“I decided it was time to make a change”

Kent Gardiner

By: Kent Gardiner

In 1974 I proposed to my wife, and we went to pick out a ring. She had her heart set on one with six small diamonds around a central diamond. She would always tell people that the six diamonds represented the children she wanted and that I was her center diamond.

While Suzanne was pregnant with our sixth child, she discovered a lump in her breast. We were not too concerned because we didn’t think she had any of the risk factors for cancer, but after the biopsy, we learned she had 13 cancerous lymph nodes. We went to UCLA to find out how she got cancer and what we should do.

When we asked Suzanne’s oncologist, Dr. Glasby, how she got cancer, he told us it was too many pizzas, meaning too much fat. I thought a lot about his statement and later when we sat down to our usual pork chop meal, I looked at her and said, “It seems to me that we are eating the same foods that got us into this mess; let’s change.” That was all well and good, but change to what? Neither of us had a clue.

Suzanne had a bone marrow transplant at UCLA and bravely fought the cancer. After the normal cancer therapy she became aware of the Gerson diet. We invited an expert on the diet into our home, and she helped us prepare some meals and taught us how to juice carrots and green drinks. The diet was so intense Suzanne’s eyes turned orange. Unfortunately by that time the disease had progressed too far, and in September of 1994 she died.

A month after Suzanne’s death, a set of tapes came in the mail from Dr. John McDougall. I’m sure Suzanne had ordered them. I listened to the tapes and began learning about healthy eating practices. On the tapes Dr. McDougall said when he began his practice in Hawaii, he noticed the people in the cities who ate the typical American diet got diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, while the native Hawaiians living in the country, eating starches and vegetables and walking, were living to a ripe old age, and even beginning families in their sixties! This same healthy diet is found in the African tribes who mainly eat sweet potatoes and vegetables, Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who eat beans and vegetables, and rural Chinese who eat rice and veggies.

After listening to the tapes I decided it was time to make a change. I began by making vegetable soups, stir fries, and salads. My children and I enjoyed smoothies, green drinks, and veggie-burgers. At first we got rid of the meat and later decided milk and cheese had to go. Over time my taste changed. Now I enjoy the taste of whole wheat bread and a hearty bowl of beans and rice.

For the most part my children went along with the new program. One of my children put it best when she said, “Dad, it seems like all we eat are side dishes.” Today my oldest son says, “Eat the American diet, die the American death.”

I am a bona fide vegan. I abstain from all forms of animal products and try to eat as many vegetables as I can each day. My day starts with a piping hot bowl of oatmeal with fruit or raisins. The rest of the day I consume vegetables in the form of salads, soups, stir fry, or just raw veggies.

In truth, vegetables, oatmeal, exercise, thinking good thoughts, and proper weight control are at the core of health and happiness for me. I know that change is possible. The Word of Wisdom, if followed, will extend our lives or make what we have left more productive. I wish someone had taught me how to eat plant-based years ago, because I see so many around me with cancer, diabetes, and heart disease as a result of eating animal products and processed foods. I am now sixty-eight years old and am active and happy. I feel great and have lots of energy. Please pass the veggies.

Kent Gardiner is 68 years old and lives in Eagle Mountain with his wife. He retired from the UCLA Lab School as a demonstration teacher. His hobbies include Märklin model trains, family history, and grandchildren. 



  1. This is a bittersweet story. I’m happy that you found the proper way to eat, but the cost was so very high. How touching that your wife taught you and your children to eat better so you wouldn’t have to die the American death like she did. Eating from the plant kingdom makes me happy, too.

  2. What a sad, beautiful story. I second justme’s sentiments– so happy you found the proper way to eat but the cost was so very high. Your children’s comments make me chuckle!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story Kent. Very touching and I very much like your son’s tag line! Our 16 year old daughter’s is ‘My body is not a graveyard’ … anyway really enjoyed the story and wish you and your family the best of health and happiness for the future.

  4. Kent, you really show lots of determination in your eating the way the Lord and very many very smart physicians strongly advise we eat which is the way you are now eating. I’m so grateful that my daughter, Jane, one Sunday afternoon just a few months before I turned eighty (I’ll turn eighty three next February.) spent several hours teaching me at my house how to eat in the Word of Wisdom way of eating. That really changed my life and could also say it is extending my life and I expect to live past one hundred years of age. Perhaps you and others who eat like we do will be around when the Lord returns to usher in His Millennial reign!

    My very regular and very energetic exercise also helps me greatly!

    I particularly enjoyed the following which you shared with us: “Today my oldest son says, “Eat the American diet, die the American death.” That’s such a great quote!

    Thanks for being the very good example to each of us who also are eating in accordance with the Lord’s “Word of Wisdom” and like you, we are being blessed with a much longer and happier life than we otherwise would not be able to look forward to! The Lord Bless you! Neil Birch

  5. Kent … thank you for sharing your story. Hopefully, others will be able to avoid the all to predictable consequences of the SMD (Standard Mormon Diet) 🙁

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