Don’t Shoot the Messenger, please…
I originally wrote this article on my BPhotography website back in 2014 when Gary was first reported to the AHPRA Medical Board of Tasmania by a dietitian at the Launceston General Hospital.
At the time we couldn't understand why the Medical Board considered pursuing the unjustified notification and to this day remain dismayed by the intimidating and bullying behaviour Gary was subjected to for years. Disturbed by the 2 1/2 year Star Chamber investigation, and subsequent 'Silencing' of Gary, with the threat of deregistration should he continue to talk to patients, and the wider community, about the health benefits of reducing sugar and processed carbohydrates. It took a further 2 years to have the original determination thrown out and Gary's name cleared. I will include new links and update the original to reflect where we are at now.
This is a powerful story of a man I deeply admire. My dear husband, Dr Gary Fettke, who goes to work every day with the 'Perspective of a Patient, the Spirit of an Activist and the Heart of a Healer'.
It seems so easy to make reactive comments and blame ‘the messenger’ without fully understanding the 'big picture'. It’s even easier since the advent of Social Media platforms and the anonymity we have, hiding behind a computer screen.
Gary was bullied, mobbed and trolled on several fronts from 2012 by people who didn’t know the full story.
But let me tell you, when 'they' came after my husband the 'Mumma Bear' came out to protect him. This is our story...
While a brave man may stand up for what he believes in, it takes a courageous man to then speak out about his beliefs and expose controversial findings, knowing full well he may be ridiculed, harassed and even bullied by those who either don’t understand, won’t take the time to listen, or those who feel confronted by concepts that go against everything they have thought to be right.
Courage as resistance to fear, mastery of fear, but not absence of fear
Gary Fettke truly is the most courageous man I know …
I guess it is hard to explain courage, but to me; Courage is mortal. Courage is facing ‘a bullet’ knowing you can get hurt. Courage is making a leap of faith and sharing that journey of faith with others. Courage is refusing to take the easy way out!
When I first wrote this article, I was thinking of my courageous husband, who has just had surgery to have his hip replaced. A lifetime of pushing himself physically had deteriorated both Gary’s hips over time.
But pain doesn’t stop this man.
He lives with physical pain every day.
It is what drives him to be the best that he can be as a medical practitioner and as a surgeon. He has an empathy that only someone who has experienced ‘real’ pain can understand.
Cancer does that to you …
When you lose your Mum to cancer at the age of 16, it turns your world upside down. It makes you grow up in ways most of your peers will never have to know, thank God.
And then, when you experience cancer ‘first hand’, the world as you know it, implodes.
As with the book Gary wrote in 2007; Inversion, One Man’s Answer for Peace and Global Health, and his Nutritional Model of Modern Disease first published in 2014, it's about ‘the message’, not ‘the messenger'.
‘The message’ in both is to encourage people to look at everything from a different perspective…
Sometimes though, it is useful to get to know the messenger so you can gain an understanding of the motives that drive their thoughts and an appreciation for the extensive experience and research they have done. Insights into outcomes that throw new light on related topics and ascertain the incredible resources they have drawn information from.
In Gary’s case, in particular, hearing some of the background and a glimpse of his health journey provides an opportunity to understand why he is so keen to research health and nutrition. In a sound bite, his thoughts and recommendations may seem superfluous to some people who aren’t happy with him giving dietary advice, considering the specialty he has trained in.
Considering he is an Orthopaedic Surgeon?
Well, I looked up the meaning of Orthopaedics and while it is defined as; "surgery concerned with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system", the definition goes on to describe Orthopaedic Surgeons as "doctors who use both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat the musculoskeletal system including trauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumours, congenital disorders and complications of Diabetes Type 1 and Type 2."
Gary believes it has always been his duty of care, as an orthopaedic surgeon, to discuss realistic patient outcomes with his patients regardless of their need for surgery. In fact, how much better to help people avoid surgery if at all possible, by educating them on the preventative measures for their condition, including nutritional advice and the use of specialised exercise programmes. He isn't a respiratory physician but is encouraged to recommend people stop smoking. He isn't an exercise physiologist but can suggest stretching and exercise to improve health outcomes... why not nutrition??
I love Gary's analogy that our mitochondria, the engines of our cells, are like teenagers and just want fuel. They will devour proteins, fats or carbohydrates and don't care where they come from! Pasture-fed animal proteins, plant-proteins or even cheap processed junk-food. It is our emotions, cultural and religious beliefs and ideology that come into play on the decisions we make whether to eat an omnivorous diet or a vegetarian/vegan diet. Essential proteins and fats are like slow burning logs that provide lots of energy, carbohydrates on the other hand, are non-essential fuels that burn quickly and are forever needing topping up.
Facing a tsunami of diabetes complications as a result of poorly controlled blood glucose and metabolic disease in the Public Hospital System, Gary knew he couldn't stay silent anymore. He had to raise awareness of Quality Control and Patient Safety. He tried to discuss the biochemistry he was revisiting and the importance of the KREBS Cycle.
He naively thought 'the system' would be excited to be presented with a solution. Gary had NO idea 'the system' didn't want to be fixed!
Gary has continued to provide a holistic approach to healthcare for the last 20 years, which is at the forefront of prevention rather than just surgery. Since starting his Social Media presence, Gary put a medical disclaimer across all platforms about the ‘in-principal’ generalisations he makes and the importance of talking to your GP if you are considering making major changes to your diet or lifestyle. The majority of his writing/public speaking is about trying to put complex material into lay terms and he states that all the information he shares is HIS interpretation as a doctor, a patient and as an observer. What he recommends may not suit everyone, but it works for him and so many other people are seeing the benefits of the Low Carb/Healthy Fat principles he is recommending.
Gary was in year 12 when his Mum died and thoughts of mining engineering took a back step as studying medicine became his priority. He watched his Mum suffer when her cancer was found ‘too late’ to do anything. Her knee pain had earlier been dismissed without further investigation by her GP at the time. She was finally admitted to hospital and never came home …
As a result, Gary won’t let a complaint of bone pain be ignored, not ever, without investigating to dismiss anything sinister going on. He simply can’t!
His first visit to an intensive care unit as a patient was at the age of 37. Whilst operating, he became aware of a scratch in his visual field and after an MRI diagnosed a growth he underwent urgent neurosurgery to remove an aggressive tumour from the base of his brain.
As a grown man with a family of his own, hearing those three words “You Have Cancer” was devastating to Gary. Not only did he have to deal with the ramifications of the diagnosis on a very personal level, but he also had to deal with the grief it caused to those close to him. Grief that reveals a vulnerability you just can’t explain. Looking into our young children’s faces and seeing his pain and fragility mirrored in their eyes, made him determined to fight for more time.
Going back to 2000 when Gary was first diagnosed with an aggressive Pituitary Tumour, and following on from his initial surgery, he had weeks of intensive radiation therapy and years of long term and intermittent periods of chemotherapy until he changed his diet.
Not only did he put his cancer into remission but Gary lost 23kg's in weight, reversed his pre-diabetes and high blood pressure, coming off 10 medications over time.
(EDIT:- when I first wrote this article Gary was still on Chemotherapy. At the end of 2014 he trialed a year of supervised LCHF without any chemotherapy and for the first time there was NO cancer activity on his blood tests or MRI.
Gary has been off all chemo for 6 years now. His blood tests and Cholesterol results prove that not only is Low Carb beneficial, but Healthy Fats are safe, too.
Gary recommends a Lipid Subfraction analysis to tease out cholesterol markers if you or your doctor are concerned. Just take a look at Gary’s results on LCHF below - he has NO small dense LDL particles.)
Gary always checks and takes down a plaster if someone complains of pain. He watched me lose a 1/3rd of my right index finger to gangrene under a plaster when I was 18, and he was a 2nd year medical student. Neither of us understood at the time that betadine was iodine based and that my claim of an iodine allergy had been somehow ignored in theatre. Too young and too trusting of the Resident Doctor who insisted all was OK when we questioned him about the yellow dye on my arm soon after I came out of theatre. Insecure and vulnerable after being told I was over-reacting to the pain I felt under the plaster for the next 2 weeks, when others around me had endured more extensive surgery … till they finally took the plaster down. Then it was too late to save the top of my finger.
Gary truly understands what it is like to be a patient. A craniotomy was followed by daily stereotactic radiotherapy with our young son accompanying him to these sessions. William would be doing homework in the waiting room, busting for Gary to emerge from hours of treatment to see what the rest of the days’ adventure would hold. Gary and William were in Sydney for 10 weeks. I flew back and forth pulled between Kate who had just started high school, Megan on my hip at 4 years and the boys in Sydney. It was a difficult time, but we learnt resilience and our family grew stronger.
Further surgery in 2004 didn’t stop Gary's determination to heal and return to work.
The whole experience has left Gary with an even greater desire to teach the things he has learnt to manage his own pain and control symptoms of his disease. Researching cancer management extensively for 20 years has given him the tools to help him develop an understanding of the role of sugar and processed carbohydrates in compromising health outcomes.
Interestingly, right from the beginning of his medical career, Gary always assessed patient symptoms from every angle and thought outside the square.
He was the first Orthopaedic Surgeon in Australia to use straight arm casting for forearm fractures in children after researching the benefits from studies in China and the successes they were having with their patients.
His lateral thinking approaches were well utilised on the trips he made to Vanuatu for years as a volunteer surgeon with a team from the Launceston General Hospital. Limited facilities and funds necessitate imagination, including the traction and pulley system he set up one year with bits and pieces from a marine supplier. Just one of the many challenges medical teams come across in a third world country being confronted with diabetes and diabetic complications, worsened by the introduction of polyunsaturated oils, Coca-Cola and processed junk food into their diet.
More recently, his concern about post-operative complications and vascular compromise in severely obese people (BMI over 35) and patients with diabetes has led to his interest and study into diet and nutrition.
I believe Gary’s cynics felt threatened, especially the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Uncovering documents outlining a corporate partnership with the cereal industry from 2014, where the DAA agreed to use their members to Influence, protect and actively defend cereal, grains and sugars messaging, was mind blowing! Documents that specifically targeted Gary for Active Defense'...
My husband was at the forefront of declaring smoking a danger to our health.
Gary’s refusal, more than twenty five years ago, to perform ELECTIVE surgery on smokers without a six week interim break, caused a lot of flak and ridicule at the time. But, he had researched the post-operative risks associated with circulation compromises in patients who smoked and believed it to be his duty of care to reduce them. He wanted his patients to have the best possible outcomes from their surgery and refused to defer to others opinions when they felt he was being fanatical. The peripheral vascular complications of smoking are now well understood and the risks involved during both the surgery and post-operatively are widely documented and by law, now written on every cigarette box sold.
How can you criticize a man who reads widely and wants to know the latest scientific thoughts and questions the validity of Associations that have partnerships/funding from Big Sugar and Big Pharma? Gary may specialise in orthopaedics, but he also researches and delves further into other areas that may impact on the overall health and wellbeing of his patients, allowing him to practice holistic medicine. The holistic approach can take away a need for surgery, reduce complications and improve patient outcomes.
The idea of our health education being compromised by an industry or group that has vested interests is just plain wrong!
The system we currently have in place advocates band-aiding sick-care. The food pyramid (brilliantly described as 'the biggest "Pyramid Scam" of all time' by Vanessa Spina), needs to be turned upside down and looked at from a different perspective. We need to take major sponsorship and big industry out of the equation. Invert our thoughts and ideas. Truly consider the outliers and people taking back control of their health using Low Carb.
More and more scientific proof that sugar is a major contributor to modern disease has come to light and currently being espoused as the cause of Type 2 diabetes by the recently awarded Australian of the Year 2020, Dr James Muecke.
Sugar is being consumed in our society in levels way above the World Health Organisation's 2014 recommended 5 teaspoons per day. Recent studies show that saturated fats don’t make us fat and are, in fact, necessary for our bodies to absorb the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) we need to function healthily. Our brains are composed of cholesterol and without any we would die! Conversely, health claims about polyunsaturated fats are now being questioned.
With his latest research Gary has been focusing on health and nutrition. Studying scientific papers, analysing results and collating independent data about cancer metabolism, risk factors of infection and complications from surgery with a high sugar/fructose loads, even in fruit.
His cancer thrives on sugar. It uses glucose to metabolise. Unfortunately, so do most cancers…
I had lots of time to think while sitting beside Gary during that hospitalization in May 2014 and decided then and there that I wanted to do my best to stand up for him. To give his critics some insight into the man that he is. I wanted to share some of the things that have shaped him and made him a valued and respected surgeon.
I can assure you, Gary isn’t a fanatic, but rather he is a man who is both intelligent and passionate; about life, health and improving the health system. He has never been one to accept everything he is told to be true and correct. Even when we were back in high school, he has always wanted to understand ‘why’ and validate information fed to him; he had to prove to himself that something was so...
Gary will be the first to admit he was an overweight kid who grew up to become athletic as a young man, but still always trying to outrun a diet that included lots of Carbohydrates and Low Fat everything! He first became aware of the arthritis in his hips in 2002, when he experienced pain and stiffness confirmed on x-rays. He pushed on for 12 years (as he recommends to his own patients) managing to lose 25kg's in weight reducing sugar, pasta, bread and rice and junk food, to help ease the load on his hips and help make the joints last longer.
He waited to have his hip replaced till the pain was felt in every step and it started to disturb his sleep. When there was a marked fixed flexion deformity he sought advice from a colleague. Gary rarely complained and mostly when he did, it is an involuntary groan when his hip has ‘çaught’. There is not much you can do about an arthritic hip except take medication to ease the pain and have it replaced when it all becomes too much. But, there is a clear indication for maintaining a healthy weight to take the load off the affected area and improve post-operative results. A low carb/healthy fat diet decreases inflammation and assists wound healing. Especially important when Gary wanted to walk his daughter down the aisle without a limp shortly after.
And here he is; 3 days post hip replacement at home with me, walking with one crutch, able to walk up and down stairs with 2 crutches and only taking aspirin and Panadol for pain… He truly is AMAZING!!
Gary Fettke is a man who is passionate about health. Something that happens when life is so close to being taken away from you and then, you get a second chance to live…
The American Diabetes Association CEO - Tracey Brown - has recently revealed her personal success with a Low Carbohydrate diet in an interview, talking about how seriously she takes the responsibility of being “the poster child of how to thrive while living with diabetes” and discussing how reducing her carbohydrate intake has had such a profound and positive impact on her health.
Remarkably, she claims she has been able to discontinue her use of insulin and significantly reduce her prescription medication. Tracey Brown predicts that she’ll be able to "drop her last medication by the end of the year. (2020)"
Unfortunately, Diabetes Australia still refuses to budge on their "Type 2 diabetes is a chronic progressive disease" messaging and continues to produce industry aligned 'guidelines' for GP's that promote medicating over changes in diet. When you look at their corporate sponsors is it any wonder?
We can only keep trying to 'Change the Rule-Books'. Gary and I had no idea how much influence Vested Interests and Ideology had in shaping the dietary and health guidelines back in 2014. If we only knew then what we know now!
Please continue to #benoisywithme