Last week I had blood drawn for testing and yesterday I went online to view the results. My doctor orders regular blood analysis to keep up with how my body is faring in its 35-year challenge with Crohn’s disease. The test results were spectacular. Everything was in the normal range. That prompted my doc to write a note: “I don’t know how you do it, but this is great!” It has not always been this way.
Five years ago, working full-time, running a household, and providing care for my elderly Mom, I was exhausted and depleted. In and out of the hospital with flare-ups, enduring multiple invasive procedures and surgeries, I was in an epic struggle just to keep going. This alarmed my daughter, who was doing her part to help out, driving from another state to provide support as often as she could. Welcome as that was, it fell short. I was spiraling, being administered iron intravenously for acute anemia, and gobbling hands full of supplements in an effort to get basic nutrients. My health was dangling by a thread. The disease was winning.
Then my daughter took action. She convinced a long-time friend, a self-described “old hippie,” to agree to be my helper, my backstop. Aware of my circumstances and challenges, he arrived at my small home and immediately began pacing off the back yard. Within a few months he had built a network of raised beds for planting organic vegetables, installed a composting system, and rain barrels for water storage. Within a year I was eating bountiful amounts of leafy green vegetables—chard, spinach, lettuces, arugula, kale, mustard, and collards, along with roots like turnips, beets, carrots, and rutabagas, all pulled fresh from the earth, dirt still clinging to their skins. Then came the tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, grapes, figs, and plums. To brighten my spirits, he planted marigolds, gladiolas, snapdragons, rose bushes, and giant sunflowers, all visible from my bedroom window.
Although I had tried to eat as well as I could while being a caregiver and attending to all my other responsibilities, that wasn’t always possible. There were many skipped meals, too many unhealthy snacks—because that’s all I had time for. Having a garden right there outside my window changed everything. Offering more than sustenance, it was a source of inspiration, a verdant reminder that life is in fact beautiful. It was good medicine, the best medicine. A minor miracle. And my blood work proves it. I am grateful.