Meet One of OHI’s Most Devoted Community Members — John Hagan!
“I’m not big on hugs,” admits John. “The first time I walked through the doors at OHI and was greeted with hugs, I was a little uncomfortable. I wondered what I had gotten myself into, and thought maybe this wasn’t for me.”
All hugging aside, John Hagan opted to stay for that first week at OHI, and it was such a positive experience for him that he subsequently came back for five additional 1-week stays, and then took part in the OHI Missionary program for 6 consecutive months. “OHI is one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” smiled John. “OHI is now a life-long habit and I plan to return again and again.”
What prompted John to visit OHI in the first place? Prostate cancer.
“I am a relatively quiet guy,” said John. “I have a passion for golf and motorcycles. I like to garden, and I’ve run a few NYC marathons in my day. My father was a large animal vet, so I lived on a farm in Pennsylvania for much of my life. I work in hospitals and nursing homes, and I find great joy in caring for others. When my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it was a no brainer for me to help my dad care for her for 15 years. It’s what I do. What I didn’t expect was a cancer diagnosis in my 40’s. It hit me like a sledgehammer.”
John was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012. He visited many specialists at Johns Hopkins, MD Andersen, and Loma Linda to weigh his options. A doctor at Mt. Sinai flat out told him he’d be dead in 10 years. John knew that the side effects of surgery could have devastating consequences for men. Instead of giving up, that bleak prognosis only inspired John to seek out more options. A specialist in Malibu thoroughly reviewed his case, and came back with one new suggestion — look into OHI.
“I walked into OHI with an open heart,” said John. “Of course I was hoping the program would help my body fight this cancer. But I went into this experience vowing not to let my introverted nature hold me back from trying new things. I pushed myself to meet new people, try new foods, and learn new things.
And that effort has changed me exponentially. OHI brought me out of my shell. I have so many new friends that I know will be my friends for life. The supportive community is phenomenal.”
John took on the nutritional aspects of the OHI program with zeal. “The things wheatgrass juice can do for your body are amazing. Not only do I firmly believe that wheatgrass juice has helped my cancer outlook, but I have made it a priority to continue wheatgrass juice cleansing every day. In fact, I grow my own wheatgrass in my home in Pennsylvania. I may have a bit of a green thumb, but it’s no small feat to grow wheatgrass indoors. But I have figured out a way to do it, and I’m so proud!”
John really took to the classes at OHI, as well. “I would say my favorite classes are the stretch and lymphatic classes,” enthused John. “The food prep classes are always great, and the weekly talent show is a blast. The release ceremony always made a huge impression on me, when you speak your truth on what you want to get rid of and what you want to incorporate back into your life. And the testimonials we give on Friday mornings often leave me a sobbing mess. It’s really powerful.”
What made John consider the OHI Missionary program? “I had gone to OHI six times, and each year my PSA numbers were going in a positive direction. My dad passed away in 2014, so I was taking care of my mother full-time by myself, and wasn’t able to leave her to visit OHI for a few years. Once she passed away in 2017, I really wanted to invest some time focusing on my own health again. I figured if periodic 1-week stays had proved beneficial to my health, then an extended stay would be even better. Over the course of six months I lost 60 lbs, and I have never felt better in my life. A normal PSA level is under 4, and my current PSA is 2.6. I have done no chemo, no radiation, and no surgery. I honestly believe it’s the nutrition at OHI that has made a huge difference in my outcome.”
So how did John start gardening at OHI? “I had mentioned in my missionary application that I had once worked in a nursery,” said John. “I don’t consider myself much of a spiritual person, but I do feel a great spiritual connection to nature. I was immediately drawn to working on the grounds at OHI. Being outside is my happy place! I think a garden should be bursting with color, and invite people to come spend time there. I immediately envisioned a wall of sunflowers peeking over the top of the hedges, urging people to walk through the hedgerow to see what those beautiful yellow sunflowers were up to. It was a joy for me to redesign that garden.”
John is one of our favorite OHI guests for so many reasons, and we can’t wait to see him again soon. “I know when I walk through those gates, I’m going to get a whole bunch of hugs,” laughs John. “And that’s just fine with me!”