The Health Scare That Changed My Life

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Yup, success stories are back! And I’m looking for more. Follow-ups, mid-progress reflections—every story at every stage has the potential to inspire folks out there who are getting started or contemplating a new beginning. Contact me here to share your story—long or not so long. You never know who you’ll impact by doing it. Enjoy, everyone!

As a lifelong martial artist and owner-operator of a martial arts school for 8 years, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life training or in the gym. I have always worked to have a healthy, active lifestyle, attempting to manage weight and conditioning through high intensity training while following the Standard American Diet (SAD).

For many years, I supplemented my martial arts training with running or cycling long distances at high intensity. I remember feeling that if I didn’t work hard there would be no benefits. I worked out so I could eat whatever I wanted without the concern of gaining weight. I was oblivious to any related health risks.

This produced a highly stressful, chronic cardio lifestyle with poor dietary and lifestyle practices. Not to mention, as I aged, the weight gain came regardless of the amount of exercise I did. My weight gain was not excessive by most conventional standards, but I could never recapture my previous results, and the training became progressively harder as I aged.

During that time, I witnessed my high blood pressure increase, and to my ultimate surprise, learned I had cancer.

I was diagnosed in August 2013 with bladder cancer, and was devastated to find I had a tumor. I truly believed my lifestyle was healthy. Being a father of two young daughters, I wanted to be a good role model for them and be there throughout their lives. I could not get my head around the fact that, although I was doing what I’d always been taught was healthy, I actually wasn’t. At that time, I had no idea the impact my stressful eating and training regimen was having on my body.

The cancer was successfully treated through surgery, but I wanted to ensure it didn’t come back. I also wanted to finally deal with the blood pressure concern that had been with me for years.

I started to “eat healthier” with a renewed focus on eating throughout the day, consuming plenty of fruits and whole grain foods, reduced fats, and replacing animal fats with recommended processed vegetable oils. I even took supplements I thought would help my general health. Regardless of my best efforts, my weight continued to increase and my energy plummeted. I remember routinely coming home after work, planning to train but needing to nap first.

I was frustrated that the dietary and exercise advice I was following was not helping.

While I had stopped running when I found out I had cancer, I began again in 2015—this time with much less intensity regarding pace and distance. I intuitively felt it would be better to follow a moderate training schedule, but did not have the information or education to help me at that time.

For over a year, I ran almost every day at a lower intensity and generally for a shorter distance. I felt pretty good during that phase, however my weight started creeping up again. I had settled into a pattern of keeping “fit,” but my efforts to manage my weight—and my overall health—were failing.

My Introduction to Primal Health

In February 2017, a college friend suggested that I listen to the Primal Endurance podcast featuring the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) system of cardio training.

I listened, and listened and listened. From that point forward, I started learning as much as I could about Primal living. In fact, I’ve listened to Brad Kearns so much that his voice and Mark Sisson’s message have become imprinted in my DNA…lol.

I immediately reduced carbs by eliminating all sugars and grains, and quickly worked to eliminate refined oils—helping me become fat- and keto-adapted.

I also modified my training to stay within my maximum aerobic function heart rate for almost all of my runs, and reduced my training to allow for more rest and recovery.

In August 2017, I went to my doctor for my annual physical and full blood work. I had lost 30 pounds since I saw him last. My blood markers were excellent, too, and I did not need to continue blood pressure medication.

I continued to devote as much time as I could to learning about primal living and ancestral health, and in February 2018, I enrolled in the Primal Health Coach Institute program—earning my certification in just 6 months!

I entered into my primal journey to overcome my own health concerns, and to better understand what I need to do to improve my overall health and longevity. And all of my expectations have been exceeded!

What I’ve Done Since Getting Certified…

I have been building my health coaching business organically, while continuing on with my current career. My enthusiasm grows as I work through the processes of building and maintaining my coaching business website and blog, having an active social media presence, and working with my employer to promote health and wellness for our employees.

As I move toward my retirement years, I reflect on a time when I was excited about reducing my responsibilities and taking it easy. But now that I am “aging backwards,” I am excited about something totally different—filling those years working as a Primal Health Coach.

Since starting my Primal Health Coach journey, my intent has always been to be a resource for lifelong positive health changes for my clients, family, friends, and colleagues. I hope to inspire, encourage, and educate as many people as possible, regardless of age or perceived limitations.

I am an example that you can take charge of your health and longevity and win!

— Vern Gorman


Primal Health Coach Institute Directory listing


Have a story to share? Email me here. Thanks, everybody, and have a great week.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

6 thoughts on “The Health Scare That Changed My Life”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Nice story, I’m also approaching retirement and would like to have a lifestyle type of business and as I read yours and others’ stories, it is inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Donna,
      It’s very rewarding helping others to see there is a path that can improve or undo so many issues. I thank the Primal team for impacting so many in such a positive way.

  2. Thanks for sharing! A lot of what you said really resonates with me especially the part about knowing instinctively that something in the mainstream advice is wrong, but having nothing to back it up. I’m continually in a medical gray zone and then a few years later something I instinctively did is vindicated by new research. That little voice inside is really our friend, even if it’s at odds with what we’re told.

    The mention of martial arts triggered a memory. I had played Judo for several years, and when I moved I tried to find a new dojo. The instructor probably didn’t want a woman flipping him around through the air because he immediately, after I introduced myself demonstrated some grappling move that put his barrel chest directly on the pillows of my chest. XD

    He then lectured in that position, applying pressure for the next ten minutes. At the time it made me angry but now it’s just funny, with the passage of time. I made sure my face registered pain without wincing, I didn’t need him to make his point any more obviously. And I patiently waited and listened. Making my point that I wasn’t a wuss.

    I miss the mental game of Judo. However, he lost a good student that day. I would’ve walked through fire for my previous sensei. I never did find another dojo, the only other one I was interested in was Brazilian jujitsu but it was full of cops with scowls and I’m a person who giggles when I fight. I’ve had a lot of laughing grapples and that’s an atmosphere that’s hard to find, the playfulness atmosphere.

    I would love to see someone do a crossover wrestling / judo class. The theories and strategies are different and we had a lot of fun learning from a wrestler who joined our class. Also it’s almost impossible for women to learn wrestling in any other way. I tried, really tried. It’s only marginally less hard than joining the football team.

    1. Loved you comments Angelica. You made me laugh. Although as a former martial arts instructor I am very impacted by how you were treated. Women are amazing martial artists, either standing or on the ground and I do believe in BJJ as a practical 1 on 1 tool. My art is Kenpo, more standing but incorporating the ground. I also reffed professional MMA for 12 years.
      I hope you get back to what seems to be a calling for you. Just need the right instructor and thank you for your reply about my story. I hope it resonates with many.
      All the best

      1. Thank you, it means a lot to me. We used to watch UFC. It was in the 1990s so they still allowed people to keep fighting even after drawing blood. I was watching the women for a while too. I like things that show a person what their true limits are. I don’t really consider it “extreme” sports, but that’s what they’re called. My current interest lies in the Wim Hof direction. It really helps me. But it’s not the first time I’ve been taught to breathe like that. Kundalini Yoga teaches fire breath too.

  3. Hi Mark

    I was a vegetarian eating mostly beans, rice fruit and quinoa for decades. at a health screening at work i had a fasting blood glucose of 380 and at 6’1 174 lbs. at that weight the last thing i expected was diabetes. They did an A1c and it was 14.3 after the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes my healthcare provider recommended a low-carb simple keto diet. After three months my A1c was 6.2 without ever taking medication. The Keto diet changed my life dramatically. Thank you for your articles and advice.