Diane Capaldi, also known as “V,” is a speaker, advocate, mom, founder of PaleoBOSS Lady and all-around badass. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when she was just 23 years old and, as she says it, “from day one I was given an unlimited supply of valium.” But having a mother that fell into addiction after she was given prescription opioids, she knew she would never take drugs like that.
Instead, “I started using cannabis and essential oils right out of the gate,” she says. At that time there were no drugs for MS, but luckily, a woman from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) had space right in her doctor’s office to meet with her. When it came to treatment, she got the best of the best. As she explains it, ”I was on the board of the MS society, I had power and money, I’m a type-A overachiever.” But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. “I found myself disabled at 37 with no use of my hands.”
Despite the support from the NMSS and a great doctor who she says was “like a father to her,” she received very few lifestyle recommendations. She was told to keep her body moving by her doctor, but “not once during this time did they suggest meditation or yoga. No one said anything about food.”
After spending her life savings on healthcare only to have her condition worsen, V was facing homelessness and very real thoughts of suicide. “I was deciding if I wanted to take my own life,” she says. In an emotional moment, she explains that as someone who values her independence and leadership qualities so much, she couldn’t stand the thought of being a burden. “My daughter was in college, living her dreams, and the last thing I wanted was for my kid to take care of me,” she says.
After a trip to Burning Man, V went home and locked herself in the house, knowing that she had to remove herself from all societal and cultural norms to gain clarity. As a former respiratory therapist, she knew how the healthcare system works and where it falls short. “It was so clear to me that healthcare was consumer-driven,” she continued.
She started putting the puzzle pieces of her health together—by herself. Despite having to use her voice to activate the computer, she started researching. Based on what she learned, she began making lifestyle changes. “I started swimming and then became a yoga instructor. I also was in psychotherapy and learned how to overcome childhood traumas,” she says.
Then, she came across a video titled “Minding Your Mitochondria” by Dr. Terry Wahls, a physician and creator of The Wahls Protocol, which outlines lifestyle changes that help target chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases, like MS. Dr. Wahls has MS herself and was confined to a tilt recline wheelchair for four years until she was able to restore her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically to restore her cellular health.
“I immediately started doing exactly what she said,” says V. The Wahls Protocol basically entails following a paleo diet but also making sure that you’re consuming large quantities of specific vegetables and fruits. V eats six cups of them every single day, including two cups of leafy greens, two cups of sulfur-rich vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts, and two cups of colorful fruits and vegetables like beets, cherries, blueberries or carrots.
Today, V has not only stopped the progression of her MS, she’s also been able to reverse a lot of the damage. “I take no drugs; I see no doctors; I manage each and every symptom myself,” she says.
Once her health improved, she immediately started traveling around the world, helping other people with MS put the puzzle pieces of their health together. She did a TEDx talk, went on tour and started offering free content to anyone and everyone. Her major message? Don’t settle for the status quo ever—but especially not when it comes to your health. “You need to love yourself enough to say no and listen to your body and ignore the powerful voices telling you not to,” she says.
She’s now on a larger mission to advocate for and support those who have been negatively affected by our nation’s food system, the pharmaceutical and insurance companies, and our healthcare system. Her current lifestyle is very clean and restrictive, but she never plans to go back or give another dollar to the system that let her down. Instead, she plans to change that system to focus on prevention, nutrition and lifestyle changes instead of expensive—and oftentimes ineffective—drugs. As she says it: “Once I found out you’re messing with me, it won’t happen again.”