Being vegan and medicine
You might remember the sad news I featured on my blog a short while ago about my friend, Indira.
Indira is one of the most compassionate people I have had the pleasure of meeting and I was deeply saddened to learn she had been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer of the liver.
You can read my original post here.
Indira reached out to me this week to ask if I would allow her to post a piece of writing she has compiled on the emotional struggle of being a dedicated vegan faced with medication which has undoubtedly been tested on animals.
Here are Indira’s thoughts:
I was eight years old when I first became a vegetarian.
My science book which had a picture of an egg and how it developed into a little baby chick was the first thing I vividly recall as being one of my reasons for becoming vegetarian. That coupled with the understanding that I was potentially eating someone’s mummy, daddy, brother or sister.
Fast forward another twenty two years and I had never “slipped up” on being vegetarian.
I was committed to my reasons for becoming vegetarian not just with food but also by not supporting leather or wool industries. One of my favourite foods at the time was cheese. I loved cheese so much I often had three courses of cheese and a separate shelf in my fridge for the various types of cheeses.
Then one day I came across an article by BBC Food which had quite an eye catching title along the lines of how vegetarians should be held responsible for the veal industry. I did not waste a minute delving into that online article and recall being truly shocked and disgusted at how the diary industry operated.
That was the first day of my vegan journey. That was nearly nine years ago and I have, once again, been 100% committed to being vegan.
That is, up until now.
In April this year, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer whilst 28 weeks pregnant with my precious little baby boy. I was very very poorly and in a lot of pain. I was in and out of hospital for months and lost 20kg in weight. Everyone was very concerned at the prognosis.
Despite losing the weight, I refused to give up my vegan diet. Although initially I was in a lot of pain and was too poorly to think straight, as the disease was becoming more controlled, I became conscious of all the drugs and medicines I was taking to do nothing other than prolong my life.
As a vegan, I read labels in everything before it comes anywhere near my mouth. I didn’t do that with the drugs. Instead, I took everything that was given to me with very little questions asked about what was in it and whether it was suitable for vegans. I read the medicine packaging recently and noted there is lactose in several of the tablets I take. I had to undergo chemotherapy too. I am pretty certain these drugs have been tested on animals as their toxicity is so high.
Yet, despite this knowledge, I continue to take these medicines as I am scared to die.
I have two children, a daughter aged three and a son aged 6 months. Every time I think of leaving them I am overcome with heartbreak so I am fighting to stay alive and the only way I know is to take these medications which clearly are not designed for vegans.
Does that make me a bad vegan?
Veganism was something I embraced as a way of life. I did it purely for compassionate reasons and the health benefits it bought were a positive side effect. Yet, despite a 9 year vegan lifestyle, I am now overcome with guilt but what other viable option is available for me?
Perhaps with the support of charities such as Dr. Hawden Trust which look to eliminate animals in laboratory research and general diet-based intolerances which tend to influence health policy, there will someday be medications more openly suitable for vegans.
I remain optimistic.
You can leave your thoughtful and considered opinions, plus messages of support for Indira and her family, below.
You can support the crucial work of Dr. Hadwen Trust by visiting their website.