Inspiration: Q&A with Cancer Survivor Adam Spillman 

I am always impressed by the power of the human spirit in overcoming adversity and challenge and the body’s incredible ability to heal when given a chance.  Adam Spillman (@knowledge4wellness on Instagram) has been inspiring and documenting his healing journey after being diagnosed with advanced cancer a little over a year and a half ago. He has taken charge of his health through plant based nutrition, fitness, mindfulness and an overall positive mindset and spirit. Please read on for my q&a with Adam.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in a small town in Michigan, and now live in a small town in Washington state known as White Salmon. My passion is white water kayaking. Before my diagnosis I spent most of my time trying to work when I was not kayaking or planning and watching for the next move to where the rivers were going to be best. Otherwise, I spend my time with my wife and my dog. 

Adam whitewater kayaking hurtling over this fierce waterfall

After cancer my focus has been on my physical and mental health, as well as learning and experiencing as many new things as possible. I like to live life as lightly as possible. Tomorrow is not promised, and if there is any time that is best, that time is now.

When did you first find out about your cancer, and what was your diagnosis?

I first found out about my cancer on March 26th 2019 at 3:00 a.m.. My diagnosis came at 8:00 am March 29th 2019 when I was instructed to come in and begin chemotherapy that day. I was diagnosed with advanced Stage 3 testicular cancer. It had metastasized to my lymph nodes, liver, kidney, and lungs. There is no Stage Four. Stage 3 is considered the most advanced of my cancer where I was given a 50% chance of the chemo working.

Did you first decide to go vegan (or plant based) because of your diagnosis?

I decided to go plant based right away when I was diagnosed. During that time my diet was pure. Raw juices, vegetables. No processed sugars or flours. I only ate a small piece of local organic meat at night as suggested by the people that helped me with my nutrition during chemo. 

My story of going vegan happened June 12th 2019, four days after my last day of chemo.  I had put the book “How Not to Die” by Dr. Micheal Gregor down on the table to eat dinner and watch the documentary “What the health”.  In the middle of the movie I looked down at my plate of Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes, Piece of Rib, Salad and decided that I didn’t need that piece of meat to survive, and survive well. So far, one year later I’ve been right.

I’ve been inspired by your journey and the fact that eating plants has played a big role in your healing and recovery from cancer surgery and chemotherapy. Tell me a little about this.

I personally believe plants are the reason I am sitting here answering this question. But what blew my mind away was the power of juiced raw vegetables. That was the key to me surviving the first two rounds of chemo which were each 5 days long, 8 hours a day. I did 4 rounds total. 

Raw juice can give the body access to a very large amount of nutrients with very little effort on the system. In addition, eating a variety of plants all help the body repair after big events like chemo, or surgery. I saw it as purposeful energy…. everything I put in my body was clean energy that gave me fuel for the day and fuel to repair, and heal.

Adam’s survival recipe – Raw Juice Detox

In addition to eating plants, you have mentioned that exercise, nature and the practice of being mindful have helped in your healing journey. How have you incorporated all of this alongside your medical treatment plan? 

The Wim Hof Method was a game changer during my battle with cancer. The combination of breathing techniques, meditation, and cold soaks was an all-encompassing experience that provided stress relief, healing, and most importantly it helped keep my mind strong and focused on the present moment and allowed me not to get to overwhelmed by the uncertainty of my situation. I highly recommend looking into Wim Hof and his method. 

Two minute ice cold soaks as part of the Wim Hof Method

Exercise and being in nature was also a huge factor for me.  Getting the body moving and the blood flowing promotes all around mental and physical health. For me, after my second round of chemo my body was healing up and I was able to go on good hikes, and even better, I was able to whitewater kayak. Being able to exercise in nature like that on a constant basis helped me improve all around, and also allowed me to appreciate my situation.

I know you’re a big proponent of drinking celery juice every morning (via the Medical Medium).  Can you tell me how this helped to transform your health? 

During my first round of chemo, my liver was failing and I was needing to receive blood transfusions just about every other day.  My doctors predicted that I would need these transfusions the whole time I was receiving chemo as they told me there was nothing I could do.  Immediately, out of  the hospital we were informed of detoxing with celery juice and its benefits for the liver.

I drank celery juice every morning for my 16 days of recovery and when returning, my energy levels were high and I no longer needed those transfusions!  My doctors were baffled. Also the months leading up to my surgery, my liver surgeon told me that there were too many tumors to get them all. So every day I drank as much celery juice in the morning as I could and kept my diet very clean.  When he went in, all 15 or so tumors were gone and he said my liver is looking beautiful.  Celery juice is powerful, and when you clean up your diet, its powers can work over time on your system, giving you energy you never thought possible!

What does a typical or ideal day of plant based eating look like for you – – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks? 

My typical day of eating is pretty simple. 

For breakfast I drink 32 oz. of water, celery juice, and then I have oats and berries mixed with maca, hemp, flax and almond butter. 

For lunch I have the same thing that I have for dinner – quinoa, veggies, black beans, almond sauce and mixed greens. 

I don’t snack much but if I do it’s fruit or some nuts!

Do you have any favorite Vegan food brands? 

I really do not use a lot of Vegan products.  My meals consist mainly of grains, legumes, veggies, and fruits.  However I really do enjoy this company HOPE – they make a great Cashew Almond dip that is perfect for dipping veggies as a midday snack for myself.

What or who gives you inspiration?

My wife Alicia Harding gives me the most inspiration. People battling cancer are on my mind daily, and inspire me to live life fully and kindly. My biggest inspirations during cancer were my friends Alicia Zaragoza and her partner Gerd Serrasolses. Ali introduced me to Dr. Michael Greger’s book “How Not to Die”.  Her partner Gerd is a professional whitewater kayaker who is a force to be reckoned with on the extreme race circuit. Watching the things both of them accomplish as professional athletes on a vegan diet inspired me to cut out all animal products after chemo to prepare for my surgery. 

This was a very big deal. The chemo had done a number on my body, and a lot of people, including my doctors, did not feel like I was going to be able to put weight back on quickly enough and be healthy enough for my surgery. Turns out I went into my surgery at the top of my game, and it was the best move I ever made.

I’m also inspired by  –

I read that you would not change your experience with cancer if you had a do-over in life.  What are the biggest lessons you’ve gained since your diagnosis?

I learned that as a man it’s important to pay attention to your body and understand that not all pain is something that you need to push through all the time, because it could be something that needs to be addressed immediately!  I also learned that this life is short, and it’s important to live lightly and love as much as possible. If you have dreams, go for them!  If you have goals, give it your all til you reach them! This is it – RIGHT NOW is all you have!

How does spirituality fit into your life?  How do you view life differently since your diagnosis? 

Spirituality plays a huge roll in my life.  After my diagnosis, I was forced to prepare to move on from this life. I believe all religions are trying to get to the same point – that point is to be kind, loving human beings and to be present in every moment as much as possible. 

The one thing about cancer and having it as bad as I did is it allowed me to become comfortable with death, and to hopefully when the time comes be as present for it as I possibly can. I feel that is something very special, and to not take for granted our life on this earth. We are all connected and when looking inside myself, I finally realized that everything inside of me from my blood to my organs is connected, and it’s all needed to create this special and fragile thing we call life.

What is your best advice for those facing a similar challenge? 

My best advice is to first get your nutrition and mental health in order, so you can restore proper balance inside your body that can create a healing environment. Don’t compare your life to others. This is your story, live it up to the fullest! Embrace the good but also embrace those moments that test you in ways you never thought you could be tested!

” Nature Loves Courage” – Terrance Mckenna