Instead of playing sports and attending extracurriculars like other college students, Kayote Joseph spent most of her early adult years in and out of the hospital – as doctors struggled to figure out what was causing her sickness and extreme fatigue. "When I was 22 years old, I was the sickest I've ever been in my life," said Joseph, who finally got diagnosed with a one-two punch of thyroid cancer and chronic Autoimmune Lyme disease. When she was given her diagnosis of having to fight two separate debilitating illnesses, Joseph was faced with the possibility that feeling sick and tired was going to be her fate for the rest of her life. Instead, her most extreme symptoms ended after only two and a half years.

By age 24, Joseph was officially declared cancer and lyme-disease free by her doctors, and now, 12 years after her initial diagnosis, she also hasn't had any flair-ups related to Lyme, which, by the time they had caught it, had become an autoimmune condition. The Beet spoke to Joseph, who is plant-based, about the steps she took to help heal herself. In the ensuing years, she delved deeper into natural medicine and has become certified in holistic healing, and is working toward a Ph.D. in consciousness. Joseph shares how she used the mind-body connection and a host of other approaches to rid her body of illness and find her way to health. She believes these practices ultimately saved her life.

First, she underwent treatment for cancer

After Joseph's cancer and Lyme diagnoses, she began treatment that followed her doctors' protocols, based on Western medicine. But she soon felt that the treatment was making her sicker and she wanted to return to a normal life, "I was a human pin-cushion," she says. Joesph made a decision: "If I'm going to be sick and die this way, then I'm going to go out with my friends and enjoy life."

Then Joesph, who was just 23 at the time, told her doctor she wasn't happy living this way. She was curious about alternative medicines that could possibly help her get better. Her doctor made a rare referral for her to go see a holistic practitioner on the Upper East Side in New York City. She walked into the office of Jerry Epstein, a psychiatrist who was known for integrating mental techniques to help treat health-related problems. When they met, he started their conversation by asking about her health. He then offered a theory of how illnesses can be a bi-product of depleted energy fields, using the science of quantum physics to suggest there are other paths to healing. "This blew my mind," Joesph recalled years later.

Joesph saw Dr. Epstein on a regular basis and spent hours practicing the techniques and natural remedies he recommended. This included four or more hours of meditation per day, working on eliminating stress, practicing being present, and "changing the state of her brain waves," in her own words. She worked on healing past traumas by journaling and dealing with emotions as she experienced them.

"As a result of living in the present moment," Joseph says, "I started to learn more about nourishing my body and started to eat a plant-based diet”, avoiding the on-the-go meals she used to eat as a 'Type A' New Yorker.

What she ate in a day

On her new plant-based diet, Joseph ate a lot of quality greens and got creative with cooking vegetables in different types of sauces. "You don't put diesel in a Mazaratti," she says, meaning she has committed herself to nourishing her body with high-quality plant-based foods, which also energizes her. She focused on vegetables, fruit, and creative combinations.

After eating healthy and sticking with her meditation and journaling, as well as her all-day long mindfulness stress reduction practice, Joseph had found her health again.

"I have yet to have an auto-immune disease flair-up; all my cancer cells are gone, they’ve never come up on a scan, even years later,” she said. Joseph feels healthier and more empowered than ever and has been sticking with her practices. "I had focused on healing my body and isolating myself from stress," she said. She adds that for her, "conventional medicine was no help, though that was just my experience, there are so many people I know who have been helped by Western medicine." (The Beet recommends you work with your health care provider to find the right treatment for you and whatever it is that you are working to heal.)

3 Natural Practices Joseph Recommends

Meditate: Start with a group, to help get the hang of it.

"I first started with Sangha meditation and attended a two-hour group meditation session every day," she says. "Then I would also meditate for another two hours midday and for an hour at night. "When the only thing between you and death is this one thing - lowering your stress levels, there's nothing to lose. I was on the floor praying that I would get better, and when you're in that moment of reckoning, people can do extortionary things. Once you learn something like this, you can't go back.”

Change Your State of Mind: Work on being present.

"At the beginning of my journey, I was striving for tranquility and peace. My brain was at a 'high-beta point' – which is fight or flight. When I'm present, alert, and focused but relaxed, my body is capable of healing itself because my immune functions aren’t suppressed.”

"The body can do what I call "long-term building projects" such as healing illness or getting pregnant when you aren’t in fight or flight. So, I stopped doing the things that made me stressed and got really focused on making feeling healthy and peaceful my first priority. When you get your brain waves out of high-beta, when you stop your system from being flooded with adrenaline and cortisol -  it alters your immune function. Science is now showing how incredible the impact of this is on healing almost any chronic illness."

“I put my body in a healthy state where it was able to repair itself. I do this with my clients now and basically, we take a deep dive together to rewire their neural pathways - to heal inside and out," she explains.

Deal with Emotions: Face what is bothering you head-on.

"Emotions are like visitors and when one comes knocking at your doorstep, welcome it in with a cup of tea," says Joseph. "When we cope with our feelings, we don't need to do destructive things like stress eat, or other bad behavioral habits, or continue to put up with unhealthy relationships.”

"For me, part of the reason I was sick in the first place was that I didn't know how to cope with my own emotions. I lived in this controlled-centric existence because I wanted to be loved, popular, cool, accepted.”

"Getting sick was the best thing that's happened to me. I don't avoid my emotions anymore."

To start eating a clean, healthy plant-based diet full of greens, make this Green Breaky Bowl with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Almond Butter for breakfast. For lunch or dinner, enjoy this Pear Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette and Whole Roasted Cauliflower.

For more inspiring stories like this, check out our success stories column.

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