Helping people understand their health.
Kameron Tarry recalls one day in his graduating year; he walked into his home in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, shirt in hand, trying to beat the scorching heat. Inside his mother sat in front of the fire, wrapped in half a dozen blankets, shivering.
Kathy Tarry was dying from a very progressive form of lupus. She had been for a while. The doctors said there was no hope. The prognosis for Kameron’s mom, he says, was “Go home and die.”
In that year, Kameron watched his mom grow so weak she couldn’t eat or walk. On more than one occasion, he watched her slowly crawl from one room to another on her elbows because she couldn’t stand up and she was the stubborn sort.
She bled from head to toe. She seeped uric acid. The woman he knew was quickly slipping away, replaced by an increasingly fragile shell.
“We were planning her funeral,” Kameron says now, almost 20 years later. “I remember what it was like for me to be hopeless and desperate and succumbing to the idea that Mom’s going to be gone real soon. That’s a very scary and sad place to be.”
What he watched his mother go through then Kameron sees now in an ever-growing number of people who call or drop in to Avena Originals, a natural health product and education provider started by his parents, Mel and Kathy Tarry, along with long-term family friend Francis Reglin, four years before his mom was diagnosed with lupus. People are looking for help not only with diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, but also with cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
More and more, people come to Avena Originals because their bodies are failing them. Kameron figures it shouldn’t be that way.
“We’re having more disease and more illness and at younger ages than any generation before us. Whatever we’re doing isn’t looking like it’s the right path—it’s not working. We should be getting fewer diseases; we should be living longer, healthier lives.”
Today, believing those words, Kameron tries to help anyone going through what he did with his mom two decades ago. But back then, he figured his parents were selling “soup and glue,” or snake oil and witch potions, to the masses. That was before everything changed.
Kathy Tarry was supposed to die. Everyone was preparing for the day that inevitability would come. It never did. Kathy and Mel figured out that what was going on was less about the lupus and more about what was causing the lupus.
“Her kidneys were shutting down because they were overloaded with toxicity, with certain chemicals. When my mother was growing up, DDT was commonly used as a pesticide. Her mother didn’t know any better and so DDT was sprayed all over the house and the windowsills. Today it’s a banned substance.”
He continues, “Understanding what was happening with her kidneys, she really focused on cleaning and detoxifying.”
His family’s first introduction to natural health products was living enzymes. They sacrificed everything financially to support Kathy’s last-ditch effort to survive the disease savaging her body.
“She started taking ridiculous amounts. The label would suggest one or two and she would be taking one hundred to two hundred of them per day,” he says. “It was very expensive. There was a lot of conflict within the family because we had to remortgage our home, we had to sell off our cars, we basically had to start selling our possessions to be able to afford this therapy, and my dad struggled with the cost.”
Signs that it was worth the sacrifice started with her saying “I feel different inside.” Then she began to look different—better, healthier. Mel kept going—he would have rather lost everything than lose his wife.
Six to eight months later, she was healthy again, with not a symptom to be found. And not a symptom of lupus has returned since they disappeared, Kameron says.
That was Kameron’s graduating year and he had planned to go into computer architecture. But all of a sudden, the “soup and glue” had a lot more merit in his eyes. He dropped out of university before he started, joining his father’s company instead.
“I started picking up and reading every nutritional book I could. I started studying enzymes, probiotics. I wanted to know more about the things that had just saved my mother’s life. I knew they worked, but now I wanted to know how.”
He started at the bottom, working for a father who was as skeptical of him as he once was of his father. He’s the company’s directing manager today, running the day-to-day operations while Mel transitions towards retirement, but it was a rough climb to get there, as Mel was harder on him than on the rest of the staff.
Many family members work within the company. It’s still very much a family business and staff members feel like they’re one big family, despite how the company has grown. And grown it has—Avena Originals has become a lot bigger than the small business it started out as, selling essential oils and bowel-cleansing detoxification products.
“When my mother got sick, we really didn’t have the answers to address her sickness. Once we went through that whole ordeal with my mom, that’s when Avena started to really expand,” Kameron says. “We started to bring in the enzymes, the probiotics, vitamins, the whole-food complexes, because then we knew we had the core of what we needed to really make a difference in people’s lives. We had found the answers we were searching for and wanted to share them!”
When you walk into Avena Originals’ main centre in Red Deer, you’ll see these words splayed on the wall above the front desk: “Health is not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice.” This is the philosophy Kameron has come to believe since he almost lost his mother.
“You don’t just get healthy by luck. And you don’t get sick by luck. We create the disease inside of us by the way we eat, think and live, in the same way we can create health in the way that we eat, think and live.”
Kameron sells products, but he says without a lifestyle to build on, those products cannot make a miracle happen. Education, therefore, is Avena Originals’ highest priority. The hope is that sales stem from education. Kameron figures that if he can make people listen, help them understand, they’ll be able to make better, more informed decisions, “supercharged” by natural health products.
“It is definitely a slower process—Avena’s growing at a much slower pace than what it probably could be, but it’s doing it on—I think—a much richer foundation built for long-term health and wellness.”
Understanding is the key to change. “Telling people what to do is one thing, but if they can actually start to understand why they’re doing it, they start to make better conscious decisions in every aspect of their life,” Kameron says. “They’re understanding how their body works and they’re understanding where they want to take that body.”
For more information on educational events or products, please visit www.avenaoriginals.com.
Damien Wood is a Calgary, Alberta, based professional spectator and teller of tales both true and tall.