037. Using Disaster to Unlock Wellness with Josh Perry

Josh Perry is a former professional BMX athlete, motivational speaker, and certified holistic health consultant that’s fighting 4 brain tumors. His strong motivation for living his best and healthiest life stems from a brain tumor diagnosis & surgery in 2010 followed by 2 additional diagnoses. After overcoming the surgeries & treatments, and realizing he most likely has a genetic predisposition to accumulating tumors, he immersed himself in research on how to enhance the health, performance, and longevity of his brain. Since choosing to change his life and follow a ketogenic diet & lifestyle, the growth of the tumors have stopped and he feels better and more fulfilled than he has ever before. Today, Josh has left competing to start his health coaching business as a way of exploring his passion for helpings other improve their brain health and become the most successful versions of themselves. Josh also teamed up with the Athlete Recovery Fund to start raising awareness and funds for a non-profit BMX/Wellness event focused on raising direct funding for direct patient care through education, sport, and faith called the Brainy BMX Stunt Shows

Josh shares what really helped him take back control of his life. Vision & goals are what helped him overcome adversity and become successful, still living with 4 tumors today. His tools are Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, a ketogenic diet/lifestyle, and leaving the competition side of BMX to pursue his wellness-focused purpose purpose, Brainy BMX. Josh feels strongly that health is internal and we all have the same choice in our life and that’s our perspective.

Key Points from the Episode with Josh Perry:

  • Josh has taken a step back from his pro BMX career to focus on sharing his story across podcasts, public speaking and his health coaching work. And he’s doing that all with four brain tumors that he’s managing through a mix of the Keto diet, the right mindset and medical intervention when needed (mainly Gamma Knife technology)
  • He hit on the hidden transition in his retirement from the pro BMX circuit around a loss of identity. His world has been Josh Perry the BMX rider, so aside from not riding in competitions, he’s faced the question of who he is today. He still rides at an incredible level because he loves it, but he isn’t actively competing.
  • His dream was just to be a professional BMX rider competing, but didn’t realize what he’d be exposed to all over the world through the travel he’s done, for example performing for the troops in Afghanistan.
  • In March 2010, he was training a jump he was working on. He was worried about under-rotating and ended up over-compensating and over-rotating, which resulted in a crash that landed him in an urgent care center to get his head scanned.
  • As a background to this crash, he had been having intense headaches for a year with pain so severe it made him nauseous. Whenever he went to the doctor about the headaches, the doctors sort of blew it off since he was so young, and just gave him pills for the headache pain.
  • But when he got the scan after his crash, the news the doctor shared was not something he expected at all. He was told, “There’s something in your brain that isn’t supposed to be there.” And after that, things became surreal and he was almost detached from his surroundings. He called his mother to tell her the news and couldn’t even speak.
  • He felt complete broken and out-of-body.
  • The urgent care doctor told him he not only would never ride again, but probably would never walk again, either. That was what really set the shock in.
  • He sound learned that he had a large tumor on top of his brain that had wrapped itself around his optic nerve, which was causing his headaches and vision issues. It was so severe that, in a month or two, he wouldn’t have woken up again.
  • After his surgery, which took over six hours, he was riding again after five weeks, and was competing again seven to eight weeks after that.
  • His biggest struggle coming back into competition was just around confidence and whether he was ready and able to do it. He worked on that actively and got himself back to where he was before the surgery. It was very much an action-oriented approach.
  • He found inspiration from his mother’s battle overcoming colon cancer and also reading Lance Armstrong’s book and recognizing how he won most of his victories after he had cancer. That helped him realize he wasn’t done yet.
  • He learned so much through this experience about himself and what he can do that he believes he wouldn’t have learned without going through this experience with the first tumor. He doesn’t think everyone needs to face something so dramatic to learn these lessons, but he feels he did.
  • I questioned whether the fast movement to action helped him be positive and overcome it, which isn’t something he’s thought about before, but he does believe this is a crucial part of the puzzle. Had he sat longer before the surgery, he would have had more time to ruminate, worry and let his mindset slip.
  • He talked about how worrying can lead to bad choices, like when he crashed. He was worried about under-rotating when he flipped, and he ended up over-rotating and crashing. Worry about going too far left can mean you shift too hard right, and fail. Mindset and fear can lead to the outcomes we’re fearing in the first place.
  • Two years after coming back from his first tumor and surgery, a routine MRI found two new tumors that were not operable. He was told he could try radiation, but that didn’t sit well with him, so he researched other options, and found the Gamma Knife, which uses targeted radio waves done on an out-patient basis, which is what he has been using to fight his tumors since finding it.
  • As he was getting fully back into BMX competition, he blew out his knee at a competition, and rode with it that way for two years with it in a brace because he didn’t want to stop riding to get it taken care of.
  • His girlfriend, who was a trainer who he met through working through his recovery, pushed him to address his knee problem by getting surgery, and eventually he agreed to do it, timing things around BMX events. Recovery was expected to be six to eight months long, but his recovery went much faster, which he credits his physical fitness and diet with.
  • He came back into competition and got up to 10th in the world and then, during another regularly MRI scan, they found two more tumors, and realized he has a genetic condition that predisposes him to develop tumors in his brain and spinal cord.
  • Since then, he has used a Ketogenic diet to stop the growth of the tumors and promote brain health, and so far, the tumors have not progressed. As this episode comes out, he will have had his second annual scan to see if the tumors have stayed the same size or even shrunk, so we’ll all be thinking of Josh as we listen to this.
  • He shared some of the science behind why the Keto diet is so helpful, which is about providing alternative fuel sources to brain cells that are damaged, for example by concussion (which Josh obviously has dealt with given his profession).
  • Ultimately, Josh’s goal is to inspire change in perspective to help people see their lives in a more positive outlook but ultimately to prioritize the health of their brain. He shares his story to help inspire that in others, and has started to share more mindset pieces than anything.
  • He’s using his health coaching to help make this impact, as well as public speaking to try to touch large groups.
  • He’s not looking to just inspire people, but inspire them to take action and change.
  • He’s also working with the Athlete Recovery Fund to create the Brain BMX Stunt Shows, which are wellness BMS events to educate and raise funds for brain tumor and injury patients to provide direct funding for them. Josh and his family benefited from the Fund when he got his diagnosis, so this is a way to give back.
  • Books we mentioned: Buddha’s Brain and The Ketogenic Bible


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