Where Are They Now?

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. This week we’ll be catching up with a couple of our old friends to see how they’ve been doing on their Primal journeys.

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 Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Hi Mark,

This is Marie Bencivenga. Around two years ago you featured my husband, Nick, and me as Friday Primal Success Stories. I thought you might like an update. We have been Primal the entire time since you published our success stories, and continue to love the lifestyle. I’m writing to you now, because one year ago today I suffered a terrible accident. That accident taught me a lesson that I did not expect, and now feel like I need to share with the masses. Many people discuss how the Primal lifestyle has healed them of diseases and internal problems. I learned how being Primal healed my body when it was seriously wounded.

{Warning: Some of the images below are graphic and not for the faint of heart.}

It was a Sunday night and we had an old friend for dinner. I had pots and pans going on every burner, and I unfortunately made the mistake of placing my pot of boiled potatoes on the front burner. The potatoes had been boiling for a few minutes when I went to stab a fork in one to see if it was soft. I did not notice the pot was off center, and when I pushed down, the back of the pot flipped up, dousing my entire front with boiling water. While I immediately stripped off my clothes, it was too late. I had second and third degree boil burns on 5% of my body – the entire right half of my stomach, starting an inch or two above the belly button, all the way down to my panty line, and then also my right thigh. I’ve attached photos with descriptions – please note they are graphic.

My skin bubbled up instantly. Within 36 hours the blisters were over 1 1/2″ – 2″ high off my body. I was terrified at what was happening to my body but the thing I can never describe properly was the amount of pain I was in. Searing, constant, blinding, mind-numbing pain. I could not bend. I could not engage my abdominal muscles at all. I could not sit or walk. I was not strong enough to lift a glass full of water on my own. At that point I was admitted to the burn center at St. Francis Hospital in SF. My doctor came to the conclusion that the risk of infection was too high and that the blisters would burst on their own. They needed to scrape and clean the wounds. They did this without me using painkillers – I cannot tolerate strong medications as they make me nauseous and I hallucinate. Eventually, they found a low dose of Vicodin that I could handle without nauseousness, but I still hallucinated. I limited the use of those pain killers as much as I was able. I was wrapped in silver impregnated bandages to ward off infection, and while a hospital bed was offered to me, I chose to return home.

I was told I was lucky. That with a burn, feeling pain is a good sign – it means that the nerve endings are exposed instead of damaged. I did sustain some nerve damage on my right thigh. I was told that I can now experience a bullet wound and childbirth without fear since “this pain was worse”. I was also told to expect my body to never be the same. That I would be permanently scarred, and that while they would do what they could for scar management, that I should expect a long recovery and to carry these scars with me my whole life.

Coming home from the hospital all I could think about was my pain and my food. Sweet potatoes. Fatty fish and shrimp. I craved dark leafy greens. I wanted nothing to do with sugar or fruits. I wanted tea and cinnamon. Dairy was a daily part of my life but once I was hurt I didn’t want it very much at all. I took psyllium husk and probiotics to combat the negative side effects of the pain killer. My husband and mother provided me with the necessary 24 hour care the first two weeks of my injuries and they helped me maintain 100% Primal.

Every 3-5 days I would return to the burn center to have my wounds cleaned and redressed. Every time the doctor examined me, he was amazed at how quickly I was healing. Even with his encouragement, it took 6 weeks of laying flat on my back before my wounds were healed enough for me to re-engage my life at an extremely reduced capacity. Six months of recovery with little to no exercise followed. I could walk – slowly. I had been indoor rock climbing, biking, and hiking frequently before the accident. Despite the lack of movement and exercise I did not gain a pound during my recovery. I lost a bit of muscle definition but it quickly returned once the go ahead to exercise again was given to me by my doctors.

My doctor provided me with excellent care and thanks to his generosity I underwent a few laser procedures to minimize the scarring. I wore a compression outfit under my clothes for months to keep it from raising or twisting. My leg especially was forming bad scars – purple, splotchy, twisted scars. I maintained my Primal eating habits, kept the scars from any sun exposure, and continued treating my body to the best foods available. Once the wounds were healed fully I would rub coconut oil on the scars. My doctor again and again accredited my good dietary habits to my healing. He showed me pictures of others who had similar damage – my wounds and then scars were more advanced in the healing process.

One year later I am back to normal. The scars on my stomach are minimal – you can’t tell they are there unless you are scrutinizing my skin. At a normal distance they are unnoticeable. My scars on my leg have also lightened up considerably and while you can still see that something is there, you’d have no idea the extent of the wound that the scars originated from. I believe that as I age they will continue to diminish, possibly completely. This goes against what I was told to expect.

I fully believe being Primal before, during, and after this ordeal meant all the difference to my healing process. I was not the only one convinced either. My mother had listened to me exalt the Primal lifestyle for over a year without being convinced, but witnessing my recovery and hearing my doctor’s comments opened her mind. She has been Primal since last August and has lost 50 pounds successfully, as well as bouncing back quickly from a serious surgery of her own.

I tell everyone who’ll listen about my experience and beliefs that Primal is the way for me. I’ve maintained my weight at 120 lbs (down from 160) for over two years despite this accident and the 7 1/2 months of no exercise that went along with it. I never feel like I am missing anything in my diet and I love making all my family members and friends Primal meals and treats – and they all love eating my healthy, grain-free alternatives to traditional SAD recipes. I am so grateful to you, Mark, and all the other amazing sources of knowledge that I’ve used to make Primal work for me. I now know without any doubt that this lifestyle is in my best interest on so many fronts – I’ll be a Grokette for life.

Photos of Marie

Nick and me in 2009, before going Primal. I was 160 lbs.

Nick and Marie

Nick and Marie

Nick and me in July 2012, one week before my accident. We had been Primal since March of 2011. I was 120 lbs.

Nick and Marie - Primal

My burn blisters within 36 hours of initial contact with the boiling water.

36 Hours After Burn

Two days after they scraped the blisters off and cleaned my wounds. The grayish-brown is dead tissue.

Two days after scraped blisters

The silver bandages tarnished my skin. This is one week after I was burned. It was the first time I saw myself bleeding from my injuries.

One week after burn

Two weeks after the incident I had substantial scabbing form. I would have to clean and peel off dead skin and scabs during my hospital sessions. Only I could tell by feel what was ready to be removed. They wanted as much scab removed as possible to keep the new skin flat and un-rippled.

Two weeks after burn

Three weeks after the burn, new skin was forming. It was very thin and would split often.

Three weeks after burn

One month after the burn. Much of my new skin was raw and would bleed regularly, especially on my leg where I sustained my most severe injuries.

One month after burn

Six weeks after my burn. My stomach wounds had closed but my leg wounds would still spilt open and bleed.

Six weeks after burn

My scars today are minimal, almost invisible on my stomach.

Minimal scars

Minimal scars

How I look these days (with clothes on!). I am still 120 lbs.

Healed Marie!

Nick and Marie - Primal

Marie Bencivenga



You featured me back in January 2011 on your blog and I wanted to send you an update to my progress. Here is the original blog you posted:

By Switching to Primal You Can Save on Your…

Randy - Before Primal

Since then I have continued to make improvements and at age 50 I have never felt better. After reading quite a bit about CrossFit type workouts on your site I joined a local CrossFit gym, CrossFit Draper (Draper, UT) in August 2012. I have enjoyed the challenges of the CrossFit workouts as well as the camaraderie experienced in that setting. It is like having a workout team and a personal trainer all rolled into one.

I have continued enjoying my long, slow hikes in the mountains about twice a week for 3 to 5 miles per outing. My favorite hike is still the steep 4.5 mile round trip to the lower falls in Bells Canyon in Sandy, UT – a 1600 foot elevation gain climb that I am doing (round trip) in about 75 minutes now (well, it seems slow…).

I continue to eat Primal with above ground veggies and grassfed/range free meats as my base and enjoy “sweets” like dark chocolate, berries and kombucha when I get a craving for something sweet.

At 50, I took on a few new challenges this year to help me continue to feel motivated. I ran the 33k Moab Red Hot in February and this past weekend (June 29th) I participated in the Utah Spartan Beast finishing the 12+ mile course in just over 3 hours (3:04) putting me 11th in the 50 to 55 year old men. I honestly joined just hoping to finish…

This past year my wife, Marilyn, has come on board 100% Primal with me which has made things great for the two of us. She is my workout partner, my hiking buddy, and my true soulmate.

Not sure what else I can add here but my sincere gratitude Mark. Your website, emails, recipes, blogs, and inspirational stories have been the foundation I have built upon during this lifestyle transformation. Thank you for all you do for me and my wife. We truly thank you, Mark.

Friends and family that haven’t seen me in a long time ask me what diet I’m doing. My simple answer is that I don’t diet…diets don’t work. I explain that you have to change who you are and now I AM PRIMAL.

All the best my primal brother!

Randy - Still Primal

Randy Oveson

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