At age 18, she headed off for the University of New Hampshire, aiming for a career in diabetes-related research. There, however, away from family support and struggling with the pressures and distractions of college life, Mandy found her self-discipline slipping. By her senior year at UNH, Mandy's health was declining and she was gaining weight.
Then, when she was home on winter break, first her feet began to ache and then acute nerve pain "traveled through my whole body, even my scalp." She couldn't shower, couldn't ride in a car because of the pressure of the seat belt. Unable to lie down, she slept only in quick catnaps leaning against the wall. Painkillers didn't work; even intravenously administered anesthetics didn't help.
Before the Rice Diet, Mandy had a bloog sugar of 180 and blood pressure of 109/67.
She left school and became more or less bedridden at home, except for endless rounds of appointments, rheumatologists, neurologists, pain clinics, even acupuncturists and occasional hospitalization for observation as doctors tried narcotic after narcotic.
Confined to home, unable to work or to complete college, sleep-deprived and in constant pain, Mandy was at her lowest ebb. Asked if she had ever thought of suicide, however, Mandy shoots back, "No. Never! Never once! Ever!"
Slowly, as months passed, things began to improve. Mandy began to think about returning to college. At the DMV to renew her expired license, she was shocked to fail the eye exam. When a follow-up eye exam found hemorrhaging in both eyes, she was rushed back to the hospital for surgery, followed by a week of laser treatments. When the treatments didn't work she received an emergency vitrectomy, "the most bizarre thing that's ever happened to me," she exclaims. "You have to be wide awake the whole time, and you know that if you move, or if they make a slip, you go blind." After ten such surgeries, "It worked, and I see. I have glaucoma in both eyes as a side effect of the surgeries. I can't drive, and I have a really, really hard time reading."
But plucky Mandy still determined to resume her studies.
"I don't see that well, but they have things that they can do for people. Blind people go to school, and I'm not blind. It takes me a long time, but I can read."
Meanwhile, after reading about the Rice House in Prevention Magazine, Mandy's parents gave her a month on the Rice Diet Program as a Christmas gift. Overjoyed, Mandy called the clinic to make arrangements, and on February 1 she flew to Durham. After her orientation, she talked with Dr. Rosati.
"The first thing he asked me was, 'Why did you come here?' I said, 'Well, I'm diabetic and I know I'm overweight, and I've had this, that, and the other, and I'm on these medications.' And he said, 'But do you know why you're really here?'" Here Mandy points at her heart and smiles. "He said, 'You need to heal what's in here.' And I thought, 'This place is for me!' I'd never sat down with a medical doctor and talked about family, and trust. And from the get-go, that's how it was with him. I knew something was different from that very first day."
On the Rice Diet program, Mandy began to see changes in less than a week. On the first day, she was taken off one of her blood pressure medications. By the end of the second week, she was off the second one. The doctors reduced her insulin dose in the first two days. Moreover, they predicted that the diet might reduce the pressure in her eyes enough so that in time she could discontinue her glaucoma medication. Mandy was thrilled by what was happening to her, and her determined pursuit of good health a goal that had sometimes seemed hopelessly elusive was strengthening daily. With the help of Dr. Rosati and Dr. Neelon, she was able to extend her one-month visit to four months.
"I never thought I could do so much by just sticking to this very simple diet. When I came here I thought, 'How am I going to eat this and not want to eat everything in sight when I go home?' But I've never been hungry on it. It's been the easiest thing. It's filling and boring."
In April, Mandy went home for a few days to attend her sister's wedding shower. "The first thing every single person said was, 'You look really good. You're a different human from when you left.' Even people I just talked to on the phone said, 'Mandy, you sound happier.'
"Up until now, I've felt like I've never had closure on anything, on any part of my life. You know what I mean? I never finished school, I never finished taking care of my diabetes, I never finished losing weight. Now things are kind of coming full circle. It feels awesome."
And her success was awesome. Mandy's blood sugar on the Rice Diet fell rapidly from 180 at entry to 106 by her departure, its lowest level since her diagnosis 20 years before. Her BMI fell to 29.1 (and continued to drop after she returned home). Her blood pressure, 109/67 at entry, fell to a weekly average of 90/57. Mandy returned to her college studies in September, majoring in health education with a goal of becoming a certified diabetes educator. To the surprise of no one who knows her, she made the Dean's List.
"I know I'll keep to this program. This is my life now. If I ever need their help I know I can call the Rice doctors. It's been a long road, but I think it all happened for a reason.