Author: James Templeton

“I Used to Have Cancer”

To my Texas eyes and my lonely spirit, Becket, Massachusetts was perhaps the most beautiful place on the planet. I didn’t know the leaves on trees could be so colorful, so vibrant. No wonder people make pilgrimages to New England in the fall. It’ll take about three months for me to really start feeling better after those experimental treatments. I was cooking for myself using all the macrobiotic principles I learned and was practicing all the recommended Do-In exercises as best I could, but I was really looking forward to learning more.

It was a cold and beautiful October Sunday afternoon when I walked into the main house of the Kushi Institute for the first time. I took off my shoes just inside the front door as was the custom and set them alongside the numerous pairs of shoes that were already there. I was immediately welcomed by a group of people who invited me to join them in the living area for tea. About 25 guests–all from different parts of the world–were there for the seminar. Some like me had cancer and we’re grasping for hope. Others were dealing with debilitating or chronic illnesses like the Epstein-Barr virus. Some had lost loved ones and were looking for ways to prevent those illnesses in their own lives. Still others were interested in becoming professional macrobiotic chefs and educators. All of us were there to learn from the best of the best.

I’ve been raised on the typical American diet of white bread, meat, milk, eggs, and plenty of fast food. During my running days, just before discovering cancer, I had been eating a lot of salads and very little protein. I also drink a lot of milk. Most of my life I had struggled with allergies, which got worse as I got older. Interestingly, after I changed to the macrobiotic diet when I was living in Texas and stopped drinking milk, my allergies completely cleared up. It was one of the first things I experienced that showed me just how much of an impact the food we eat could have on our body.

Coming to terms with my role and how cancer develops was another eye-opener. The real proof that the macrobiotic diet was helping to heal me was how I felt. Gone with the grueling days of nausea and lack of appetite from the chemotherapy and hypothermia treatments that nearly killed me. I never felt this high in my life as I did from eating the pure and simple macrobiotic foods. And after exercising on a regular basis, I discovered I didn’t have to use the lymph pump as often. I was getting stronger and stronger each day and had never felt more hopeful.

Back in Dallas, I got stronger every day and decided to return the following year. 5 days later, after driving cross-country and cooking my food in motel rooms, I arrived in Becket. The lakes and ponds were frozen over, and I could see ice fishermen enjoying their sport. The area surrounding the Kushi Institute was even more picturesque than I remembered. Both Aveline Kushi and Alex Jack greeted me and I instantly felt right at home.

My work-study position involved various chores at the Institute. Cutting firewood in the forest and bringing it to the main house was one of my outdoor jobs. Fortunately, I had managed to regain my strength since leaving the hospital. I was a little on the thin side, but so much better- and for sure, I knew my way around a chainsaw. And as long as I stayed active, my leg continue to improve everyday. I also washed dishes twice a day. Many days, there were up to 40 people in the house sharing meals. I had never washed so many dishes in my life! But I was so grateful to be there, I would have done anything.

When I was at the Institute, I saw many people whose health was transformed, as my own had been. I recalled the long days and nights spent in the hospital, my first attempts to learn how to cook my own macrobiotic food, and the healing I had experienced along the way. I’ll never forget waking up one morning back in Dallas after about three months of following the macrobiotic diet and discovering the bed sheets were wet. When I looked at the covers, I saw a dark, graphite colored liquid oozing out of both of my legs, midway between my knees and my ankles. To me it was as if the cancer, the poison in my body, was finding a way out all on its own. It seeped from a pinhole size opening and both of my legs for quite a while, then just simply stopped, never to happen again. I had come a long way.

One day, Alex told me they needed a new operations manager. He said, “I know you have a business background and I’d like to offer the position to you. You’ve been great to have around and have done a great job for us. If you want this position, we could pay you a small salary in addition to your room and board.” It wasn’t a lot of money but it was enough to buy gas and maybe go to the movies on weekends. I took the job.

As operations manager, my job included purchasing all the food and supplies for the Institute. I would drive out to the local organic farms and make deals with the farmers for produce. It was an adventure and I felt like I was helping people by finding the very best food possible. In the winter time when there was no fresh harvest on the farms, I’d shop at the large health food store, which was about an hour’s drive away, to buy organic foods in bulk. I was also in charge of purchasing the heating fuel for the buildings, and I made sure there was plenty of firewood available. I was busy, working all the time, and I loved it.

Learning about and living the macrobiotic lifestyle had been one of the greatest experiences of my life. It transformed me into a more enlightened, healthy individual. It not only changed my life, it’s saved my life. I have enormous gratitude for Michio, Aveline, Alex Jack, Ed Esko and all the teachers and staff members that I became close to at the Kushi Institute. They welcomed me with open arms. If it hadn’t been for them, I probably wouldn’t be around today. But after nearly four years at the Institute, my heart was telling me it was time to move on.