Free to Fly: A Journey Toward Wellness
by Judit Rajhathy

A Book Review by Helen Lofgren
UPdate Spring 1996

     Judit Rajhathy’s Free to Fly, a Journey Toward Wellness, is a remarkable book which tells comprehensively about the frightening, at times devastating effects that the environment, indoors and out, as well as diet and other factors can have on health, and what to do to get well.  Told as a narative, it is the story of a woman and her family, of their coming to recognize and learning to control these environmental effects upon their lives.  Ill and run-down for too long, discouraged and desperate, with tests negative, repeated visits to physicians do not lead to improved health, answers or meaningful explanations, and offer little encouragement for Jillian, the central character.

     In absence of anything better to offer, the conclusion after numerous consultations and tests is that perhaps answers rest with a psychiatrist.  Knowing that she is physically ill, that the stress symptoms she feels are largely the consequence of her illness and of not having her ill health adequately diagnosed, with a constructive plan for coping, rather than the cause, the psychiatric referral feels like utter defeat.  What follows is the story of the ‘journey toward wellness’ for the Stowe family and others, a lively, realistic and practical model for anyone seeking answers to problems of chronic ill health.  She never does keep that psychiatric appointment.

     The story is fictional, a composite of many individuals and experiences, but readers will recognize themselves, family and relatives, co-workers, friends, health care professionals and others.  It is a device which allows Rajhathy to move systematically from one area of concern to the next, giving a plausible order to that complex jumble of factors affecting health and well-being which can seem just too overwhelming to tackle, but which never eclipses her goal of educating the reader as quickly and thoroughly as possible.  Jillian’s life and world are the threads that bring together the many diverse but interrelated factors that influence health, a pattern which is essential for each of us to learn to recognize in order to regain and maintain health.  Not much is left out as the reader sits in on consultations with experts who give thorough and detailed explanations and provide education and instruction for taking control of ones own health.

     Models for ideal health care are all there: economical clinics and adjunct services, including classes and resources to be found in the community (for instance cooking with alternatives, simply and deliciously), safe schools, and gardening free of harmful chemicals.  The well designed clinic is staffed by a knowledgeable physician and other professionals who recognize the health problems of the patients, and treat those patients with respect, encouragement and the determination to see them well, using patient education and empowerment as its basis.  Jillian’s consultations, each building upon the last, give readers solid and complete information with constructive plans for action in their own lives.
Books, publications, organizations and other resources referred to throughout are genuine and well chosen, and provide readers with excellent and up to date resources, each to be found in the appendices at the back.  Rajhathy has used these pages to dream, but hers is a practical dream, a model for what our health care can and should be, comprehensive, constructive, compassionate, preventive in orientation, one that takes patient education for development of a healthy life-style as its foundation.  With health dollars becoming scarcer everywhere, we are all going to have to assume greater responsibility for our own health and that of our families; Rajhathy shows us the way.

     In her introduction, Carolyn Dean, M.D., describes Free to Fly as ‘ten books rolled into one’.  This is no exaggeration; it’s a least that.  There exist many books on particular conditions, e.g.. allergies, asthma, arthritis, cancer, chronic fatigue, behaviour and hearth problems, p.m.s., Alzheimer’s, etc., and a cookbook for almost any condition.  There are innumerable books on illness and treatment, and some on prevention, but what we haven't had until now was an overview, the whole picture from an experiential point of view.  Reinforced throughout is that our health is directly affected by what we eat, drink and breathe on a daily basis.  Individuals may react with varying sensitivity and symptomatology to given exposures depending upon their own particular vulnerabilities, genetic make-up and previous history, but the remedies, generally not pharmaceutical, have a common basis: clean air, clean food, clean water; detoxify, and build up the immune system.

     As she was writing, Rajhathy, a nutritional consultant and environmental health educator, had in mind ordinary people who are coming to realize that they are just not well, with little specific knowledge of the effects of the environment on their health.  These are typical of the people she sees in her practice, some of whose remarkable stories of recovery can be found at the end of the book.  It’s Rajhathy’s own story, too; she is some of Jillian, so she knows well of what she speaks, and she is Eva Sandor, the lively nutritional consultant.  She is also a mother, well versed in the realities of recognizing and coping positively with children with sensitivities.  It is a story that could be any of ours: Readers will recognize themselves or their experiences, often heretofore unexplained, and find comprehensive, concrete directions in which to move and resources for what to do now or next.  Jillian is remarkable in that once she finds the path toward recovery and wellness, she moves very quickly, so the reader is exposed to a good measure of the myriad factors that can affect health, from the foods we eat to over prescription of antibiotics, overgrowth of candida, cosmetic landscape pesticide spraying, other chemical exposure including petroleum products, scented products, tobacco smoke, dusts, and moulds, ‘sick buildings’, problem schools, and to the steps to follow to remedy these problems.  She learns of the benefits of organically grown foods, rotary diets, nutritional supplementation, safe building and cleaning materials, clean air and water, useful adjunct therapies, and the ways in which environmental health issues are intricately tied to her children’s health, behaviour and school experience to name just a few.  As Jillian pursues recovery, seeking her won optimal health, she becomes actively engaged in the promotion of health and prevention of disease as the keys to good health, in a way that is realistic and practical for readers to follow.  

     Whether one is new to a holistic approach to health, or experienced and well on the way toward recovery, wellness and optimal health, Free to Fly is a very useful resource.  Written narratively as it is makes it particularly valuable as well for sharing with family, friends and others whom we wish better understood the experience, why we or they must make major life-style changes, or for those we care about who are affected but don’t yet recognize it.  It is easy to identify with at least someone or their experiences in Jillian’s world, and once in that world, one can follow a path toward wellness, the details of which will be unique to each individual.  Free to Fly is valuable also for anyone well on the way to good health, for this is neither a simple nor short journey. 

     I know what I am giving for gifts this year, and I am even giving copies to some to whom I don’t usually give gifts because I know Free to Fly has the potential to be a life-saver.  All anyone has to do is read it and begin somewhere to make health promoting changes.  Success will be noted, often immediately, and that is very encouraging to anyone: Succeeding steps come more easily when one has already experienced success.  Rajhathy gives readers many more to follow through on, with excellent resources to take the ‘journey toward wellness’ as far as they are willing.

     Editors don’t usually review the books they’ve edited, but there are exceptions, and this is one.  I undertook the task of editing because I knew this would be an important book, one which I wanted to help to be the very best that it could be.  Judit and I had, over the course of numerous drafts, many fine discussions and a few good laughs, often late at night.  She is to be commended for producing an informative, well written, coherent book which is both attractive in format, and economical of space, thus keeping the cost to pocketbook as well as the environment modest.  Along the way she has created her own publishing company, New World Publishing, which has promise as an important force in the field of holistic health education.  My own wish is that Rajhathy will offer a taped reading of Free to Fly, in her own voice, for those whose minds are too muddled or otherwise find reading difficult, or for the pleasure of hearing what she has to say come alive in a way that no other voice can give it.  Rajhathy loves what she does; there can be no doubt that Free to Fly is a labour of love, and a unique, comprehensive and valuable resource, a real success!


A teacher, educator and mother, Helen Lofgren, has long been interested in environmental health issues, allergy, multiple chemical sensitivity, addictions including alcoholism and their effects on the family, as well as their relationship to environmental health issues.