As we close out January 2019, I spent some time reflecting on 2018 and appreciating the moments that helped shape and prepare me for 2019.
This past year was truly special. I finally conquered my health, liberated myself from a lifetime of disease, started a new chapter in LA, and shared my story. Not only did I see so many of the closest people in my life grow, achieve, and help others, but I also created new bonds with amazing individuals I had the pleasure of crossing paths with in 2018.
The events I recap below showcase some of my top memories.
1) I watched one of my closest friends marry the love of his life in what was one of the happiest moments I will ever experience.
I met Scott my first week of freshman year at UW. Over the last several years we have shared so many ups and down together, but through it we have always supported each other and built an unbreakable brotherhood. Amazing people only attract amazing people so to see him and Maya come together in love was truly an incredible experience. I'm so excited to see these two beautiful individuals grow together. Maya and Scott are expecting a baby in April. Congratulations!
2) On my birthday, I moved to Los Angeles and started a new chapter. I explored this jungle of a city, shared my story, and ate some of the best vegan food!
Not only was I surrounded by the most delicious vegan options in the world, but I was fortunate to have a lot of my close friends visit and create new memories with me in this new chapter.
3) LeBron James signed with the Lakers and I got to witness a new era of basketball be born right in front of my eyes. Truly a blessing when I remember how only 10 years ago, I lost my Sonics.
In 2017, I visited Chicago to share my story in a transplant focus group and over the weekend I visited all of the Michael Jordan relics around the city. All I was thinking to myself was how exciting it may have been to watch that happen up close. I lost my team when the Sonics relocated out of Seattle in 2008 so I followed LeBron James since then because he was my favorite player. That's probably the main reason why I didn't feel anything with Warriors when I was in the Bay the last few years. When LeBron signed with the Lakers right after I moved to LA, it only felt perfect. I had flashbacks of my dad recording the 96 Finals with Jordan vs. the Sonics for my brother and I in Seattle.
4) I stopped receiving treatment for Crohn's/Colitis. With the addition of superfoods, water fasting, Ayurveda, and a mostly-alkaline diet, I healed my gut and said goodbye to autoimmune disease.
I found a way out. No more medical bills. Plants over pills! I finally built a my core/abdominal muscles through my transplant scar and worked my way to 11% body fat.
As I trained and worked out with my plant-based diet, I adopted water fasting and intermittent fasting to facilitate healing. I started reading about Ayurveda and became a client with Sizzling Ginger. Their healing soups and smoothies have helped me restore harmony between my body and nature.
5) I played basketball in the Transplant Games of America.
While in the hospital recovering my liver transplant, many of the nurses and social workers told me about the transplant games and how all of these survivors were now athletes competing in every sport.
When I was 12 years old, doctors had me stop playing basketball competitively because of my autoimmune liver disease, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. My hoop dreams were crushed. Playing basketball at the Transplant Games was a natural dream since my transplant. It was something I knew I had to do. My plant-based lifestyle finally allowed me to train and compete this year for the first time.
Not only did I join a welcoming community in Team Southern California, but together with all the athletes from around the country, we broke the Guinness record for most organ transplant recipients in one place. What a blessing.
You can read more about this year's game here.
6) I helped my friend Shawn Kemp, Jr. transition to a vegan diet to fight his Graves disease and he inspired me to share our stories and this lifestyle with 20+ others.
Shawn and I first connected during my recovery from liver transplant in 2010. When I returned to UW the following year, I was so excited to see him play up close for the Huskies. Unfortunately, Shawn was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, called Graves disease and it significantly affected his physical health. But I knew Shawn was stronger than that.
At the same time, I was also fighting my second autoimmune disease, Ulcerative Colitis and it progressed into Crohn's Disease. After I spent months researching plant-based nutrition, autoimmune disease, and natural healing approaches, I finally healed my gut. Shawn then approached me eagerly ready to embark on the same path. Over the past year, we worked closely together to transition him to a 100% high-performance vegan diet, and he hasn't looked back. Shawn says that he has never felt this healthy in his life before and he is so excited to be back on the basketball court. This is a dream come true thanks to the power of plants.
Together, we met the influencers who inspired our lifestyle change at Camp PlantStock in the Black Mountains of Asheville, NC. An incredible plant-based summer camp emersion with speakers, workouts, and powerful food. Rip's Engine 2 Diet book was the first book I read about plant-based diets. Dr. Dean & Ayesha Sherzai's book, The Alzheimer's Solution and podcast with Rich Roll inspired my mother and father to join me in adopting a whole foods plant-based diet.
Thanks to being vegan, since June 2017, my father is winning the battle against his prostate cancer.
Truly a memorable experience. It's the extra things we do that make a difference in our lives. Listening to that podcast your friend sent you, reading a book, researching your questions, asking for help. We cannot solve our problems if we do not act upon them ourselves. We must live actively, not reactively.
7) LA's vegan community welcomed me with open arms and I found a new home surrounded by friends and leaders who share the same passion as I do.
I joined forces with Maggie and Joel to share VegOut Los Angeles with the nation, grow the vegan movement, and create a vibrant culture around vegan living.
In November, we raised 450 pounds of vegan food for our annual food drive with the LA food bank! Our first issue of VegOut LA Magazine is releasing next month, and we are hosting a party to celebrate the 2018 VegOut Best of Los Angeles Awards in March.
8) I celebrated my liver's 8th rebirthday in San Diego with my family.
In 8 beautiful years with my new liver, I’ve explored this world and built a new life free of disease. I’ve cried, laughed, loved, learned, and grown so much. I’ve made lasting memories with family and friends, and created new bonds. But most importantly, I have been able to live and share our story with the world.
You can read the note I wrote for my donor here.
9) I witnessed my Dawgs win the Pac-12 Championship up in the Bay Area with my brother.
In 2015, I started my career in the tech industry in the San Francisco Bay Area. To now come back here and see my Dawgs win the Pac-12 championship was truly memorable. It felt like a home game for me!
10) I rang in the new year celebrating peace with my mind, body, and heart. I am now settled into my new city with a new body and a new purpose.
Last year I learned the phrase "health is the new wealth" and it stuck with me. As I adapted to my plant-based lifestyle, it was clear that health is what opened the doors for me to feel my body finally thrive for the first time, and I experienced a life fuller than years before. All of the colorful food that blessed my body with love in turn created brighter days than before.
Thank you to all the beautiful people who positively impacted me, gave me a sense of purpose, and fueled my passion for life. I cannot believe how many lifelong memories we made together.
This past year showed me that by taking care of ourselves, we can take care of the world around us. As I look ahead, I know that my 2018 built a foundation upon which I can continue to grow and share with others in 2019.