FROM FEAR TO FUEL: Interview with Joshua Perry, BMX Rider, Multiple Brain Tumor Survivor and Health Coach
For most of us, investing in our own health and nutrition is often triggered by personal goals or resolutions. But for Joshua Perry, former BMX professional and current health coach, it was once he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2010 that he decided to take his health into his own hands. He eventually survived five brain tumors and the experience ignited a passion for nutrition and healthy living. Continue reading his remarkable story in our interview below.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR CAREER AS A BMX PROFESSIONAL?
I entered a contest sponsored by a BMX website, VitalBMX.com, and an iconic BMX brand, Haro Bikes. I was picked as one of the top 10 entries around the world. I was awarded an amateur spot on the team, which allowed me to enter the biggest contest circuits and work with brands in the industry. It’s also what led me to move to Greenville that same year.
WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY LIKE FINDING OUT ABOUT THE BRAIN TUMORS?
When I was originally diagnosed, it was by accident. I fell and hit my head trying a new trick, in March 2010, resulting in a concussion. A year and a half prior to my accident, I experienced headaches, vision loss and vomiting, but was repeatedly denied scans of my brain, only to be sent home with a long list of pain pills. Finally, an MRI was deemed necessary.
At first, I felt broken from all the emotions. That’s the only way I can verbally describe it. Then I fell into the victim mentality thinking, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Am I a bad person?” I was 21 and alone when I was diagnosed, and all I remember hearing was “cancer… never going to ride your bike again…you may die.” I was literally living my dream, and it was about to all be taken away from me.
Shortly after the diagnosis and before surgery, I used three things to change my perspective from fear to fuel to overcome this adversity. They were my mom’s story of successfully battling colon cancer, the BMX community worldwide reaching out to share love and support and Lance Armstrong’s cancer story. Shortly before surgery, I just visualized the life I wanted to live and fought for my life mentally. I wasn’t ready to go, and I was not going to give up.
In September 2012, when I got back to my hotel room in India from a demo, I checked an email from my mother. She told me that the recent MRI scan I had back in May showed two tumors growing back. They were said to be the size of blueberries and located in a very dangerous spot — close to the main artery. There were no immediate concerns, but it would have to be dealt with at some point soon. So, I chose Gamma Knife Radiosurgery as my treatment option and was back riding six days later.
The next scan in November of 2013 showed a slight decrease in one of the tumors. The following year’s MRI showed even better news, both areas were now decreasing! I was so stoked, but it is still weird at times to think about having tumors in your skull. It’s a pretty wild and unexplainable feeling, especially when you ride BMX for a living. For four years, those two tumors had shrunk successfully and then became stabilized. A routine MRI in February 2017, showed two new tumors had popped up on the opposite side of my brain. But, after implementing a ketogenic diet, an MRI a year later showed no progression. I received the same result for my two-year follow up scan in February 2019!
HOW DID YOUR EXPERIENCE SHAPE YOU AND YOUR FUTURE?
This whole experience has shaped me in ways I never fathomed. It brought me from focusing on myself to giving me a purpose. I started on this journey focusing on myself to become a professional BMX athlete. After succeeding and being told I was going to die at 21 years old, I transformed my path to one with a purpose to help others not suffer and become empowered to live as healthy, happy and successful as possible. That said, I am now speaking, working on a set of books, using my voice and platform on social media, and started a ketogenic health coaching business all to help serve and support others. It has also led me down a path of self-exploration to grow and learn that our reality is just a manifestation of our choices, which perspective is the most important aspect of our lives.
HOW DID YOUR INTEREST AND PASSION IN NUTRITION START? OR WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO TAKE YOUR HEALTH AND DIET MORE SERIOUSLY?
Nutrition was never important to me until I got diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was the young rider that lived off Hostess treats, two-liter Dr. Pepper, fast food, and processed foods, like Kraft mac and cheese, cheap frozen meats, lots of processed cheese, and lots of refined white bread products.
After brain surgery in 2010, I watched a documentary on Netflix that shared how our lifestyle choices correlated directly to our health. Then, in 2013, I read a book, “Grain Brain” by Dr. David Perlmutter, that advocated for high-fat and low-carb/ketogenesis. Then, I enrolled in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in 2014 and learned of the work of Mark Sisson and Dr. Mark Hyman. Both advocated for the same lifestyle Dr. Perlmutter sponsored. “Grain Brain” influenced the documentary I watched in 2010 which led to my awareness.
OUT OF ALL THE DIFFERENT DIETS AVAILABLE, WHAT MADE THE KETOGENIC DIET STAND OUT? AND WHAT MADE YOU COMMIT TO IT?
The benefits the ketogenic diet had on brain health stood out me. There were multiple factors that made me question whether I should commit to the diet: being diagnosed with multiple brain tumors, doctors thinking I might have a genetic disorder called “neurofibromatosis”, and my understanding on “epigenetics”, the study of the expression of genes from lifestyle factors/choices. I was told the disorder is genetic and I learned ketones/a ketogenic diet can alter gene expression and lower inflammation. So, I figured I would go all in.
WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO EAT WILD PLANET PRODUCTS?
I choose to eat Wild Planet products for the same reason I eat any food or beverage – the quality of the food, levels of nutrients within the food, and that there are little or no toxins contained in said food. The integrity and quality of Wild Planet products mean the world to me. It also didn’t hurt that many of the people I look up to and learn from advocated for Wild Planet.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WILD PLANET PRODUCT?
I never imagined saying this but the line of Wild Planet Wild Sardines are my favorite!
DO YOU HAVE A GO-TO MEAL USING WILD PLANET PRODUCTS? IF SO, WHAT IS IT?
I love throwing the Wild Planet sardines on top of a big salad with avocado, MCT oil, and whatever dressing I am feeling at that moment. I also love dicing up an avocado and throwing the sardines over it with some Redmond’s REAL salt and some pepperoncinis.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH THEIR [KETO] DIET?
Keep it simple, lower carbs/sugar, eat more fat, eat adequate levels of protein, stay hydrated, and educate yourself as much as possible. Think long-term as a lifestyle, not an overnight switch or quick solution to your goals. Ketogenic.com and the Ketogenic Bible are amazing resources as well as the Charlie Foundation.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT BRAINY BMX STUNT SHOWS AND HOW PEOPLE CAN SUPPORT IT?
Brainy BMX Stunt Show is my passion and dream project. The Athlete Recovery Fund and I are trying to get the word out about the show to raise awareness for support and funding. The goal is to educate people of the ketogenic diet and raise funds for direct patient care for those suffering from brain tumors, brain injuries, and any other neurological disorders. The event is to be a full-day event full of fun, activities and entertainment. I want to use my love for BMX to capture the attention of younger generations. You can learn more at https://www.athleterecoveryfund.org/josh-perry.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR CAREER AS A HEALTH COACH? HOW CAN PEOPLE LEARN MORE INFORMATION ON JOINING?
I started my journey at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in 2014, but it wasn’t until I stopped competing in 2017, that I pursued my business. In February 2017, I received the third brain tumor diagnosis, leaving me with four tumors in my skull today. That is what ultimately led me to my purpose of helping to serve and support others. If someone is interested in my services, they can check out www.JoshPerryBMX.com and shoot me an email through the site or send me a DM on Instagram.
Do you have any questions for Joshua? Join us on Friday, March 22nd at 11:00 am PST for an Instagram takeover with Joshua where he will answer any additional questions you may have!