Posted on August 20th, 2015
Dan Gunn likens his decision to have a preventative duodenectomy and a colectomy to Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double-mastectomy. At the age of 16, he was diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP); a genetic condition where individuals develop polyps throughout their digestive tract. If a colectomy is not performed by the age of 40 there is a 90%+ chance of developing colon cancer. By age 29, Gunn decided to have a pancreatico-duodenectomy, also known as the Whipple procedure, to remove the threat of duodenal cancer posed by pre-cancerous polyps in his duodenum. Last year, Gunn had a colectomy.
InspireHealth: How do you feel now about the decision to have duodenectomy and a colectomy?
Gunn: “Most people generally get the surgery right away. Since I was young, afraid of surgery, and thought that I could postpone surgery by improving my life through things like diet and exercise, I chose to take a wait and watch approach. It has been a real health journey to help transform my life, as for most of my late teens and twenties, I have always been trying to find a way to not get cancer. Do I need to sleep more, exercise more, change my beliefs, lower my stress levels, or improve my relationship skills?”
InspireHealth: What are some of the life skills you have learned from dealing with health concerns over your life?
Gunn: “An important aspect is that I have managed to work through and let go of some of the magical and unhelpful thinking that exists surrounding cancer… thoughts like maybe I have this because I am not doing something good enough… not eating the right food, not exercising enough, or not thinking enough positive thoughts. While these thoughts gave me the illusion of control, they also had an element of guilt. After my first surgery, I came to accept that in life there are things that I have control over and things that I don’t and with this came a letting go of thinking that this condition was my fault. I have learned to have much more acceptance. InspireHealth has been very helpful with helping me to find a more realistic and holistic approach to my health; one that did include surgery and changes to my lifestyle to improve my quality of life and my immune system.
“I went to one of the Education Sessions at InspireHealth and one of things the staff mentioned was the value of finding a hobby to be really passionate about which led to my community supported agriculture project that I started with my close friends.”
Dan Gunn is an InspireHealth member with a passion for gardening and community. He is part of a group called Green Guys on the Drive, located in Vancouver, British Columbia. They operate East Vancouver’s only community supported vertical hydroponic urban vegetable farm. They have 11 community supported agriculture members who each pay $200 at the start of the season to receive their share of the farm’s weekly harvest, which is sufficient for 2 people. They currently have one farm tended by three friends and co-founders, Brandon, Win and Dan.
Gunn: “We can say that 22 people have been supported on less than 50 sq. feet of land which is equal to at least 1 grocery bag a week per share.”
Green Guys on the Drive produces on average 15 lbs of produce every week from May to October that includes varieties of lettuce, spinach, kale, pac choi, basil, and mustard. Green Guys on the Drive is non-profit and all labor is volunteered from the founders and the community. Membership fees are used to pay for the capital costs of each Vertical Hydroponic Farm and its operating costs (which include nutrients and electricity).
Why did you get involved in starting Green Guys on the Drive?
Gunn: “The project came from having to take time off work due to my health concerns, the yearning to live in Vancouver, and wanting to establish a community involving my friends. I can say the project has really helped to improve our relationships with each other and feel part of a community.”
“We chose vertical hydroponic farming because it requires no fungicides or pesticides, has the same nutrients of soil, and of course, requires less space to grow because of the way we stack the vegetables.”
Dan mentions that he sees a spiritual crisis in the erosion of community. Green Guys on the Drive was a way to start a business that could include friends, create community value by meeting the need for food while helping to reduce the community’s carbon footprint in an economical way. In having these types of urban farms, community members gain access to local fresh food while reducing the distance getting the food from the farm to your table (hence the smaller carbon footprint).
Recently, Green Guys on the Drive applied to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology contest that encourages projects that help to mitigate climate change in land-use and agriculture, and they are the only Canadian project involved. If they win the popular vote and get through the other evaluation stages, the group has a chance to be granted $10,000 to further expand their urban farm to feed 75 people using less than half a backyard in East Vancouver.
To vote for Dan and his Green Guys on the Drive, visit the following website:
To learn more about their urban farm in the Commercial Drive area, you can watch this video:
You can also visit their Facebook page at Green Guys on The Drive.
If you want to see it first hand, Dan has tours on Tuesdays at 6pm.