Celine: Journey to Overcoming and Beyond

I was stunned by Celine Dion’s documentary I Am: Celine Dion.  She was brilliant—a magnificent delight with her lovely family and incredible tale.  However, the film seemed to depict her story as game over.  I have a different view, as I believe Celine still has her best performance in her.  To achieve this state, I believe she needs nonstop messages of hope and constant adjustments to her diet, exercise, and lifestyle until a solution crystalizes.  If this conclusion is correct, my approach may help her recover so that she returns to the stage with her heart, spirit, and voice resonating like never before.  I may be biased due to my recovery from a chronic condition, but I refuse to believe it’s game over for Celine.  I refuse to think it’s game over for anyone unless the 100th birthday is dawning, and even then, it’s debatable.  For any of us who have mental illness, autoimmune conditions, or chronic diseases who feel like MAID is the only way out, consider what I’m about to share.

The documentary examines Celine’s career and her infliction with stiff person syndrome, believed to be an autoimmune neurological disorder.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, stiff person syndrome involves painful muscle spasms and stiffness and may occur alongside other autoimmune conditions, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and others.  Stiff person syndrome is considered a chronic, lifelong condition, and treatment includes medications and immunotherapy.

Interestingly, my condition of chronic fatigue syndrome is also reported to have no cure.  If anyone wants to learn what it was like at my peak sickness and how I overcame it, I wrote about my experience in this magazine.  I am physically healthy today and plan to compete for my age group in the Olympics.  I’m sure I still have the condition, but I’m developing speed with sprinting and form with swimming that I never experienced previously.  It’s been a while since I’ve had any indication of chronic fatigue.  I’m not a medical doctor, but I believe many conditions can be reversed with strictly controlled lifestyle measures.  I hold this view because diet and exercise transformed my experience with chronic fatigue syndrome.  So, I don’t believe it’s game over for Celine, as the documentary seemed to depict.

God gave me anxiety and a chronic disease lasting nearly a decade, and I didn’t have money for cognitive behavioral therapy to cure the anxiety, so I was on my own.  However, my doctor graced me with the words, “Change your lifestyle,” and my dear friend advised me to read books on nutrition.  So, I’d spend my days and evenings in bookstores, figuring out how to beat the self-imposed belief that I had two years left to live.

At the bookstores, I read countless books on diets for cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and potentially terminal diseases.  That’s because I realized that fad diets, like the Mediterranean diet, weren’t healthy enough, so I migrated to studying diets for diseases.  For instance, cancer appears to thrive on sugar, so I cut out added sugar.  It didn’t matter if I had the disease or not, just as long as the diet recommendations were listed.

A while ago, I saw a near-death experiencer who had an autoimmune condition, and during her visit to heaven, she claimed God advised her to make lifestyle changes.  That’s because the standard Western diets can be harmful.  For instance, fast, processed, and restaurant foods may contain pesticides, unhealthy ingredients, and synthetic toxins.  According to that near-death experience brush with God, a strict overhaul of diet, along with exercise, may offer a solution to autoimmune diseases.  In Celine’s case, I believe God would advise her similarly.

To illustrate, assume I ate ultra-healthy all day but had three little potato chips.  In that case, I’d take a severe hit for the worse with chronic fatigue.  The only way to feel good enough, where I either maintained or improved my health, was by strictly ensuring a healthy food intake.  The rule I adopted was 100% abstinence from unhealthy eating, as 99% abstinence slowed the healing down or even reversed it for the worse.

So, here was the game plan that helped me recover enough to thrive: I used a nutrition app like Cronometer to record everything I ate and performed for exercise.  I aimed to examine the stats scientifically to maximize nutritional requirements across the board without eating excess calories.  This typically meant eating more raw plants. I also ate nothing with added sugar (sugar in the ingredients list), which included no fake sugar like aspartame.  (I did eat dark chocolate but have since switched to unsweetened organic cacao powder as my body revolts against added sugar.) I didn’t eat deep-fried foods or foods with any amount of trans fat on the nutrition label.  I ate nothing with salt except nuts (preferring unsalted, non-roasted nuts), unpasteurized sour cabbage, or sauerkraut.  (Probiotics from sources such as sour cabbage or sauerkraut aid the immune system.) I also avoided bread and anything that contained oils, butter, margarine, or greasy foods (except baked chicken, which was a questionable thing to eat, given how it impacted me).  I also kept clear of foods containing ingredients with words I couldn’t pronounce.  And when I went to restaurants, I would drink water or herbal tea but not eat, as I’d get sick from restaurant meals.

With that said, here is what I mostly ate: I ate a no-cook diet, aside from steamed eggs, as a no-cook diet is healthy and beneficial, especially for those too weak to cook.  I ate at least six to twelve raw, organic vegetables and fruits daily (or more), ensuring that the veggies and fruits covered a broad spectrum of colors.  I ate drained, mixed beans out of the can without cooking or altering them, aside from adding optional fresh herbal spices, especially when the spices were in plant form.  I ate canned salmon, oatmeal (today I eat Sunny Boy cereal), and flaxseed.  I ate healthy fats like avocadoes and nuts, carbs like sweet potatoes, and probiotics like plain kefir milk, unpasteurized sour cabbage, or miso soup paste.

For exercise, I walked the hallway for ten to twenty minutes.  About a month later, I added weightlifting, and about six months later, I added cardio.  I now do a combo of cold-water swimming (the ultimate quick solution for fatigue), stationary bicycle sprints, weightlifting, stretching, and ab work.  Lastly, cold showers gave me the fastest and biggest bang regarding vitality.  Hot showers made me sick and nauseous, leaving me worse off than before the shower.  Cold showers gave me an extra two-hour energy window throughout the day.  And I needed every little energy packet I could find.

We all have the potential to thrive despite any harrowing circumstance.  At the very least, we all need hope.  I believe Celine Dion has the potential to shine again on stage, entertaining her fans even more spectacularly than her most brilliant, show-stopping past performances.  That’s because, in light of my recovery, I believe she, too, could arrive at the best health of her life, even if her stiff person syndrome doesn’t entirely disappear.  (And that’s not a paradox!) And, along with conceivably acquiring peak health, she will surely sing with a passionate voice borne from enduring the most tragic of journeys.  Anything is possible.  We saw your documentary, Celine, and yes, we love you!