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Part II: Dr. Deb Kimless
“Dr. Deb” conducted her undergraduate course work and graduated with a BS in Biology and Natural Science, Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She earned her medical degree at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and completed her residency at the Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and is Board Certified in Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. Dr. Deb obtained her Plant Based Nutrition certification from Cornell University and is a certified Nutritional Consultant through the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine and does private nutritional consultation.
Hello I am Caryn Hartglass and it is time of the second part of It’s All About Food. Today, it’s March 5, 2013, oh goodness so here we are and we are going to bring on the next guest because I really can’t wait to start this segment. Dr. Deb Kimless, Dr. Deb conducted her undergraduate course work and graduated with a B.S. in biology and natural science Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude at Muhlenberg College in Allentown Pennsylvania. She earned her medical degree at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and completed her residency at The Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and is board certified in Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. Dr. Deb obtained her Plant Based Nutrition Certification from Cornell University and is a Certified Nutrition Consultant through the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and does private nutritional consultation. So much more, what you’re going to find out about in the next half hour.
Caryn Hartglass: Welcome to It’s All About Food, Dr. Deb.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Hi Caryn, how you doing?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m good. You know I wanted to say before we got started. Sometimes you meet someone that you really connect with and that happened when I met you just a few months ago. We haven’t had really an opportunity to catch up and so I’m going to use this half hour to get to know more about you, catch up and everybody can just listen in.
Dr. Deb Kimless: It sounds great.
Caryn Hartglass: You are definitely someone who is, let’s say, hard worker, really smart and has learned how to just except what life brings along.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Thank you, your very kind.
Caryn Hartglass: So let’s get started. You worked as a medical doctor, anesthesiologist, what were you doing as a doctor?
Dr. Deb Kimless: Yeah, I was a full time practitioner in anesthesiology. I guess in all of the realms of medicine, I truly believed in better living through chemistry.
Caryn Hartglass: Laughs. That’s funny. My first job out of college was with DuPont and that was their slogan, better living through chemistry. A lot of us really signed up for that a few decades ago, really believing that is where all the magic lies and gosh we are now living the results of those ideas.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Exactly, exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: Some good, some not so good.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Very true. The chemistry part of it, you buy into it especially when you study and you work and this is what’s taught to you and you think that’s the [patisaya]. These medicines will treat and cure and prevent and do all those things.
Caryn Hartglass: I mentioned to you when we met, there’s a book that a friend of mine wrote When Doctors Become Patients. It’s something that I think is so important for doctors to understand the patient point of view. I think our medical care would be so much better.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Our sick care will be so much better.
Caryn Hartglass: Our sick care. Now that is definitely right. So you developed breast cancer.
Dr. Deb Kimless: I did, in 2005, in October, breast cancer awareness month; I had a c spine study of a breast MRI after a normal mammogram. I fit into the category of people that should get this, which is someone with extremely dense breast tissue. Sadly, what started out as a base line study, resulted in a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Not what you expected at all.
Dr. Deb Kimless: No, I was pretty much a pretty big mind blow. I thought that I would just fast track my treatment because I had a big S on my chest and I was super women and I guess the universe had other plans for me because I ended up with something called post mastectomy pain syndrome. Which truly is a misnomer, it should just be called post breast surgery pain syndrome. Where even though cancer free and a clean bill of health in that regard, I’m left with a neuropathic pain that sadly has prevented me from practicing as an anesthesiologist.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow. Now I haven’t heard of that. Is that because people don’t talk about it or how prevalent is it?
Dr. Deb Kimless: That’s the crazy thing about this pain syndrome. It’s sort of a deep dark dirty secret. As you were kind enough to annotate all of my certifications, I am boarded in Pain Medicine and knew nothing about it. So when I developed this pain syndrome, I thought I was going out of my mind. I never heard of any kind of thing. It wasn’t even on the charts till 1974 when a group of Israeli surgeons started listening to their patients and hearing that they were complaining of this pain after having breast surgery. Now, from ’74 to the 90’s they thought only about 4% of women get it. Now they think, after studies out of the Scandinavian countries, upwards of 50% of women have some degree of pain after breast surgery. When I say breast surgery, it could mean lumpectomy, it could mean mastectomy without reconstruction, it could be elective breast reduction or it can be elective breast augmentation.
Caryn Hartglass: Does anybody have an idea of what causes it?
Dr. Deb Kimless: They really don’t know for sure, but if you think about the breast and you think about the nerve connections that go into the breast. It’s a question of why we wouldn’t have thought about it. Think about it: it’s an erogenous zone, if it’s cold and you’re not wearing proper under garments people kind of know you’re chilly, if you just delivered a baby and someone else’s baby cries you let down milk. You’ve got tactile, sensory, auditory connections, nerve connections, all kinds of nerve pathways and when you cut on a breast those nerves get disrupted. So a lot of studies think of neuropathic pain which is sort of liking to phantom limb pain.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I am grateful for the medical community. I am absolutely certain that they were part of saving my life, but we still don’t know so much. Anytime a body is cut open and stuff is moved around and taken out, we never put it back the way it’s supposed to.
Dr. Deb Kimless: True.
Caryn Hartglass: We feel the results. I had three major abdominal surgeries and my intestines just are not the same. I feel them sometimes trying to get into a comfortable place because they got all shifted and moved around and the muscle has to reform and it’s harder as an adult to accommodate a ready-made body rather than a baby that is growing all of those things as it gets bigger. It’s kind of crazy. Anyway, so you endured this unfortunately and another thing I wanted to say because our medical care, our sick care, whatever you want to call it, is so economically based, I found that when I stopped going to a particular doctor who was treating me for chemotherapy, just as one example, nobody was overseeing me other than me. There wasn’t anyone to talk to about the side effects or the things I was feeling after everything was done. They don’t talk about it. You hear very little about what is going to happen after a particular treatment and the surprises can be painful.
Dr. Deb Kimless: It’s really sort of surprising isn’t it? I was lucky that my breast cancer was caught very early and so surgery was my treatment. I did not have an oncologist or a radiation oncologist or any other follow up except for a surgeon. I was sort of a woman without an island so to speak.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Dr. Deb Kimless: It was very interesting. Not until I met with other women and noted some physical behaviors like: they would put a finger and press really hard underneath their breast fold would be if they had a breast. I would call them on it; why are you doing that because I know I do it and I know why I do it, because it hurts. Did you ever talk to anyone about it? Did you ever seek any help? Oh no. It’s sort of like the forever grateful thing. They are grateful that they are alive and they are grateful that they are cancer free and they are grateful that the medical community took care of them they did and they sort of suck up the rest of it.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to talk about some of your solutions, but just one more thing and that is: people that choose elective surgery, for example if they have had breast cancer and then they decide in order to prevent subsequent cancer ovarian let’s say, they will have a total hysterectomy and vice versa. Someone who has had ovarian cancer will elect to have a double mastectomy even though there is no sign of disease and I have a really hard time with this. A lot of this genetic testing that’s going on that will show that we have an increased risk for one thing or another because there are other things that we can do to reduce our risk and probably really make a better difference. The thing that they don’t talk about is what you’re going to feel after this elective surgery. When women have a total hysterectomy it screws up their whole hormonal balance, especially if they have it before menopause. There is a lot of subsequent discomfort they’re going to feel and was it even necessary without disease present?
Dr. Deb Kimless: I think a lot of it is fear based decision making.
Caryn Hartglass: Fear based, exactly. When you were in school did they teach you to scare patients?
Caryn Hartglass and Dr. Deb Kimless: Laugh
Dr. Deb Kimless: I think that doctors go in with a full heart and really feel and truly believe in what they say. I really do. I don’t think that any doctor is out there to do a disservice or an injustice and I think especially when it comes to oncologists, I liken them to the terminator, where they want to continue regardless of what the consequence is or the collateral damage. Kill every potential cancer cell that’s out there and I think that’s sort of the mind set the very sort of aggressive kind of macho way of dealing with it. If you are on the receiving end of this information and you hear someone saying they want to destroy the thing that is making you sick and any potential therein even if it’s got a low percentage of helping you survive even further, like increase your life expectancy by 2 percent 3 percent, whatever the small percentages are, I think the patient is really scared and feels that they’re health and wellbeing is in the hands of this well-meaning physician. It’s done with best intention.
Caryn Hartglass: I have to give oncologists credit for dong what they are doing because they are exposed to a lot of bad things. To seeing all these people that are devastated to being diagnosed with a disease and some of them are curable or not curable or somewhere in the middle and they lose a significant amount of patients and it can’t be fun. So I give them a lot of credit. Now, let’s move on to the happy side of this and let’s introduce our virtual guest plant foods. (Makes a trumpet sound).Where do plant foods fit into this picture? How do they come into your life?
Dr. Deb Kimless: In sort of an odd, but not odd way. Since I was 13 years old I was always fascinated with diet and nutrition. The challenge was we didn’t have internet back in the days where dinosaurs roamed the earth and I grew up. So at that point in my life I gave up red meat and refined carbohydrates thinking those things were evil, but still thinking that white meat, poultry and fish and drinking skim or low fat milk and eating low fat dairy products was still okay because sadly I was more pitted to like the rest of the world and didn’t have any checks and balances where I could see the veracity of any of that. So as I got older here I ended up with this breast cancer thing and no family history of it and I don’t smoke and I don’t drink and I exercise and I think I’m eating a really well for the standard American and my husband ended up with a immunologic issue and my father ended up with a quadruple bypass and all these things sort of happened and I am looking going this is not right. It didn’t make sense and the tipping point for me was my mom who is a fair skinned, small framed woman was put on a bisphosphonate drug, a drug used to increase bone density not because she had osteoporosis, but as a prophylactic to prevent it. She was given that like to drink, to take routinely for the rest of her life and she was standing in an elevator several years ago and called me on her cell phone saying: I’m in trouble I think I just broke my leg standing.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh
Dr. Deb Kimless: And sure enough x-rays revealed that not only did she break one femur, which is the thigh bone, the strongest bone in our body, but she broke both of them. That just was a game changer for me. So I started doing research. I started finding out that perhaps bisphosphonate as a knee jerk response for every female in the country was not the way to go. I started questioning everything because here my mom sports two titanium rods. One down each leg because she took a medication as directed and her drug pushing chemically huge proponent, physician daughter encouraged it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Dr. Deb Kimless: So literally I started doing research. I started questioning every single thing that I knew. I came about Dr. Collin Campbell’s book The China Study and I started to read it. It was just mind blowing to me. I then found Dr. Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. The common denominator was this plant based diet. I then took the course from Cornell through Dr. Collin Campbell and it was a total game changing, life altering experience for me, my family and now I sort of cherry pick patients and I get people off their diabetes drugs. I get them off their blood pressure pills. I get them to lose tremendous amounts of weight and regain vitality that they haven’t seen in decades.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I am sorry what happened to you happened, but I am glad you are doing what you’re doing today.
Dr. Deb Kimless: You know what, I am not sorry, because life throws curve balls at all of us and I am healthy and I am here today speaking with you. I have a whole new, sort of career path, and lust for helping people, help empower themselves and recognize that these things that happen to us, these chronic medical problems really don’t have to happen. As Dr Esselstyn says: the majority of this stuff are foodborne illnesses. We get it from how we eat.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup, foodborne illnesses that’s what we have, unfortunately. Well, how depressing is it for so many doctors today who go in with an open heart and want to learn all that they can to help people get well and they go in every day and see all of these sick people, most of them are not even getting well, and they might give them a fix or a patch or a drug or something to let them hold on, but they’re not getting well and what you are doing is empowering people and they are getting well. How great does that feel?
Dr. Deb Kimless: It’s amazing. It truly is amazing because the truth of the matter is when you get nothing out of throwing pills at people. When you throw pills at people and here, this is a pill for your blood pressure and this is a pill for this. There was always a part in me that said none of it made sense.
Caryn Hartglass: How long were you practicing medicine; before the epiphany?
Dr. Deb Kimless: I was diagnosed in 2005 so I was practicing 19 years before I stopped.
Caryn Hartglass: I am sure you have a lot of colleagues that you have met during all that time. What do they think about what you are doing today?
Dr. Deb Kimless: Sadly the majority think I’m out of my mind.
Caryn Hartglass: Don’t they see what you have gone through?
Dr. Deb Kimless: It really is sort of sad and several of them, who are really smart people, have these chronic illnesses and chalk it up to genetics.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup
Dr. Deb Kimless: and feel like there is nothing else they can do because their genetics dictates the disease they are going to have and I keep telling them genetics is a loaded gun, but our diet pulls the trigger. You don’t have to sort of give in to what you think you’re going to suffer with. There is a great example. There is a physician in Boston, a young woman in her 30’s who was on 3 different blood pressure pills, she knew she was always going to be hypertensive because everyone in her family was hypertensive. She got a hold of the China Study, read about it, followed it and is off all of her medicine.
Caryn Hartglass: Just like that.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Right. It was amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: It must be anecdotal.
Dr. Deb Kimless: It’s not anecdotal because its evidence based science that shows this stuff. That’s the goofy thing about this, is that there is more evidence based research on the chronic diseases going away with plant based diet vs. Lipitor or any of the other cholesterol busting medications helping to prevent heart disease.
Caryn Hartglass: There is so much information that shows how the power of plants is so much more effective than any of the drugs on the market and of course I was sarcastic when I said it was anecdotal, but that is the response you hear all the time from doctors.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Absolutely. It’s crazy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, so anyway, unfortunately you have experienced a great deal of pain from your surgery and you came up with some products to help women that have been through breast surgery. Can we talk about Red Thread?
Dr. Deb Kimless: Oh, I would love to.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s go.
Dr. Deb Kimless: Yeah, Red Thread is another passion of mine; after being frustrated with my pain and frustrated that I didn’t want to take a boat load of pills to mask the pain. I needed to search out a way that I could: A. help reduce the pain that I was feeling and also I didn’t like the way I looked after my breast cancer surgery because even though you get implants or reconstruction or whatever it is you don’t look normal. So you don’t look pre-surgical. So I designed clothing and then breast enhancers to : A, help with pain and b, help me look better. So it helps with pain because I sought out super soft stretchy/ compressible material that goes around the chest that compresses. So if you think about different pain relieving mechanisms. If you stub your toe the first thing you do is curse, the second thing you do is you grab your toe and you squeeze it and that is a real live pain relieving mechanism. Compression helps with pain and not the kind of compression that smooths out bumps and lumps because that’s a little bit too much. This is just some compression that goes around the chest that really helps reduce the amount of pain and it doesn’t feel like your clothes are banging on your chest. Then I developed a easy access, a patent pending, easy access pocket that goes on the inside that’s built into the shirt that if you have a prosthetic you can use it or if you don’t like the way look even after reconstruction, I created something I call Breast Shapers, which is literally like the shape wear for the breast that just gives you your missing apex and shape and form that you lose after surgery.
Caryn Hartglass: Very nice and I am sure you’ve helped a lot of women feel better as a result.
Dr. Deb Kimless: I think part of healing is emotional as well as physical.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolute certain about that. No doubt about that at all.
Dr. Deb Kimless: If you are not feeling good about how you look and your clothes don’t fit right and you don’t like your silhouette and clothes don’t feel right the healing process is going to be adversely effected.
Caryn Hartglass: Deb, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. We are at the end and I haven’t had enough time with you so we are going to have to pick up this conversation another time. Thanks for joining me Dr. Deb Kimless, founder of Red Thread. What’s your website?
Dr. Deb Kimless: www.redthreadbydrdeb.com
Caryn Hartglass: www.redthreadbydrdeb.com very good. I am Caryn Hartglass and please visit www.responsibleeatingandliving.com that’s my website and we will be back next week with more about food because it is all about food. Have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Mary Schings 3/19/2013