A Change that Saved My Life

by Karen Amster-Young

This is a guest post by Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP and author of The Healthy Apple. She is a Manhattan based Culinary Nutritionist, Personal Chef, Professional Recipe Developer and Food Writer specializing in simple Gluten-Free ‘Clean’ recipes for the home cook. She writes for the Huffington Post, GenConnect and other publications. Her story is intense and inspiring and the52weeks.com is so excited to be working with her for an amazing JCC workshop on October 25. We know this isn’t about trying paddle boarding or yoga or learning how to ride a motorcycle but we thought it was worth sharing. 

The “best” doctors across the Eastern seaboard told me I was crazy. Mayo Clinic told me I was crazy.  Even though I was lying on a hospital bed hooked up to morphine to relieve my intense, mysterious, undiagnosed bodily pain I had for years, my colleagues thought I was crazy too. No one believed me. Did I give in, give up, or break down? No. I didn’t give up. Instead, I took matters into my own hands. And changed my own life. And just like Pam and Karen sitting at a bar in 2009, who decided they needed change, so did I – of course on a much more “serious” level as Karen made sure to point out when I told her my story.

I struggled for five and a half years with chronic leg swelling (20+ lbs. of water weight every day by 3PM) and severe digestive issues while pursuing a “big” marketing and advertising career in corporate America: VOGUE, Ralph Lauren Corporate and the NBA. I never let anyone know what was going on other than my family. I felt gross, embarrassed, bloated, foggy-brained, confused and frustrated. Instead of listening to me, doctors wrote me prescriptions for countless pills that didn’t work. How was a 26-year-old girl to go on a date with swollen legs and chronic pain when all I could wear were spandex and gulp down water pills instead of cocktails?

One evening in 2007, I was rushed to the St. Vincent’s Cancer Center in NYC with chronic low white blood cells. Ten minutes after I had left my office, I was getting a bone marrow biopsy. They told me to start making appointments at Sloan Kettering- that I had leukemia. I had exhausted all the doctors in NYC, NJ, Connecticut and Philadelphia, and had countless MRI’s, CT Scans, endoscopies, colonoscopies, X-Rays, blood tests, genetic tests, bone marrow biopsies, etc. only to be told that there was “nothing wrong with me.” I ventured out to Mayo Clinic in 2010 only to hear once again that there was nothing wrong- all the while my health continued to deteriorate.   My general practitioner even told my sister that I was insane, and needed to take drugs to stop the madness.  After having kale from a farmers’ market in December of 2010, I contracted parasites, pathogens, and numerous cases of bacteria overgrowth. I was put on steroids and painkillers—and went on disability.  The worst part? My colleagues at the NBA thought I was kidding and Human Resources would call me on the phone to tell me that they didn’t believe me. The leg swelling got so bad I could barely move, and then I found huge cysts on my feet. No one could figure out what they were.

Clearly, the Western doctors, for all their degrees in the world, and my corporate job that did not support or believe me, weren’t going to help me get any better. So I changed doctors, quit my job – and just like the promise of a new direction that is 52Weeks, I changed my own life. I sought alternative options. It wasn’t until I began working with an Integrative Medical Doctor that I learned I was suffering from heavy metal accumulation in my tissues and that I was born without the gene to absorb folate – key in detoxification.  I was confused as to why Mayo Clinic and all the hospitals didn’t find the heavy metal problems. I soon learned that Western medicine only tests for heavy metals in your blood – not my tissues. I started chelation (a process to draw the heavy metals out of your body through an IV) along with taking chelating agents.

And as “crazy” as it may be, my painful experience led me to one of my greatest joys in life: helping others heal. I went back to school to learn more about Eastern medicine and nutrition. Using acupuncture, yoga, meditation, herbal medicine, and fresh, organic 100% whole, unprocessed foods, I healed myself and remain 100% symptom free nearly five years later. I am still unable to consume gluten and dairy (except an occasional Greek yogurt), as well as grains, oils, fruits and sugar. These past few years, I discovered I am allergic to sulfates and cannot digest packaged foods. Therefore, I eat like a cave woman, and follow a Clean Lifestyle filled with lean proteins, health fats and lots of veggies. It has changed my life and now it’s my full time job – helping others feel good and finding the real solution to their ongoing pain.

For several years I was positive and held my head high, even though I was frustrated and felt like no one listened to me. Do I still have days when I feel crappy? Yes, but my passion, my pride, my yearning to find an answer and help people just like me to not give up keeps me going.

Below is a recipe to give you a peak into my world. Many of my clients (who aren’t allergic to grains love this recipe). I promise you won’t know it’s so good for you.

Asparagus Raspberry Black Rice Salad

 Gluten-Free and Vegan


  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked black rice
  • 1 pint organic raspberries
  • 1 bunch of fresh asparagus, ends removed
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tsp. extra virgin olive oil


  1. Cook black rice according to package.
  2. Rise raspberries; set aside. Cut asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, asparagus, lemon zest, scallions, coconut, sea salt and pepper; gently toss to combine. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from fridge; fold in fresh raspberries; gently toss to combine. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Serve chilled.


commentLeave a Comment (1)  

categoryPosted: 08/27/12 8:45 AM

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Betsy Kent August 28, 2012 at 7:45 am

What an incredible story. Thanks Karen and Pam, for sharing it. I am going to make that salad and become a follower of Amie.


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