In November 1985, at the age of thirty-two, my life in Huntsville, Texas came to a sudden halt. I was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma cancer on my lower right back. I went through the usual medical treatment of surgical removal followed by regular checkups. I was told not to worry—it’s easy for someone else to say don’t worry. Well, I began planning the end of my life, knowing Stage IV cancer is almost always fatal. I became a person living in fear.
Six months later my doctor found lumps in my groin area and recommended surgery to find out what the lumps were. I went ahead with the surgery, and the next day, I found out that the cancer had spread into my lymph system. The doctor removed all the major lymph nodes in the area and told me I needed eighty treatments of chemotherapy. I would have to stay in the hospital five days for each five treatments every two months. I was also told I might need more surgery from time to time, followed by radiation treatments.
Basically, I was not given much hope—only a 20 percent chance of survival with the treatments, and no hope without them. I began to think that I was surely a goner. But, I knew inside myself that there had to be a better way.
Then, all of a sudden, two days after surgery, my life changed when an old college friend came to the hospital to visit me. He brought me a magazine article on the story of a man who recovered from cancer through the use of the macrobiotic diet. The man’s name was Dirk Benedict, a well known actor who appeared in The A-Team & Battlestar Galactica.
I had never heard of macrobiotics. Growing up in Texas and living in a small town, you don’t hear of such things. When you get sick, you just go to the doctor. You don’t understand the importance of guiding yourself back to health and happiness.
After reading the article, something instantly changed inside of me. I would never be the same person again. I knew I had found a new hope for life, something I was drastically in need of. I decided then that macrobiotics would be my tool for recovery, and found two books, Recalled By Life by Anthony Sattilaro, MD, and Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy by Dirk Benedict.
After three weeks in the hospital, I had my work cut out for me. I could barely get around; much less do all the things I would have to begin doing to get well.
Because of my serious condition, I had to jump right in to the macrobiotic diet. I would get up in the morning by 4:30, so I could ﬁx my breakfast and do my stretching exercises, then go to work for about ten hours a day. I would force myself to walk after work for at least two miles. I would then go home and cook, chewing my food at least 100 times a mouthful. I wanted to do everything right. I would go to bed usually around 11:00 P.M. which would give me three hours after eating before bedtime. On top of all this I would have to spend four hours a day for special treatments I needed to help me get over the surgery. This took about ﬁve months.
After a few weeks on the macrobiotic diet, I started feeling the positive effects. My energy started going up and up. I soon started running and bicycling. Three months after surgery I managed to run over ten miles on some days. I wanted to beat the cancer and would do whatever it took to do so. For the ﬁrst four months I learned everything about macrobiotics from books I read. I developed the attitude that if macrobiotics did not work for me, it would not work for anyone. I became very strong from my cooking and my new way of life. I would cut no corners.
After about ﬁve months of my new life I decided to go to Becket, Massachusetts, to attend a Macrobiotic Residential Seminar sponsored by the Kushi Institute. This was one of the greatest weeks of my life. Following my visit, I decided to leave Texas and move to Becket to work and live.
A year later, there were no signs of the cancer. I continued to center my life around my health. In addition to the macrobiotic lifestyle, I also began taking more and more supplements to support and heal my system—especially vitamin C and antioxidants.
Four years after being diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, and receiving a negative prognosis for recovery, I felt stronger and better than I ever had in my life. I also began mentoring people who were dealing with similar health issues and interested in taking a natural approach.
At that point, I knew I had been given a second chance at life and decided to dedicate myself to helping others achieve their health goals. In 1992, I started Uni Key Health Systems—which stands for ‘Universal Key to Health’—in the laundry room of my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My goal then was to provide customers with the best quality vitamins and supplements I could find. Over time, the business grew and I was able to begin creating our own products and supplements. After almost 10 years in Bozeman, Montana, we relocated to Hayden in 2001 and have never looked back.
Our goal at UNI KEY is to create the finest products on the market to target the underlying causes of the most prevalent 21st century health challenges. In addition to our already stringent quality controls, most recently we have committed ourselves to ensuring that our products will always be free of genetically modified ingredients.
My passion for empowering others to take control of their health is shared by the entire UNI KEY team—we practice what we preach by living by our founding principles. I myself take almost each and every one of our products before offering them to the public.
Twenty-eight years after my diagnosis, I am stronger than ever as a result of my commitment to a healthy lifestyle. While I no longer follow the stringent macrobiotic diet, I do make time each day to focus on diet and exercise, never taking my health for granted. My motto’s always been—enjoy life, but always keep one foot on the path.
Written by James Templeton | Photos courtesy of Uni Key