Reading Time: 4 minutes

A Canadian woman has revealed how adopting a whole food plant-based diet completely transformed her life.

Kate McGoey-Smith, who lives in Calgary, Alberta, was diagnosed with a rare condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension in December of 2007. The life-threatening condition causes localized high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries of the lungs.

According to McGoey-Smith, the disease caused her to suffer from lower leg and abdominal swelling, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness. Within months of her diagnosis, a lack of oxygen to her eyes meant she was legally blind. In addition, she constantly had to carry around an oxygen tank or be on a 50-foot cord of oxygen through a nasal cannula.

‘The whiteboard of my life was erased’

McGoey-Smith describes the onset of the illness as ‘insidious’. She told Plant Based News: “Everything seemed to be falling apart. And what I first initially noticed that I was really fatigued and I was getting this swelling, I went in and they found out that I had type two diabetes that had gone on unchecked. And I felt kind of badly about that because I was a former registered nurse.

“So I thought I should know better, but it’s a very insidious thing. And most people, it kind of creeps up on them, and that’s what happened to me.

“And then what happened was they noticed that there seemed to be a problem with my heart. And they discovered I had severe right-sided heart failure. I was very lucky. Often, it takes up to two years to diagnose idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. It took nine months.

“I was given only two to five years to live; two years without any kind of treatment and five years with treatment. And the treatment is this very heavy-duty sort of chemotherapy level of drugs, some experimental, in fact, and all they’re trying to do is not save your life but slow the progress of the disease. And they hope that you’ll get maybe five years to live.”

Her poor health meant she had to stop working as a clinical supervisor, as well as make other life changes, which she described as ‘the whiteboard of her life being totally erased’.

Getting better

She told her children she was very ill, but pledged to do everything she could to get better. The opportunity to make a huge change came about some time later, when McGoey-Smith sat down to watch TV with her husband. As being legally blind meant she couldn’t see the moving images, the pair had bought a very large set, which they sometimes watched together.

She said: “When I turned on the television one night, it was George Stroumboulopoulos. And he did what we call the Red Chair Interviews. He would be on our CBC channel. And one night he came on, and I heard his voice. And I really feel it was like an incredible gift, an act of God.

“He said, ‘I’ve seen the documentary Forks Over Knives. It changed my life. It might change yours. That’s all I’m going to say’.”

She was intrigued by what he said, and contacted the production team. Around a year later, she found out the film would be screening locally. She said: “And it went to a very small avant-garde theater where you had to walk up two flights of stairs. So you can imagine, I’m blind. I can barely climb up a stair, period. It was like climbing Mount Everest.”

Going plant-based

Despite that, she and her husband saw the movie three times. It inspired her to apply for [plant-based doctor] Dr. McDougall’s five-day program, where she learned about a whole food plant-based diet, and how to cook appropriate meals.

She said: “And that led us on the journey to reach out to Dr. Esselstyn. I had reached out to him about the same time, and he told me, ‘look, you’ve got to start eating green six times a day’. And actually, since this whole journey, we just published a paper this past September with Dr. Esselstyn.

My husband [who has a PhD in chemistry], was the key author on the paper, and it’s my case six years prior to eating whole plant-based and six years after. And we published it in…It was published in September of 2019 in the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention, which really shows and spells out the value of whole plant-based lifestyle.”

Eyesight returns

Just 15 months after adopting the diet, McGoey-Smith’s eyesight returned – and that wasn’t the only major health improvement. She also reversed her type 2 diabetes. In addition, she has lost 100lb.

When it comes to the advice she would give to people who follow a standard North American diet, but who want to go plant-based, she said: “You want to be able to use everyday grocery store items. So one of the cookbooks I actually find a real blessing and then I encourage people to get is the Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease cookbook that Jane Esselstyn and Ann Esselstyn have written.

“We all have different learning styles. Some people survey the water, and some people take a toe in. So, for example, if you’re a toe in, start with breakfast. Just change breakfast. Then add lunch. Then at dinner. That allows that toe in.

“If you’re someone who goes full blast in, then get on YouTube. Watch Jane Esselstyn and Ann Esselstyn, great YouTube videos. They have their cookbook. Then just say, that’s it. Clean out the pantry and go all in.

“McDougall’s site is fantastic. It’s a treasure trove of free information, and what I really love about him is if you’re trying to get your medical team on board, they don’t have time to read a book…But what you can do is you can go to his newsletters. For example, I did this for the diabetes specialist. It’s only about a two or three pager, and yet it’s got all these wonderful resources on it by way of footnotes of references.”

Helping people

As a result of her success, McGoey-Smith now helps people through her own organization forksmart.org, through which she runs annual summits, featuring speakers like T. Colin Campbell.

She also runs monthly oil-free whole plant-based potlucks, complete with ‘vegucation’ – for example, a Zoom call with a specialist like Dr. McDougall or Dr. Esselstyn and Ann Esselstyn.

McGoey-Smith also offers one-on-one counseling services (she has a Master’s in clinical social work, and has had a private practice for over 25 years). She offers general counselling as well as whole plant-based lifestyle counseling, for which she has certificates through T. Colin Campbell’s foundation, the Plantrician, and John McDougall and a number of other courses.

You can contact Kate McGoey-Smith via kate@forksmart.org, or (403) 519-9261.