My name is Ramona. I live in a small town on the Garden Route called Sedgefield in South Africa. I was born in Cape Town on 25 September 1969 making me 53 years old.
I matriculated from high school in 1987 in Durbanville, just outside Cape Town. I was very active growing up, doing everything from ballet as a young child, then gymnastics and modern dancing and later playing first team tennis in high school. I was a fairly thin child. My parents are German and we ate wholesome meals with very little junk food, but I do remember my parents sitting with me two hours after dinner time, forcing me to finish my plate of vegetables that I just couldn’t seem to swallow.
After matric, I went on to study Medical Technology at Cape Technicon and specialised in Microbiology. My practical year was completed at the laboratories of SAIMR (South African Institute for Medical Research) and I was consequently employed there until I resigned in 1998.
I loved my work very much. However, when I was about 21, before qualifying, I noticed I was having some issues with my gut, comprising of urgent bouts of diarrhea, severe cramping, and generally a feeling of malaise. I was able to somehow manage this, though it was touch and go sometimes, especially when I was working in the tuberculosis laboratory. I would have to get out of a scrubs gown and gloves at breakneck speed in order to get to the toilet on time. Very little warning. Eventually, it got to the point where I thought: this is not normal. Often driving 30 minutes to and from work would break me out in a cold sweat, especially if there was a traffic jam! This brought me to two renowned gastroenterologists, Dr Michael Madden and Dr Andrew Girdwood.
After lots of prodding and poking and scoping, Chrohns disease and ulcerative colitis were ruled out, and I was given a diagnosis of IBS. So I battled on with it for about another year, while my symptoms in both frequency and severity got worse. Eventually, my quality of life became so poor, that i landed back in Dr Girdwood’s office and i begged him to do something, or i would take my life. I was quite prepared for a colostomy bag, if that would improve my life. I really didn’t care. At this stage, the two doctors consulted with me and each other that they would try doing what they call a rectopexy, where they attach silk mesh around the colon, which forms scar tissue, giving the colon some stability, and perhaps minimising the spasms. This procedure probably gave me about 20% relief, but nowhere near what I was hoping for. So I battled on for another 25 years. How I don’t know. I was never depressed and was determined to not let this hold me back. The only people that knew about all this, were my parents and boyfriend at the time. Through the years, I solo travelled around the country on holidays, went to visit family in Germany, and visited my brother in Mexico in 2009. I remember exactly where and when I was when one of the thousands of cramps hit. It felt like my whole life revolved around knowing where the nearest bathroom was at all times. But I got on with it.
I resigned from the laboratories in 1997 and joined the family business, working alongside my dad. I grew the importing of industrial blades side of the business and threw myself into it. This meant going onto factory floors of paper and film manufacturers, donning safety shoes, earmuffs, sterile gowns and very fetching hair nets. Loved it, and somehow always seemed to make it out on the other side without incident.
In about 2015, I accompanied my mother to some doctor’s appointments, for some health issues she was experiencing at the time. During one of these consults with my GP at the time, the issue of my IBS somehow came up, and I was going through a rather tough time with it. She suggested that some people get relief by taking an antidepressant. I hadn’t heard of this before, but since the IBS was quite bad at the time, I, very reluctantly, decided to give it a shot. Bad mistake. After starting Serdep, the IBS got progressively worse that I could not finish even a week on it. Back to the GP and she said we might try and older version of antidepressants called tricyclics. Well, you can imagine my reluctance at this point. But got to keep an open mind, so go to pharmacy to get my month’s worth of 10mg trepiline, with strict instructions to only take at bedtime time. Wow, I woke up the next morning a different person. No cramps, no pain, no nothing. After 25 years, of suffering daily, I had not felt this good. It was like taking loperamide combined with Buscopan and Bevispas on steroids. Incredible. I couldn’t believe it. Tricyclics saved my life. I continued to take 10mg of trepiline every night for 5 years. Worked like a charm. If I forgot to take it, even for one night, the next day, all my symptoms would come back. I only forgot twice.
I never wanted children and never wanted to get married. My thinking was, I can’t even look after my own health properly. Imagine having a baby and you are out somewhere and have to run to the toilet at short notice, baby in hand. Poor baby would be traumatised for life. So, no, not on the cards for me. I did have two long relationships though. The first was with my high school sweetheart. We moved in together in 1993, bought a house together and two Siberian Huskies. Unfortunately, we outgrew each other and parted ways in 1999. My second relationship was with a guy, Peter, and we also lived together until about 2010. His expat mining work in DRC (where I visited him for a 4 month stint in 2008) took a bit toll on us and we parted ways. All this time my friend IBS is in the background, being nicely managed by the zonk medication trepiline. So all good.
Enter my new love of my life, who, about 2 years after we met, goes out on a limb, and on bended knee, one night, and asks me to marry him. And I say yes. This was in 2013, so I was 44 at the time. In 2017, I decided to retire from the family business and, for the first time in my life, become a housewife and future stepmom to Doug’s two beautiful teenage daughters from his previous marriage that came to us every second week for a week.
My dad was 75 years old at the time. He is now almost 90 and still runs the business. Healthy as an ox, except for the 3 stents he got pre-ketovore. My parents have been on ketovore for about a year now. My mom is turning 84 on the 21st of April and is still very active.
Anyway, back to my new love: Doug decided to retire in 2017. He had been plagued with lower back pain most of his life and at 53 years old he wanted to play as much golf as he could. He was taking Etoricoxib 60 mg twice daily and was also on a statin.
We bought a property in Sedgefield and moved from Melkbosstrand within a year. Lots of golf courses here, and we made Simola Golf Course near Knysna our home course. Before we moved though, Doug had a sciatica attack where he could barely walk and had to have a discectomy and laminectomy on L5 and S1 of his spine. The operation was a success and he was back on the golf course in week 4.
Happily engaged to each other for 4 years, we moved to pretty Sedgefield in 2018. We call it Paradise. We are situated on the lagoon, where Doug fishes off the banks and we sometimes launch the Spider (a small lagoon boat, with a 25 horsepower motor). We raise some chickens which lay the best eggs and Doug wanted some Springbok, so we acquired 2 Springbok in 2018 and they have given us 4 offspring so far. The oldest male is called Biltong.
On 17 December 2019, Doug came back from golf, to tell me it is time we got married. Knowing that I am not exactly the marrying type, he had organized everything for the following week. Even a priest. We are not even religious, (though I do believe in angels) but he wanted someone to do a bit of ceremony. So all good…until the next day. He was driving back from Simola Golf course, when he has a heart attack, loses consciousness, swerves across the N2 (the main highway going through Sedgefield), takes out a lamp post, and two fences and lands on the water pump of a living estate just outside Sedgefield. When I get to the site of the accident, it is swarming with police and onlookers. The Landrover Discovery is a write-off. I find Doug 20 meters away on his phone to his insurance guy. After ringing off, I hug him, fighting back the tears, and tell him he has either had a stroke or a heart attack. No, no, he says, it was just a bit of heartburn. Looking at the carnage around us, methinks not. Also, I tell him that we should cancel the priest for now. Nope, he says, we are getting married next week. Our wonderful local GP arrives and takes him for some tests in his rooms.
About 2 hours later, once we are home, after dealing with the tow truck, our GP phones and tells us Doug needs to go to Mossel Bay Bayview Hospital immediately, about an hour’s drive away. The cardiologist is waiting for us when we arrive. After a quick change into a flattering gown, Doug is wheeled into the operating theatre. After a tense one and half hour wait, which I spend messaging friends that he won’t make it to golf the following day (he is very upset that he won’t play), Doug and cardiologist emerge, smiling. Cardiologist was smiling because he nailed the stent on the widow-maker artery. Doug was smiling because they inserted the stent from the arm, as opposed to going through the groin. I take him home the next day. Something needs to change. But first, we are getting married.
The wedding takes place on our front verandah overlooking the lagoon. Both my stepdaughters arrived the day before and the priest looks the nicest of us all. Our friends from Knysna arrive as witnesses. Doug is wearing cargo shorts, his fishing shirt and flip-flops. I am wearing a long cotton white dress Doug had bought for me 3 years earlier at the local Wild Oats farmers market. Perfect. The photos come out quite nice too: Doug looks like he is wearing dark purple eyeshadow on one eye, where the airbag exploded when he took out the lamp post.
Doug is 1.8m tall, and at that stage weighed about 85 kilos. He was 57 years old. He is very slim, but toasted sandwiches and pies at the golf club didn’t flatter his waistline and he had a big pot belly. My efforts of cooking relatively healthy meals every night with meat and vegetables were sabotaged when we would polish off bags of crisps, icecreams and chocolate slabs. Big chocolate slabs. Nightly.
In the meantime, I am feeling like I want to find something to replace the nightly trepiline, which was still working well. I decided to get some cholestyramine, thinking maybe I had bile acid malabsorption. It worked really well, as well as trepiline. Relief. I was 50 years old, and I had noticed that my belly was starting to expand and I started getting some hot flashes. The scale was around 64 kilos, up from 57, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I didn’t like the way my jeans fit. Menopause? Maybe. Something had to change.
We had done banting in Cape Town, but Doug lost muscle, not the belly, so we only adhered to it for about 3 months. I got onto YouTube and found Dr. Ken Berry and Dr. Shawn Baker that were talking about this crazy carnivore diet. What? The more I learned about it, the more I wanted to try it. So 1 September 2020, I dove in. Talk about carb withdrawal. The worst ever. I thought IBS was bad. Loose stools, tired, cramps in stomach and legs, headache from hell. Take salt and push through. It lasted for a week. It was hell. But on the other side was bliss. No more IBS. Gone. Nada. Energy deluxe, no more thinking about food 24/7. I didn’t know I had brain fog, until I didn’t. This was after 7 days. Doug would look at my plate full of sausage, steak, cheese and then look at me like I was nuts. I didn’t care, I was feeling so good. I didn’t know that a human being could feel so good. Next, the weight started dropping off my waist. I lost 7 kilos in 2 months with no effort, and my waist became smaller than it was when I was in my 30s. I liked wearing jeans again.
Doug was definitely not on board and there was a lot of push-back from him and he would put me down in public too. In the beginning I laughed it off, but one day in December 2020, I told him if he is not going to at least support me with this lifestyle, we have a problem. And then I went on to say, that if he doesn’t love himself, or me, enough to make an effort at turning his health around, we have a huge problem. At this stage he was heading for a second heart attack. I was not ready to lose him and be a widow after being married to the love of my life for less than a year. I couldn’t believe it when, in that moment, he agreed to give it a try. I transitioned him slowly, keeping vegetables in his diet, then just kept the avocados, which we both still eat to this day.
Doug’s first cardio check was due in December 2020, marking his one-year anniversary of his heart attack. The appointment was postponed until February 2021, giving him 3 months to heal, at least a bit.
The appointment was an eye opener. The cardiologist scanned Doug, and said that his arteries looked perfect. Everything was good. I had a private meeting with the cardiologist whilst Doug was getting dressed. When I said I wanted Doug off statins, because I felt it was contributing to his increasing hip and back pain, and it had not prevented the heart attack, the young cardiologist advised against this. But he did say it was Doug’s choice. Next, we went to see our local GP, to get blood drawn for cholesterol, A1c amongst other tests. The test comes back. A1c 5.2. Great. Doug has been off statins since then. And he feels like the aches and pains continue to diminish. He has lost almost all his belly fat, but has kept his muscles. I have my gorgeous husband back.
That is my success story. Thank you for everything you do. You are one of my angels.
Results are not typical. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.