Red Thread


Dr. Debra Kimless-Garber is another person I met in Washington, D.C. at PCRM‘s headquarter and Food For Life Training. Dr. Deb is a cancer survivor and her story further inspired me in regards to breast cancer and survival. We didn’t have time in D.C. to do this interview, so this morning we talked on the phone. Here’s Debra’s incredible story! I really learned a lot, as I am sure you will too, from doing this interview! Keep reading till the end, please. She has some great things to say about The China Study and Forks Over Knives


Debra Kimless-Garber, M.D.


Debra, please tell me more about your background. Where did you grow up? I grew up in Central New Jersey.  I’m an only child of two very hardworking, intelligent parents. My father was a sales representative for mens clothing and my mom was a school teacher. Did you know that you wanted to become a doctor when you were young? I did. I was always fascinated by health and biological systems. When I was 13 years old I gave up refined carbohydrates and red meat after reading a bunch of different things in the library because I grew up pre-internet. I did a lot of research and spent time in the library reading about nutrition and health. When I was in tenth grade I had this biology course that was very very difficult and we did a lot of dissecting under a microscope and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I decided in that moment that I was going to become a physician. That’s awesome! I don’t know many students in the tenth grade who know what they will be when they grow up! I’m living the life of a sixteen-year-olds decision. [We both laugh!] When you think about it it’s kind of funny! Academically I was geared towards that. I always thought that I was going towards cardiology with the mindset of doing preventative medicine. This was sixteen year old talk! That amazes me! I don’t know many sixteen year olds who even think along those lines. [Do you?]

Fun with Anesthesiology

Tell me more about the work that you do? Are you still working as a medical doctorNo what happened was that I went to medical school and was thinking that I’d work in prevention – in regards to heart disease or stroke. I thought these were the two areas that would be the most interesting. I found out a bunch of different things while I was in medical school. When you’re in medical school you do rotations and you get exposed to a whole lot of different types of practices in medicine. None of which were looking at prevention and the only way you can get paid in medicine is if you do procedures, so even with cardiology they really frown upon not doing any interventional fellowship, where you go in and you can intervene, so if someone is having a heart attack you can access the blood vessel that is causing problem and expand it. So that was really where the mindset of medicine was at the time I was in training. At that time they did a lot of procedures. The procedures are fun with anesthesiology.

Pajama Day Every Day to Work

~The Joys of Anesthesiology~

The beauty of being an anesthesiologist is that you can wear your pajamas to work! [I laugh!] They actually do your laundry for you! You don’t go home in the pajamas that you went in, so you get to wear your pajamas in, get to work in your pajamas and then they do your laundry! And then you get to do the most fun procedures ever! All the paperwork is done at the time, so when the case is done your paperwork is done. It’s a high energy field and a very physical field. That really resonated with me because I was sort of high energy. I like doing things with my hands and thinking about things. It’s very intellectual because you’d have complex patients who’d come to you with medical issues and you have to figure out medically where they stand and how you can physically put them in a position, with having the procedure done without costing them their lives.

Pact with the Devil

To me it was both intellectually and physically challenging, so that was the career path that I chose. I say that I sort of made a pact with the devil. The devil being anesthesia and then what happened is you stay of for 24 straight hours or 48 straight hours, which is what we did. It really become rather painful with time. The thing is you get really tired after being up so long.  A problem you never have in your twenties or thirties. Right, exactly, at that age you can stay up all night and not let it bother you much!

Breast Surgery & Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome

So you chose to step away from anesthesiology, correct? No, it was more forced upon me. In 2005 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I had all intention of continuing my high energy practice. Eighty hours a week. This was going to be just a small bump in the road and I approached it in that fashion. I went ahead with the mastectomy and reconstruction. Most people take half a year to a year to get their tissues expanders  and whatever, but I fast tracked everything because I was going back to work. I ended up with something called “post mastectomy pain syndrome” which really is a misnomer because upwards of 50 percent of women who have any kind of surgery, mastectomy with or without reconstruction, lumpectomy, or even breast augmentation or reduction for aesthetic purposes.


Studies show now that upwards of 50 percent of women experience chronic pain after any kind of breast surgery! They put this on a gray scale of minor pain to incapacitating. Mine was towards the incapacitating in the sense that I could no longer use my arms effectively. I was suddenly out the realm of practice. That must have been extremely upsetting and shattering! It took me two years to admit to anyone that I was no longer practicing. However, I knew it was the right thing to do! 

Creating the “Red Thread” Company

Where does going plant-based vegan come in? In 2006, I was left with two problems to solve. One was pain and the other one was aesthetic, so I created my company “Red Thread” to solve those problems because I wanted a non-drug solution to pain relief, so if you think of about it, if you stub your toe, the first thing you do is curse and the second thing you do is squeeze your toe and hop up and down. [I laugh!] And that squeezing is a real life pain relieving technique, so I included this in the clothes – where on the inside there’s a Cami bra with built in pockets that actually have compression that help with pain. Oh it does! [I’m amazed at this! I’ve never heard of this before but it makes perfect sense!] The bra has pockets that you can put breast enhancers or prosthetics in, so it will look like natural breasts. I created these breast enhancers that I call “breast shapers”. They not only help with look, but they also help with pain. They look good and feel great! 

Dr. Debra and her “Red Thread” clothing line!

Issues with Reconstructive Breast Surgery

So you were saying that the reconstruction really didn’t look the way you had wanted it to? Right, and most women, if they are honest with you will tell you that! There’s a lot of reconstruction failures. Where they get infected, where the body rejects it, where there’s complications with it, so there’s many more mishaps and difficulties with reconstruction than most women are lead to believe. My bras and breast enhancers really provide a solution to these issues. The other cool thing that I found out is that there are lots of women out there who don’t like wearing bras. They just don’t like what they look like when they don’t wear a bra, so they wear my clothes and breast enhancers to shape themselves and go about without wearing a bra. This way they have no bra straps and therefore their neck pain and back pain go away.

The women then have no back issues or any lumps showing. For whatever reason god created back fat…and so you don’t see that with the top. [I laugh! I got to experience how hilarious Debra can be when I met her in class. This lady has an awesome sense of humor!] There are a lot of bras and Cami tops on the market, but none of them have this built into them and most of them make you look like you’re smuggling a loaf of bread underneath a top. My tops provides a great shape, are supportive and if you have pain the top will take care of those issues as well. That’s awesome!

Macrobiotic Diet

That’s my business and so as we’re chugging along my husband tells me that he has back pain. We thought we were eating well to begin with. I didn’t eat any red meat since I was 13 and I don’t eat any refined carbohydrates. I felt like we were doing pretty good and then my husband started complaining of back pain. To me he looked “inflamed”, that’s all I can say! I didn’t know the reason for it. I thought maybe it had to do with working out. Heavy weights. Personal trainer. He was working out with the heavy weights, not me, I couldn’t do it after the breast surgery. There’s a guy, Denny, he’s a macro guru [macrobiotics] who happened to live in Philadelphia. So I made an appointment with him for my husband and myself. After the work up, he gave us a macro prescription for detoxing and I really got into this whole macro thing. The macro diet still does oil and it still does fish. The problem is that an American, who is used to the Standard American Diet, converts it into that. What I mean by that is that instead of eating all that meat, all of a sudden fish replaces it. Rather than having fish as a condiment, fish became the center of the plate. Does that make sense? Yes it does. [I don’t know much about the macro diet, so I’m learning here!] There’s vegetables. All of those things are there and they are cooked with oil. I didn’t really feel better on a macro diet and it really didn’t make any sense.


My husband ends up getting diagnosed with sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory autoimmune disease. I liken it to rheumatoid arthritis where our body’s immune system attacks our own joints. In sarcoidosis the body’s immune system looks for any kind of foreign body, like a dust particle that you might have breathed in, and goes, “Oh my god, we’re being attacked!” And then builds scar tissue around it to kill that foreign body, but the problem is that it’s formed scar tissue is interfering with normal tissue and so most people who get sarcoidosis get it in their lungs. There’s a comedian, Bernie Mac, who had sarcoidosis and Reggie White, a famous football player, who also died from it. My husbands sarcoidosis was not in his lung. It was in his liver, spleen and peripheral nerves.

Fosamax & Broken Thigh Bones

Next thing that happens, a year later, is that my mom who lives in Florida…my mom has osteoporosis and was originally put on Fosamax to prevent it. She calls me up and says, “I have the most intense pain in my thigh.” I asked her, “Mom, what are you doing?” She said, “I’m standing in an elevator.” I told her to pack up her house and come home. Then I later found out that she’d broken her thigh bone, which doesn’t make sense because it’s the strongest bone in our body. Unless she’d had a trauma, which she did not have…or cancer, which she did not have! There was no reason for her thigh bone to break. However, it sounded like she’d broken her thigh bone. I called some people at the hospital and had her directly admitted when she came in and sure enough, not only was one thigh bone broken, but bothOh my god, that’s horrific! And it’s called a “low energy fracture” and after doing a little bit of research, I attributed my mom’s fractures to Fosamax – even though people thought I was a nut job. Now, without a doubt, it’s most likely the Fosamax that did it. They call it a “low energy fracture” because she wasn’t doing anything, to have this happen and yet it happened. Wow! [I’m so shocked, I don’t even know what to say!] 

Questioning Everything

This really rocked my world! How old is your mom? She’s 80, but she does not look eighty. My mom fractured both legs taking a pharmaceutical medicine as directed and as demanded by me because she was breaking things, like walking out an elevator or goofy stuff for the last ten years. I’m the biggest “drug pusher”! I’m an anesthesiologist! Right! This is what I do for a living, I push drugs! And I believed in the power of pharmaceuticals. Do you know what I’m saying? Yes! And now, I’m starting to question everything! How long had she been on the Fosamax? Since it came out in the early nineties. They gave it to her, not because she had osteoporosis, but they gave it to her because they thought it would prevent osteoporosis. She’s a short white lady, a candidate for osteoporosis. [Sounds like my mom, who happens to have osteoporosis too!] I completely concurred! Absolutely! Merck [Pharmaceuticals] is our savior. [I laugh!] NOT! I assure you that my whole world started to spin and I started to research everything! Now I’m on pain medicine, my husband is on a ton of stuff, my mom and dad are both on blood pressure pills…we think we’re doing really well for ourselves and I’m suddenly starting to realize that we are not.

The China Study

Somehow I came across a book called “The China Study” during all my research and I read this thing in a day! In a day? [I’m a bit shocked because that book is not for “lightweights”, but then again, I shouldn’t be surprised because Dr. Debra has serious determination built into her!] Yes, it was so profound to me, I couldn’t put it down and it was so eye opening to me. It flipped me out! Everything I knew was all wrong! What if you wake up one day…and I tell you that everything that you held is true, like white meat chicken is good for you and that skim milk is good for you. It’s ALL wrong! It literally blew my mind and so I researched more.

E-Cornell’s Course in Plant-Based Nutrition

That’s where I found the E-Cornell class on plant-based nutrition, so before I put anyone I knew on this diet, including my daughter who is severely lactose intolerant, and we were actually giving her pills – enzymes – so that she could drink milk and not be sick. So before I did this, I needed to do more research. I was highly suspicious and so as I am taking these three courses from E-Cornell, I literally was not sleeping! This is how much it profoundly affected me! I literally did not sleep for three months while I’m taking this course because I was just reading and studying and researching. It was just the most eye opening revelation ever! So you would highly recommend this course? Yes, I would highly recommend this course for people who are geeks like myself, who need more than just hear someone say, “Do this! Don’t do that!” Most people don’t want to know how the engine of the car works. Most people just want to stick the key in and go! Right, I concur. So if you’re a key in and go kind of person then watch “Forks Over Knives”!

“It’s Wrong & Life threatening!”

The China Study is a pretty “heady” book, but if you’re a geek and you like studying and reading, then sure, I’d completely say, “Do it!” But I don’t think it’s necessary. For me it was necessary because I’m a doctor and I think that I know it all! Do you know what I’m saying? Yes! I mean, I know it all! Since I was thirteen, because remember I had this path, I gave up refined carbohydrates and red meat, but white meat was good, fish was good. You can’t tell me anything because I’m a doctor and I know it all! And then I ended up not knowing anything. Everything I thought I knew and held as true, is not only wrong [Debra emphasizes “wrong”]…it’s really wrong. Not only is it wrong it’s dangerous. It is life threatening! It’s so meaningful that it means life or death! Right, I’m so glad that you’re saying that because I think that’s so important for people to hear and especially coming from you who’s a medical doctor!

Forks Over Knives

Tell me has your family gone plant-based vegan with you? They have! My husband completely got it and understood it! “Forks Over Knives” was introduced to the family and my daughter, who’s a baker, sat down on the couch – she’s 13 – and was blown away by the power and enormity of that movie. Right, it is what propelled me on this exciting journey! My daughter couldn’t believe that this was not subject matter that was not well publicized and was outraged by that fact! She changed everything that she does. All her baked goods. She’s researched it and she’s looked up things. My daughter has even developed her own recipes. Amazing recipes that she’s spent hours in the kitchen. That’s fantastic, Deb, and she’s so young! Is she going to make her own book? I would love her to make her own recipe book. I think that she’s saving her own recipes with the eye towards doing that! 

Eighty-Year-Old Parents Go Plant-Based Vegan

My mom is first generation American from Russian immigrants, which is very stubborn genetics. [This makes me giggle because I’m an immigrant too, although I feel more American than Danish in many ways!] I think that all immigrants have stubborn genes because as immigrants they had to be tough enough to take that risk and come out, to be successful. My mom embraced this with the eye towards getting rid of all her pharmaceuticals! Her cholesterol is now 139, so she’s off that [the medicine]. She used to be on three blood pressure pills and now she’s on one. Wow, that’s amazing! But unfortunately she fell on Sunday and fractured her shoulder. Ohh, that’s not good! Because she still has remnants of that Fosamax stuff. But they are eating vegan properly. I believe that she is healing more quickly because of her lifestyle choices now! My dad is also completely vegan! [Wow, this totally blows me away! Normally people that late in life aren’t willing to make such a drastic change!] That’s incredible! My dad is off his blood pressure pills and is no longer taking his cholesterol pills. Wow, that’s HUGE!

How did you get your parent to go make the switch? I showed them “Forks Over Knives” and my dad, who is a bit of a geek like I am, read “The China Study” and it resonated with him. I said to my mom, “Look at what the pharmaceutical industry did to you!” She was angry that the medication, that she had taken as prescribed, resulted in two titanium rods – one down each leg – and went  though hell and back, through rehab and everything else, plus all the pain prior to even having these fractures. Because we believed all along that these were micro fractures, but there’s no way to prove it. She was willing to take a dietary risk and change her whole way of life! Your personal story has blown my mind, with surviving breast cancer, having to embrace a new profession, and then your parents…That’s Huge! It’s amazing, right! I tell them all the time how proud I am! Yes, you must be so proud of them!

A Thirteen-Year-Old Gets It

And my thirteen year old who also was brave enough to do it. And she gets it! Yes, absolutely, she gets it! She gets it and it’s not weird. When you’re thirteen some things are weird! She gets it! It makes sense to her. She’s a great kid! That’s so awesome, Deb! And it’s not easy for a thirteen-year-old because everything is pizza…ice cream…Everything is creme cheese! So we kind of tell people that she’s got a dairy allergy.  Allergies are like a “hot button” in schools. People will not make fun of kids in school with peanut allergies and she truly  does have an allergy – she’s been lactose intolerant since she was little. She had horrible abdominal pains for the first eight years of her life. Projectile vomiting. Really suffered terribly! Awwr, that’s terrible!

Future Endeavors

Okay, so I have to ask you, what are your future plans? I’m continuing with my Red Thread company and my plans for the  nutritional class is multi pronged. I think that people have to make choices and they can’t make proper choices without adequate information. I think that , just like back in the 1910’s, 1920’s…people smoked cigarettes and people got sick from their cigarettes without putting it together. Now I dare say,  that anyone who lights up a cigarette can not say honestly that they didn’t know. Do you know what I’m saying? Exactly! I would like for us to get to that point regarding food and so I am educating them, so that if they make a choice they make it with the full knowledge. Does that make sense? Absolutely! Because people need to make those changes for themselves!

Escalating Disease Rates

I look at the obesity rates, the diabetes rates, and cardiovascular disease rates  and they are escalating. People are on low fat diets. They are eating white meat chicken and they are drinking their skim milk and they just don’t know. And they are getting angry and frustrated with themselves…and they just don’t know! I think that I’m in a unique position where I can actually make that change, but I can’t act alone. I can and I will, but I think it needs to have a broader view. I need to speak with the folks at PCRM. I would like to take this to a different level. I would like to teach this to medical students. Just like they have a program for kids. So if the kids come home and teach their parent what they know about the power plate.  Then they show it to the pediatrician or cardiologist and they say, “You’re out of your mind!” That’s going to squash the whole thing.

This is the plate Dr. Deb and I follow and believe in! 

I think that just as we need to educate children, we also need to educate doctors! Oh absolutely! The children of the doctor world are the medical students! I think we need to start while they are young, entering medical school, just like we teach them biochemistry, physiology and gross anatomy. We need to teach them a more global view on how nutrition works and how it affects not  just on a subcellular level but on a real level. How it affects disease processes. Right! And have them on board, so that when they go out practice and a mom comes in and talks about the power plate. They can go, “Absolutely!” This is what we’re writing on the intake [form at the doctors office].

Pediatrician Threw Me Out!

When I go with my daughter to her pediatrician, I am asked to leave because they want to talk to her about drinking three glasses of milk per day and I’m asked to leave because I’m an obstruction for this information. That’s ridiculous! She’s your daughter.  [I’m incredulous!] Oh yea, I tell them that she’s not drinking milk and that we’re vegan and that’s she’s going to get her calcium in a more natural and more efficient way through fruits and vegetables, through legumes and whatever…and they ask me to leave! They literally kicked me out of the room. [I still can’t believe it!]  I love it! They actually kicked me out of the room. I laughed. I leave and they have a conversation with my daughter and she then tells me the conversation afterwards and we crack up about it. She says, “Why am I even going to this pediatrician? They are so stupid!” I say, “You’re right, but we need them to fill out forms so you can play sports!” We are using them for our benefit, so she can play sports!

The Future of Medicine

I’m having a conference call on Monday with the chief medical director at PCRM about how we can move forward to get these medical students on board. That’s where I want to be! I love the idea of teaching people and showing how accessible [a plant-based vegan diet] is, how tangible it is to do it, how non-threatening it is and just how much better tasting it really is! Once you take out those refined carbohydrates out of your diet, how much better food tastes and smells! That excites me! But what excites me more is teaching the medical community! Start a curricula from the ground up. Using similar tools that we used in our “Food For Life Program”.  

Medical Students Need Proper Nutrition Training!

The truth of the matter is that we learn about nutrition from what’s on television and at the dinner table from our moms and dads. They are the ones that love us the most, so why would they show us something that was wrong? Doctors are the same literally. Whatever backgrounds they came from. Why would they hurt us? They love us! They came from medical school. Why would they want to harm us? Right! So to show them the food, teach them how to cook it, give them live demonstrations. How quick and easy it really is! I think it’s also a way to entice them, because they are starving all the time. They don’t have time to cook. So by coming to a class and showing them how easy it is to cook. A course where they’ll be eating would be a good thing! 

Dr. Deb

How long have you been on a plant-based vegan diet now? About three years now. My dad was about 5’8 and now he’s shrunk, he’s 5’6, but he used to weigh over 200 pounds. I told him, “Don’t even try to count calories. Eat as much as you want.” Now he’s down to 158 pounds without even trying! I know, it’s amazing isn’t it! That’s how this diet works. You loose all the fat and the weight that your body doesn’t need. Crazy great!

For more information on Dr. Debra Kimless-Garber’s fabulous line of clothing called “Red Thread” go to:

Deb, thank you so much! You’re awesome! I loved your sense of humor and enthusiasm from the first time that we met in class. I just know that you’re going to go out there and change the medical community with your knowledge! I learned a lot today from you about various diseases that I wasn’t that familiar with. I look forward to talking with you again soon! Health & Happiness to you! x Nina

PS. I’m a geek too, Deb! Got The China Study today and plan to read it over Thanksgiving break!





About urbanveganchic

I'm an urban chic woman, who is passionate about educating others about the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet, cancer prevention & survival, as well as art & life. I love adventures and travel. As an artist and a teacher, I care deeply about healthy living, being a conscious steward of our planet, and being kind & respectful towards animals. Learning about a vegan plant-based diet has been like discovering a new country and falling in love with it, so if I sound like I'm enamored you now know why! As a world traveler, I truly wish I had discovered this beautiful new country twenty years ago! Better late than never, as they say, cause there's no going back now! Born and raised in Scandinavia. Proud owner of a tripod cat & a foxy little pup. Speak four languages...some better than others. Working on the fifth one. We are all either part of the problem or the solution! Health & Happiness to you! ~UrbanVeganChic

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