Mary Beth Laxson is the charming, vibrant owner of Juicy’s Wellness Café here in Downtown McMinnville. She’s 51, but you’d never know it to look at her. She carries herself with the grace and poise of a person who knows how to count her blessings… and is grateful for every. single. one. She’s also tougher than most people you know. Trust me on this one. Inside of her beats the heart of a honey badger and if you’ll give me just a few minutes of your day, I’d love to tell you why.
I’ve pondered for a while now exactly how to structure this interview… It’s not my usual back and forth Q&A… I sat for over an hour, slack jawed, and listened to Mary Beth recount the last several years of her life. She’s very much a believer (as am I) that sharing one’s life experiences can be life changing for someone else. At the very least, it’s amazing… humbling… empowering… and I hope I can do her story the justice it deserves. Don’t touch that dial, you won’t want to miss this!
Brook: Tell me about your life… before Juicy’s, what did you do?
Mary Beth: Well, I grew up here in McMinnville on a farm. Like a lot of people who grew up in a small town, I couldn’t wait to leave! So I moved to New York City and then Dallas working as a traveling nurse. I moved back years later and worked for several different doctors in Home Health and OB/GYN. I am married to the love of my life and have three sons and seven grandbabies who are the best grandbabies in the world! I’m also a Vegan, which means I eat no meat, eggs, or dairy products. I was first introduced to plant based foods years ago by my daughter-in-law Kristen and sister-in-law Tracy. I always made fun of Vegans before, but Kristin and Tracy always had so much energy! Kristin told me after my first diagnosis that if I didn’t change my diet I would die.
Brook: What kind of diagnosis? If you don’t mind sharing that kind of personal information, of course.
Mary Beth: I don’t mind at all! I’m happy to share my story with anyone… everyone! If the things I’ve been through can help even one person, then it’s worth it.
[And so, ladies and gentlemen, here it goes…]
Round 1: Mary Beth 1 – Cancer 0
In 2000 I was diagnosed with throat cancer. I had been having trouble swallowing and would get choked even when I was just drinking water. After seeing several Doctors, all of whom said nothing was wrong, I had a friend who worked for a radiologist and they did an ultrasound. That’s when they found the tumor on my thyroid. I had surgery to remove my thyroid, but due to a medical error other glands were accidentally removed. I was home for a week after surgery when I had a heart attack. Turns out those glands help the body absorb potassium and calcium and removing them had caused my calcium levels to bottom out. I was in and out of the hospital for two years with chemo and radiation and having to have calcium through an I.V. I’ve learned to deal with it, but when it gets too low my speech will slur as though I’ve has a stroke or something. I take a supplement now (instead of the I.V.’s) because my veins are so scarred from it that the nurses can hardly stick me anymore.
Round 2: Mary Beth 2 – Cancer 0
In 2006, after finally getting back to semi-normal, I was laying in a tanning bed preparing for a trip to Florida and found a lump in my breast that turned out to be cancer. Funny thing was I’d just had a mammogram 6 months prior that was completely normal. I ended up having a double mastectomy (both breasts were removed) and another year of chemo. That’s where the picture is from. My family called it my death picture. We weren’t sure I was going to pull through.
Round 3: Mary Beth 3 – Cancer 0
In 2007 I had quit my full time job and was doing Home Health. I had just finished chemo and a scan at Erlanger... I was just waiting on a phone call from my doctor to schedule a time to remove the chemo port. I was in the driveway of a patients home when I got a call from the doctor telling me that they couldn’t remove the port… because the scan showed three tumors in my left lung.
I had been fighting cancer on and off for 8 years. Radiation. Chemotherapy. Surgery. I was so tired. Just really worn out. When I got that news I just decided I didn’t want to fight anymore. I wanted to die. I prayed to God asking Him to please let my family understand. Not to push me to do treatment. To let me enjoy however much time I had left with them.
I headed into the patients house. Her name was Ms. Hunter and she had fallen and broken her shoulder. She was in her 80’s, but she looked 50. I actually made her verify her social security number because I didn’t believe it was her! Anyway, I asked her what her secret was and she hands me a DVD in a cardboard sleeve. I thought it was Mary Kay, so all the way home I was all excited thinking I was going to sell Mary Kay and look just like that lady! I cried all the way home too because I knew in my heart that I was never going to do chemo again. I remember feeling very hot – but a good hot – I knew it was God telling me that he had bigger plans for me. I watched the DVD and it was all about plant based foods and I thought “Oh my gosh! This is what Kristin and Tracy have been trying to tell me about!” The DVD made it seem possible.
I told my doctors that I was going to try a plant based diet for 6 months and see what happened. Six months later the tumors has shrunk by half and within a year, completely gone. With NO traditional cancer treatments. Although I never let them biopsy my lung, so it’s possible the tumors weren’t cancerous.
Brook: So you’re completely Vegan?
Mary Beth: I am. I found out through research that the reason you cut meat from your diet when you have cancer is because meat is protein and cancer is also protein. You’re feeding the cancer when you eat meat. Chicken… beef… pork… I loved it all! I grew up on a farm! But now I’m always on alert and I never eat it on purpose… except Milk Duds… I am human! I eat them once every three months or so, but I pay for it BIG TIME (with an upset tummy) because my body is no longer used to it. I get sick every time.
Brook: You’ve also made McMinnville famous!
Mary Beth: (laughing) I watched the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (check out the trailer!!) years ago and wrote to the producers to thank them for the impact that it had had on my life! I had no idea I was talking to the main guy from the movie! We corresponded back and forth for several years and through that correspondence the production team picked us to be featured in the sequel. It was such a surprise and very exciting. They taped here in McMinnville for two days in 2014. There have been people from all over the world that come to McMinnville to visit Juicy’s Wellness Café because of the movie. I think the furthest came from Germany.
Brook: As though everything we’ve talked about isn’t interesting enough, humor me and tell me something interesting about Mary Beth.
Mary Beth: (ponders for a bit) I love to walk on the grass outside in my bare feet in the mornings when there’s still dew on the ground. It’s weird, but it’s my favorite! I also got my first tattoo recently! It’s a sprout. It represents my lifestyle and new beginnings.
There’s SO much more that we talked about, but I promised you guys I’d only take a few minutes… and I’m pretty sure I’ve already taken more than that. If you get the chance, stop by Juicy’s Wellness Café and talk to Mary Beth! Let her tell you all about the exciting things they’re involved in! It’s worth the time, I promise. And make sure to follow them on Facebook for the scoop about what’s going on and what’s coming up!
Juicy’s Wellness Café is located at 110 E. Main St. in McMinnville, TN ~ (931) 474-2233
Juicy’s Wellness Café is a proud member of Main Street McMinnville