The Night I Gave It Up

My best friend was always there for me. He was there when I needed advice about girls, when I was short a few bucks for Chinese food, when I would wake up hysterical from nightmares, when I was throwing up across the room, and when I ended up in the hospital after getting hit by a car on my bike. Every time I thought I was alone in this world, he would be around the corner to encourage me, to give me a lending hand when I was in need, to pick me up when I was on the floor, and to remind me to work hard and never give up. But would I be there for him when it counted?

I had a long day at school and my stomach was grumbling. I stopped by Aldo’s pizzeria, which was a local genuine spot, the owners were Italians and the employees in the front looked like they came straight from the Jersey Shore. I walked up to the register and asked Tony for a slice with the usual extra cheese and pepperoni.

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“Of Course, Bobby!” he exclaimed.

That’s what they called me in Aldo’s. They knew everyone on a first-name basis. Finally, Tony removed my warm cheesy slice from the oven with his tree-trunk-like arms. He was having trouble taking the slice out the oven, which was ironic because he looked like he belonged in the movie Expendables.

“Yo, Bobby you wan’ it to go?” he asked, the cheese was dripping off the plate.

“Hell no! I’m starving,” I said while grabbing the plate out of his hand. The dripping cheese made my stomach grumble even more. The crust was crispy and the cheese was gooey. When I would dig in I heard the crunch of the crust breaking away and tasted the warm salty pepperoni mixed in with the oozing mozzarella.  That slice was the best slice I’ve ever had in my life.

Maybe I was just hungry.

When I got home, fidgeting with my keys in the dark, my mom opened the door; she must have had supersonic hearing because she did that a lot. As I kissed her chipmunk cheeks I could whiff the rosy fragrance from her short red hair. Who did I see with the corner of my eye?

I was ecstatic to see my best friend, especially after such a long day in school. His round face was speckled with freckles and paired with friendly brown eyes. He was sitting on my favorite couch. I ran over to him and jumped on him to give him a hug. I couldn’t squeeze him too hard because his overstuffed belly was in the way. Instead of getting up to embrace me he just tapped me on the back.

“How was school?” my mom asked.

“Mom I hate school. I go there to not learn anything and to get my life sucked out of me,” I responded as I threw myself on the couch.

“You say that now but when you begin to make a living you’re going to wish you could be in school,” My mom said urgently.

I brushed it off and inquired, “what’s up?”

I was relieved to be in my comfy home on my smooth supple leather couch. Kicking off my sneakers, I could feel the soft sandy tan rug between my toes and smelled mouthwatering rice and beans cooking up in the kitchen. The cranberry red brick fireplace was on and the crackling light was reflecting off the dark truffle brown walls. There were tons of family pictures and my triathlon trophies on the fireplace. The fireplace was the center of the house, where we kept all the family’s accomplishments displayed proudly.

My mom’s beautiful hazel eyes looked deep into mine and said, “He had some medical test done recently and the doctor called with the results.”

I looked over to my best friend to see he had knotted his fingers nervously. I couldn’t read his expression because he was staring at the floor.

My mom continued, “He has high cholesterol and high blood pressure again.”

That was a relief. I thought it was going to be something worse, like cancer. He always had high cholesterol because he loved his fatty T-bone steak with onions slathered on it. The doctor kept telling him to watch what he ate but he loved food. I loved it as well. When we both went out we would order the greasiest and tastiest food we could find, loving how food would explode in our mouth with countless flavors. I think that was a key reason we were best friends.

As I got up to get something to eat my mom asked me, “Rob, please sit back down.”

I nervously sat back down on the cold leather couch. This was different.

“The doctor called with bad news,” my mom gently said while her beautiful hazel eyes dampened.

I grabbed her small hands and looked in her eyes.

“Mom. Tell me.” I said guardedly.

She couldn’t say anything. Her throat started to knot and she began to cry. Her small hands clinched mine as if her life depended on it. I turned over to my friend and could see tears leaking down his pale face and onto the sandy rug below us. He wouldn’t look up.

“Mom what’s wrong?” I asked.

She dried her tears with her hands and said “They found a tumor on his pancreas.”

My heart dropped. Everything inside me twisted. Goosebumps all over my body. I could feel a distressing sensation going down my spine. My body froze. I couldn’t get my lungs to pump air in or out. I could no longer feel the rug between my toes. I couldn’t feel my heart beat. Everything became indistinct. I couldn’t see clearly, all I could see was a mixture of colors from the red cranberry fireplace to the brown truffle walls.

My best friend was dying.

Suddenly blood rushed to my head. My eyes burned. I broke out in tears. I sandwiched my face in between my knees while crumpling on the unfeeling cold couch. I let it all out. I let the tears run down like a waterfall.. I tightened my fist and squeezed my stomach as hard as I could, somehow hoping the harder I squeezed the further I would be away from her words.

My mom hugged me and clutched like a mama bear would do in the wild. There were no words exchanged but we were all closer than ever.

I could hear all of us sobbing.

I looked up and asked my mom “ Is it cancerous?”

She said, while wiping my tears dry, “ We don’t know yet, they’re going to run more tests to find out.”

Something inside my heart ignited.

We all stood up and hugged.

While looking in his warm but anxious eyes I told him “ Everything is going to be okay. You have us here with you, and you won’t fight alone. Don’t give up.”

He said he needed to rest and was going to sleep. My mom went to the kitchen to finish up cooking.

Something inside was now red-hot.

This was the first time I ever saw him weak. He was always there to help me. He was always the strong one. I was the weaker one; he always helped me, not the other way around. How could this be? I wasn’t sure what to feel but I know I felt shattered but determined. There had to be a cure. Every ounce of my body was determined to find the cure for his cancer.

I jumped on my computer and typed away. I looked it all up: what causes cancer , what treats cancer. Many natural supplement ads popped up during my inquiries. I found many fairylike cures but to be honest I knew it was all a swindle even though I so much wanted to believe in them. I wanted a common-sense explanation to treatment for this disease that was laying siege to my best friend.

Why was this happening to him? Out of all people around the world?

Pouring through mostly useless websites, I hit upon a documentary called Forks Over Knives. It claimed that a plant-based diet forgoing processed foods could reverse most diseases, including cancer. I was doubtful but I had to take a chance and watch it to see what it offered. It was on Netflix and that same night I watched it.

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My life changed forever.

The fire in my heart  was now blazing.

It presented credible scientific studies showing that cancer is caused by a milk protein called Casein. It compared nations with low rates of cancer, such as China, with nations high in cancer, such as the United States of America. It went into details regarding the cultural differences behind their foods. I learned something very simple yet impactful. This was the turn around for my entire life.

The lesson was that meat and dairy can cause cancer.

The solution was also as simple.

Take away the cause and the effect will disappear.

Stop eating meats and dairy and the cancer will go away.

The next day I was excited to share my discovery with my best friend. We sat down and watched the movie together. To give him hope that he could come back from this disease. After watching it I realized I too had to give up what I loved most.

What we both love most.

We loved to eat tasty foods that burst with flavor. We had to give up grilled T-bones, frothy milkshakes, rich creamy ice cream, crunchy bacon cheeseburgers, soft chicken breasts, and, yes, my warm cheesy pizza slice from Aldo’s.

We sat down and decided to all go vegan to help my best friend. Honestly, I was ecstatic about helping him. It wasn’t going to be easy to break a habit I lived with for 21 years, but it was going to be to supoort my best friend. This time I was there for him, I was the stronger one, I had to pick him up. I reminded him to never give up. I gave him hope for a future.

He came to me after a few weeks on our new diet and told me “Rob, I feel so good, and I want to thank you for not giving up.”

I responded, “ You never gave up on me. Why would I ever give up on you? I love you, pops.”

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These foods are poisonous to us. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat, but now I saw these appealing foods as a poison. Burgers were arsenic and a glass of warm milk was mercury. It was the single entity that was killing my dad. Anything that wants to kill my dad is also my enemy. Since that fateful day, I have sustained my vegan lifestyle, as has he, and his numbers are all excellent now. I am on a mission to educate families, to give them hope in their dimmest moments. I knew I had to do it with him so he could go through with it. I gave up eating, which I considered the joy of living, to give my father back his life.

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