In December of 2013, I was diagnosed with Very Severe Aplastic Anemia. I was just 19 years old at the time. What confuses me even to this day is that I had been healthy and active before this diagnosis. As a college student, I was very busy, but I also tried to eat healthily and went to the gym frequently. Subconsciously, I felt invincible.
It happened all at once and out of nowhere. One week I was enjoying my winter break, and the next week I was fighting for my life in the ICU, battling Pneumonia and the swine flu with an almost non-existent immune system.
My life completely flipped. I had never really been sick before – I couldn’t even remember the last time I had the flu. Suddenly, I had a rare illness. I became a patient in a large hospital. My hematologist explained to me that I needed a bone marrow transplant and discussed treatment options like chemotherapy and other medications.
Honestly, it took me a while to understand the severity of my condition. I was oblivious and hopeful. I remember daydreaming in the hospital, fully convinced that I would be all better within a couple of weeks and back to my normal life. But I soon realized that wasn’t the case.
After 1 month in the hospital, I went home to continue my recovery. Every day involved a ridiculous amount of medications. Twice a week, I visited the hospital for check-up appointments, as well as blood transfusions to keep my body going until it could produce enough blood on its own.
One of the hardest parts was abandoning all the things I had done before my diagnosis. I took a medical leave from school, my internship, and pretty much gave up everything else. Going anywhere left me at a high risk of infection because of my weak immune system. I spent most of my time at home or at the hospital. One-hundred percent of my focus went to my health.
I missed my normal life.
It even transformed the lives of the people around me. My mom quit her job so that she could take care of me, and my family did everything they could to make sure I stayed healthy. We were living in a different world.
As my condition slowly improved, I began going to appointments a little less frequently. But my progress became stagnant about 6 months into my treatment. So, the doctor decided that I should undergo a second round of chemotherapy to treat my condition.
Six more months passed. Not much progress. There weren’t really many options left, and I still hadn’t found a match for a bone marrow transplant. Personally, I wanted that to be the last resort. I understood the risk behind receiving a transplant, and I still had hope that my health could improve without it.
I forgot to mention that a few months after I was diagnosed, I began seeing an acupuncturist. He treated me twice a week, but mainly encouraged me to follow a certain diet. I avoided the foods that he told me to avoid while doing my medical treatments.
Anyway, the chemotherapy wasn’t really working. My medications were making me feel worse and worse as time went by. Something needed to change.
About 1.5 – 2 years after my diagnosis, I made a change. Without telling my hematologist, I actually started weaning myself off of my medications (careful to make sure it didn’t negatively affect me). Soon, I was taking almost no medication. I focused on living a healthy lifestyle, following the diet that my acupuncturist recommended, exercising, and praying that it would all work.
And it did.
Check-ups showed that I was improving at a faster rate—this wasn’t long after I had stopped taking my medications. After about 1 year of consistent improvement, I told my doctor that I had stopped taking my medications on my own. Thankfully, she was happy with the progress and told me to keep doing what I was doing.
Now, over 4 and ½ years later, things are looking great. I’ve graduated from university. I work full-time. My last appointment showed that my red blood cell count and white blood cell count are at a normal range, with my platelet count being a little low.
I’m lucky that this all happened while I’m still young. Yes, I know that sounds weird. But the fact that I was young meant my body had more strength to fight and recover. I’m sincerely thankful. No matter how difficult it has been, I live with much more gratefulness and vigor in life, and I feel ready to fight whatever comes ahead.
Megan Wroe, MS, RD, CNE, CLEC
Megan Wroe is a Mother, Dietitian, and a Wellness Manager at the St. Jude Wellness Center. Some may say that she has a very full plate, but despite her busy schedule, she has found time to pursue her passion of helping others enhance their overall health through food. One of Megan’s favorite aspects of being a Dietitian is teaching people how to make healthy food taste good. When she sees her clients get excited about adding healthy alternatives into their daily cooking, she knows they are on track to pursuing a healthier lifestyle.
Megan was inspired to become a Dietitian after her sister was diagnosed with type one diabetes. Prior to attending various appointments with her sister, Megan had no idea how large of an impact one’s diet could have on their overall health. Because Megan’s first encounter with a Dietitian was from a diabetes and metabolic disease perspective, this has shaped her practice into a more lifestyle focused approach. Seeing a Dietitian is not just for those who are overweight, many people could benefit from developing nutrition practices that support healthy organ function.
Throughout our interview with Megan, we had the opportunity to ask her a few questions. These were some of our favorite responses.
What do you define as eating health?
“My definition of healthy is eating so that your body actually feels good. That’s healthy eating because someone with kidney disease has a very different idea of what healthy eating is versus someone who maybe has crohn’s disease or celiac disease.” – Megan Wroe
What are some tips for eating healthy?
“Eating healthy starts with real food. Anything you make from scratch at home will be healthier than going out or taking out.” – Megan Wroe
What is one of your favorite recipes?
Dark Chocolate Cashew Tart by Lily Nichols
What do you believe is the first step in pursuing a healthier lifestyle?
“Start with a journal. Write things down, it doesn’t even have to be a lengthy journal but maybe every day for a week, write down things that pop into your head of what you see as healthy and what is a healthy life to you.” – Megan Wroe
As a mom, how do you get your daughter to eat her vegetables?
“One is to serve them but also with that is for you as the parent to serve and eat them too, because it really all boils down to modeling. If the vegetables on your plate and you are eating and savoring it, that’s the key. And you know, every kid hits a picky phase at some point. But, if they’re never given the opportunity to touch the food, smell the food, play with the food, see you cooking the food, see you eating the food every single day, that is the key to getting kids to eat their vegetables.” – Megan Wroe
Megan Wroe is a down to earth Dietitian who wants to help others discover the joy of healthy eating. If you are interested in connecting with Megan please feel free to use her contact information below.
JuiceBot Innovates Distribution Model for Healthy Beverages
JuiceBot is a company that strives to deliver juice without any preservatives or additives, therefore revitalizing the current distribution model of healthy foods and beverages. In this Q&A article, Editor Ambika Vartak interviewed John Yanyali, CEO of JuiceBot. The article will explore JuiceBot’s purpose in entering the food-distribution market as well as its competitive advantages.
Ambika Vartak: Tell us about your company JuiceBot and how it got started.
John Yanyali: JuiceBot was founded with the objective of transforming the distribution system for healthy food and beverages that have a short shelf-life, a way to deliver a product that contains no preservatives, emulsifiers or additives. Our mission is to provide people with access to nutritious food and beverage.
AV: There is a growing trend of selling natural, cold-pressed juices within the market. What made you decide to sell cold-press juice through an automated machine?
JY: As juice was gaining a lot of traction on the coasts, we wanted to learn how we could influence the Midwest to take up this trend, and through that, we learned that there was a distribution problem when it came to cold pressed juice, which led to creating the JuiceBot. We created a new model in order to make healthy foods and beverages as convenient and accessible as getting a soda from a vending machine. JuiceBot is trying to enhance and expand on the value that traditional juice bars offer by making healthy juice available everywhere from apartment buildings to gyms to grocery stores. We believe JuiceBot saves our customers time, streamlines customer experiences, and creates an opportunity for resources to be better utilized for higher revenues. If vending machines can serve up sodas, Slurpees, and snacks, why not cold-pressed juice? That’s the concept behind the Juicebot, a new machine that will serve up a convenient pour of four different healthy beverages on demand.
AV: What are some of the health benefits of motivating corporate markets to drink cold-press juice?
JY: Soda and highly processed juice sales have steadily declined in the past decade, they have been replaced with healthier drink options, such as juice, coconut water and kombucha. JuiceBot is really changing the way that people access nutrition. As businesses lean towards a workplace that incentivizes fitness, group activities and wellness in general, having a Juicebot on the premises shows the commitment of any corporation in the welfare of their employees. This enhances employee retention. An article at Inc.com by John Rampton explains in detail how Silicon Valley has become notorious for its free meals and other unique perks to improve employee retention.
AV: How does JuiceBot ensure that the quality and distribution of the juice is upheld?
JY: JuiceBot ensures the quality and distribution of the juice is upheld by testing which helps us remain confident we’re providing the highest level of food safety to our consumers. It’s part of a wider food safety program that also includes sensors providing information on juice levels and temperature control within a machine. We worked with a biotechnology company to develop a rapid food safety test that can detect pathogens, like salmonella and listeria, in under 24 hours. Routine food safety testing generally requires two weeks between submission of the sample and receipt of the test result. Equipped with this new technology, JuiceBot worked with leaders in California to amend its food safety legislation to allow the Department of Public Health to issue a variance for “dispensing bulk potentially hazardous food” from vending machines. At present, Juicebot’s is the only product to have received this variance. All of the juice is distributed in a biodegradable cup made out of corn. Our juice is 100 percent made from fruits and vegetables. We buy local to support our local farming community, and to prevent unnecessary loss of nutrients, which is the result of produce being harvested and then spending days in transit. Buying local also reduces the environmental impact of our food. We help avoid a large carbon footprint through overseas plane travel and long truck trips, all of which cut down on fuel consumption and air pollution.
AV: What are the different types of juices that are served? Are there any customer favorites?
JY: JuiceBot’s robotic kiosks currently dispense 4 preset flavors; The Clover (kale, cucumber, celery, spinach, pear, cilantro, mint and lime), The Quench (watermelon, jicama, strawberry, mint and lime), The Sunrise (carrot, orange, coconut water, lemon, ginger and turmeric) and The Gingersnap (fuji apple, green apple, ginger and lemon). We are also providing our customers the ability to mix and match from the flavors that are available, allowing them to create their own unique juice blends. The Clover and The Gingersnap are customer favorites for now but we see different trends each season.
AV: How does JuiceBot develop inspiration for creating recipes?
JY: When we first started operating , we felt really intimidated by all the crazy combos out there— in the grocery store alone, we saw some bottles of juice with a million different ingredients. 2 1/2 strawberries here, 2/3 of a mango there, 27 blueberries. We thought we would pull together four of our favorite simple juice recipes to get started. These juice recipes all use easy-to-find fruits and veggies, and most of the juices have less than three ingredients. They are all sweetened naturally with fruit, so we know they are nutritious. This was a great way to get our feet wet with juicing. If anyone is looking to start adding green juice to their diet, this is a great place to start. Cucumbers and celery are both packed with water, making them excellent candidates for juicing. And green apples add tons of sweetness and fruity flavor to the juice. This juice is super refreshing and hydrating—perfect for summer. If you like the spicy kick of ginger well then our apple-lemon-ginger recipe is for you. The sweetness of apples are a great balance to the heat of ginger.
AV: What is the technology behind the process of distributing the juice?
JY: We have begun cold-pressed fruit and vegetable beverages, prepared every day in a commercial kitchen and poured immediately into sterile stainless-steel tanks for transport to the location. These “kegs” are equipped with agitators to keep the particles in suspension and are held under refrigeration throughout the process, maintaining a cold chain supply from the preparation facility to the Juicebots in the field. The process helps protect the juice from oxidation caused by light and oxygen, allowing the juice inside to stay nutritious for a longer period and eliminating the waste caused by plastic bottles. JuiceBot uses less power than a regular vending machine and therefore has less of a carbon footprint. The machines are also remotely monitored for issues like cup jams, sold out flavors and customer complaints.
AV: How does JuiceBot differentiate itself from other companies?
JY: While the old system favored pre-packaged, longest shelf life, and just mass in general, the latest version of Juicebot vends its fresh juice drinks into compostable cups made out of corn. What makes JuiceBot unique is not the machine itself, but rather the whole supply chain from kitchen to Bot. JuiceBot is the first and only approved machine that can serve healthy food and beverages in California.
AV: What is JuiceBot’s mission and vision for the next 5 years?
JY: Our mission is to change the distribution model to fit good healthy food, not the other way around. Our goal is to leverage technology to rethink the distribution challenges that fresh food companies face, while expanding the reach of juice bars and creating cashless and cashierless convenience for customers on the go.
For more information on JuiceBot, please visit the following links:
Medical Student Dillon Dejam Shares Important Insights through MD Program and Beyond
- Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your educational background? I’m a second year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine here at UCLA. I grew up in Los Angeles County and I graduated high school in 2012. Then, I went to UC Irvine, to start my undergraduate studies. I started out as a general Biological Sciences major and then in between my second and third year I decided to specialize in biochemistry and molecular biology. I graduated UCI in 2016, and I took two gap years between my undergraduate and my medical school. I started medical school here at UCLA in fall of 2018, and I’ve been here ever since then and it’s been awesome.
- Why did you choose biology as a major for your undergraduate at UCI? I always had this inkling of an idea that I wanted to become a physician. When you apply to college, from high school, and you know that you’re interested in going to medical school. You figure “Hey, I might as well be a biology major that seems to align the most with, you know, being a physician”. That’s the main reason why I decided to apply as a biology major. I figured it was the most applicable to what I was hoping to do in the future. I also just in general loved my biology classes in high school as well so it seemed obvious that was the route that I should take.
- Is there a specific field that you’re hoping to pursue in the future? I’m not really set on one field. I spent some time shadowing in a couple of different specialties, and we start our clinical rotations in our third year so I’m hoping to have a better idea of what I’d like to do after I go through my rotation. I always thought that surgery was very interesting so I’m looking forward to my surgery rotation, and I’m looking forward to experiencing more of the other specialties that we get exposed to in our third year. You really don’t know what [a specialty] is going to be like, until you’re in it. So, it’s definitely important to keep an open mind, especially because medicine can be very broad and diverse.
- What is the most challenging part of medical school? I think the most challenging part is maintaining the ability to not compare yourself to others. Once you’re in medical school, you have this feeling of now I really can’t mess anything up and everything has to be perfect from here on out because I’m finally where I want it to be, and we try to keep up with what everyone else is up to, and we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others. I think this tends to produce some stress and anxiety for a lot of people. I think that conquering that has been my biggest accomplishment. Just realizing that I’m on my own journey, and nothing beneficial is going to come from comparing myself to others. Nowadays the only reason why I compare myself to others is to try to get ideas, or to try to get inspired. I’m just accepting myself for who I am and I’m following my passions and my interest, and I think that was hard at first. I’m starting to just accept who I am and accept that there’s certain things that I want to do and things that I don’t want to do and that’s totally fine.
- How have you prioritized your mental health? I think it kind of just goes back to accepting myself for who I am and what my interests are. Doing things that get me excited and doing all this stuff on the side because it makes me happy but if you told me to go and do something that I don’t want to do, it’s going to be challenging for me. Allowing myself to not force myself to do things that I don’t want to do has been really helpful. I’m really lucky that I go to UCLA because our curriculum in the first two years is pass or fail. We have an exam every six to eight weeks. So, in general, there’s really only one exam every six to eight weeks that you have to pass, and I think it’s a relatively more relaxed curriculum compared to some other schools, so I’m really lucky to be here at UCLA. And we have a lot of great resources; they have free counseling and therapy services for all the medical students.
- What are some tips that you would give to people aspiring to be doctors? I think having a passion or hobby outside of school and academics and medicine can also be helpful. Do what interests you, dip your toes into anything you think that you would be interested in because college is the time to really explore. This is the only time where you’re going to be around other people who are your age, who are experiencing a similar environment and who are also trying to figure out what they want to do. College is just an amazing time to explore. There are so many different organizations and opportunities and clubs on campus. I think if there’s one word I could use to summarize the idea of college experience, it is opportunity.
- Can you talk a bit more about your podcasts and why you decided to start doing podcasts? I’m really passionate about music. When I was in elementary school, I discovered a genre of music that I was really passionate about, and growing up, iTunes had the podcast features. When I was in high school I discovered that these DJs that I loved uploaded weekly mixes onto the podcast on iTunes. So ever since I was in like 9th or 10th grade in high school, I began listening to these iTunes podcasts and then I wondered, “oh hey it would be so cool if I could have a show of my own, or a podcast of my own one day”. Fast forward to my third year of college at UCI, I started getting involved in the radio station there. And I eventually got my own weekly radio show, where I DJ live on air for two hours every Wednesday night, and I played music that I absolutely loved and I talked for a little bit on air. I did that for like three and a half years like even in my gap years, and that was like one of the coolest things that I did. That was the hardest extracurricular to end because I just love it so much. So, when medical school started I thought about dabbling in a radio station here at UCLA. A few months later I decided I could easily just start my own podcast that revolves around the stuff that I’m doing on social media and this would be an excellent way for me to broadcast, my perspectives and these things that I think people should hear if they’re interested in going to medical school, or just in general people who are interested in learning more about how they could better take advantage of their college experience. So, it just started with this love for music and having a radio show, and now I feel like I kind of have a similar setup now with my podcast.
- What are your thoughts about health? (Policies, illnesses, current news, etc.) I’m really passionate about exercise and being active. It’s something that I didn’t discover until I got to college; I wasn’t really like an athletic kid growing up. Now it’s a big part of my life and I’m really passionate about spending time in the gym. You know, you can easily say things like, “Hey, you know, every American needs to exercise for XYZ amount of time every week”. Those are the recommendations set forth sometimes. However, I think there’s a lot of personal factors that go into people’s ability to exercise and eat healthy. I think that, it would be nice if we could find a way to address personal factors as opposed to just telling people that they need to exercise more and eat healthy. I just think it’s important that we kind of try and understand the background that people are living in, as opposed to just telling them that they need to eat well and exercise more because it’s harder for some than others.
- What are some work experiences you have had either in undergraduate or medical school that have inspired you? The whole reason why I decided to go into medicine is because I value relationships. I worked as a medical scribe during my gap years between medical school and undergraduate, and as a medical scribe you’re not really interacting with patients directly; you observe countless physician patient interactions. Watching things from the outside, I really started to understand the effect that a physician’s words can have on how a patient feels, and what a patient knows about what’s going on is so meaningful. I think that was a defining experience for me. I want to have these awesome relationships with my patients where I feel like I’m providing value to their life and to their health.
- What motto do you live by on a day to day basis? Just do what you want to do. I think as long as you’re doing things for the right reason, which is because you want to do it, then, you’re always going to end up coming out on top.
To learn more about Dejam, please visit the links to his social media platforms as well as his podcast:
This is a guest-post, and the opinion is of the guest writer. If you have any questions with any of the articles, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megan Wroe, MS, RD, CNE, CLEC
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