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Healthy Reads

Find out how the personal struggles of three Orange County men resulted in enlightening wellness books.

Jay D. Allen survived a life-threatening brain tumor to become an author and “human in training.”
Eugene Garcia/The Orange County Register

It's difficult to deny: Americans are unhealthy. True, many of us shop at Trader Joe's, Mother's and our local farmer's markets. But many of us also eat our regular share of fast food, have too much sugar in our diets and eat too much red meat. Yet, we haven't given up on ourselves. Many of us often look for new ideas on how to have healthier, happier lives. Three Orange County authors unravel the secrets to truly healthy living in their recent books, with insights gained through very personal struggles against medical odds.

HUMANS IN TRAINING

Photo By Eugene Garcia/The Orange County Register

Jay D. Allen survived a life-threatening brain tumor to become an author and “human in training.”

Many people who have a close brush with death come back from it with a new perspective on life.

Jay D. Allen came back with the idea that humans are in training.

When I met Allen for an interview at his home in Dana Point, I immediately felt his vitality as a colleague in the game of life. We chatted about life, his incredible self-discovery and what it all meant. Allen is definitely one to speak on living. He's done a lot of it considering the urgency he felt upon being diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 18.

"I always say if you have a procrastination problem, get a brain tumor," he jokes. The reality that his time might be limited did indeed catapult him into a journey of incredible self-discovery.

His first symptom came when he collapsed and fell into a three-day coma that doctors didn't anticipate him coming out of. When he did, they gave him his ultimatum: 15 months to live or life with severe brain damage. Though he thanks his doctors for the free-ride ticket to do whatever he wanted, he never believed them. Twenty years later and without brain trauma, Allen is a student and teacher of life.

Far from being an OC native, he was born and raised in Montreal, Canada where he lived and breathed the game of hockey. He was teaching the sport at a young age and had a bright future when the tumor changed his life forever.

After his diagnosis, he sought the answers to his life's purpose by traveling around the world and experiencing foreign cultures. He skydived from a plane and even walked on fire-scorched coals. But he still had no answers. He recalls the revolutionary moment when he realized the answer he was seeking: Everything he needed he already had. At that moment Allen became a "human in training."

Enthusiastic and eager, he read books on holistic approaches to health and worked on a way to share his discovery with others. He began his Humans In Training or HIT training courses to teach people how to take control of their lives and wrote a "life manual" to help others discover their inner power.

"It's not just a pretty philosophy," Allen says. "I want to help people get out of their own way."

His first of a three-book series, called Humans In Training, is a step-by-step resource for understanding the realms of humanity. It's a combination of Allen's wisdom and teachings on whole-being conditioning, life skill tools and practice exercises.

"You don't learn this stuff in school," he says.

For more information on Humans In Training Inc. or to purchase the first of Allen's three books, visit humansintraining.com

THE OPTIMAL LIFE

As a gymnast, he could no doubt handle pain.

But when Dr. Stephen Bizal told me he had refused surgery on his torn Achilles tendons, I couldn't help but cringe.

But he did. He refused the conventional Western medical techniques most of us would demand. It was because he knew something most of us don't: He knew the body was the ultimate self-healer. He didn't need anything more than to listen to his body so it could heal itself. Though it took a little longer than it might have with surgery, Bizal healed and hasn't experienced a problem related to the injury since.

In his recent book, The Optimal Life, Empowering Health, Healing and Longevity, Bizal gives readers the tools he learned through his own experiences to live a healthier, happier life.

Bizal's journey of self-discovery began when at 15 years old he fractured his pelvis during a gymnastics routine. Doctors told him that his future as a gymnast was over and that by age 40, he'd either need a wheelchair to get around or have severe arthritis. He didn't believe a word of it. He continued a long and successful career as a gymnast and later as a doctor and counselor. Bizal had learned to live life from a different paradigm: one that embodied recognition of the holistic being of humanity and an understanding of the universe we occupy and its role in our health.

People don't realize they have the power to heal themselves, he explains. Bizal's wholistic (he spells it with a "w" in order to fully grasp the concept of whole-body healing) approach to living requires people to deepen their understanding of all realms of being human - such as the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels - to ultimately experience "optimal life."

As I dove into Bizal's book, I found myself wanting to jump up and shout, "Why haven't I realized this before?" This book is an owner's manual to improving your quality of life and all I need to do to improve mine is: "Be willing to change," he says. Full of real-life situations and tools to handle them, The Optimal Life is enlightening and empowering.

For more information or to purchase Bizal's book, visit drbizal.com

SURVIVING CANCER

Michael L. Krychman would never be the same after the most ironic moment of his life unfolded in a hospital hallway.

On his way to give a lecture on cancer survivorship, the 36-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist was approached by his surgeon with biopsy tests positive for cancer.

A rare sarcoma stopped Krychman dead in his tracks and left him instantly overwhelmed, confused and scared. He didn't know where to turn. Krychman understood at that moment that if he felt helpless in the face of cancer, how must his patients feel? He began to realize that what patients of chronic disease needed was wellness, not just disease prevention.

He went through the phases of cancer numbly, remembering the first "echo phase," where he heard the life-changing diagnosis and fought the images of death that overwhelmed his mind. Over the next several months, he underwent surgery twice and relied heavily on the support of his family. Then the good news came: He was deemed a "survivor."

But Krychman still felt lost and wished he had a resource for survivorship. Through his own search for guidance to life with cancer, he realized a beginner's guide was a necessary tool for anyone dealing with the disease. As a result of this and his medical specialty as an OB-GYN, he wrote 100 Questions and Answers for Women Living with Cancer: A Practical Guide for Survivorship, among several other books for women dealing with chronic disease. His book embodies an East-meets-West concept of survivorship, including conventional medical treatments in a broader holistic wellness approach to life with cancer.

"The book is written to empower women to be proactive," he says, and the straightforward question-and-answer format allows readers to quickly identify their own concerns within its pages.

Today Krychman is the medical director of Sexual Medicine at Hoag Hospital. Born in Montreal Canada, he has worked as an OB-GYN from New York City to UCLA to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and is affiliated with many other cancer centers. He is also executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, teaches at UCLA and UCI, and is a sexual health counselor.

For more information, visit Krychman's Web site at thesexualhealthcenter.com; find his book at amazon.com


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