. Why, at the age of just 36, a happy and loving person who went to church every week and volunteered to help everyone in need, why someone like this would die such an awful death.

So a couple of years later when I watched a special on PBS about the link between red meat and colon cancer, you can bet I paid attention. I listened as the announcer described how little pieces of meat get stuck in tiny crevices in our intestines and then simmer there at 98.6 degrees for 3, 4, or 5 years. He explained that these pieces of cow flesh rot and putrefy, creating substances so toxic that they can change the DNA of our cells. What do you get when these mutant cells start to reproduce? Cancer.

Well, Trini did love red meat, and for almost every meal.

After this experience, I started doing some reading. I thought maybe this would explain some of what had been a complete mystery to me; the link between food and health. The more I read, the more sense it made. When my cousin had both hips replaced before she was 50, this inspired more research. I came across statistics showing that women in the U.S. were ten times as likely to develop osteoporosis, breast cancer and uterine cancer compared to women in cultures where milk and cheese were not part of the traditional diet.

And then there was the book Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, about how the DDT we sprayed on our crops was killing all the birds, and how these poisons accumulated as they moved up the food chain (the cows ate the tainted grains, the people ate the cows, and then the people would get sick or give birth to deformed or retarded children). So this got me thinking about the toxins in our food, in our water, and in the air.

Thus began what has turned into a life's work to understand why bad things happen to good people—to understand the underlying conditions that create the opportunity for otherwise strong and vital folks to get sick—really, really sick. At first this was a selfish quest. I was just worried about me. But then I had children, and I discovered this growing understanding of mine was valuable for even more important reasons that just my own desire to be healthy.

Sure, there are many mysteries left for me to explore, but the cause of disease isn't one of them. I now understand that humans evolved with a specific chemistry, pathology, and psychology. We lived in a particular way, ate particular foods, drank water with a particular chemical makeup, and breathed air composed of specific elements. Change any one of these things and the humans who consume them will see changes in themselves. Change enough things in an unnatural enough manner and all the systems in the human body will stop working as intended, and what you get is disease. Oh, and pain, and suffering, and lost productivity. If we collectively continue down this path without thinking where it will lead us, we get exactly what we see today in this country … people dying by the tens of millions every year of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

So now I live a little differently. I find it hard to play the role of victim when illness strikes, whether it hits me or a friend or someone in my family. And I have learned that even with no medical training, I have enough intelligence, intuition, and life experience to understand this stuff. I don't have to delegate the responsibility for getting well (or staying that way) to a doctor who has some secret knowledge or a pharmaceutical company that has invented a secret formula. I realize that good health is just what results when we make all our choices wisely everyday—day in and day out—over a lifetime. And bad health is what we get if we make enough poor choices—or just act unconsciously so that the choices get made for us.

The good news is that like me, you too have the brains, intuition, and intellect to figure this out for yourself. All you need is to spend a little time learning some basic truths.

So start soon. I wouldn't want your daughter—like Trini's—to end up telling you about the first boy she kissed while standing next to your quiet grave on a sunny Sunday afternoon.


Peace, love, and brown rice,


Last modified: 02/21/05