In October of 1999, my husband Mark began having stomach issues, ultimately leading to a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. His condition remained relatively quiet until August of 2007, leading to a year-long battle of ups-and-downs, further complicated by several medication reactions. After multiple trips to the emergency room in August of 2008, he was hospitalized with sepsis stemming from an undiagnosed reaction to the UC medication he was taking at the time, leading to a second hospitalization in September and another allergic reaction, as well as pancreatitis, as his new GI doctor worked to find a medication he could tolerate.
As a family, we had made some lifestyle changes in the years previous to 2007, especially with respect to food and the quality of food that we ate. I read the Maker’s Diet, he treated with our GI doctor, an acupuncturist, a naturopath, supplemented with probiotics and occasionally kimchi and kefir, ate mostly organic foods, and tried to manage stress. Things quieted down and he gained weight and strength. Then, in early July of 2011, following a challenging spring, the UC started to flare. By August of 2011, his knee had doubled in size and he was having trouble walking. His knee resolved, only to be followed by the doubling of the size of his wrist. His body was so overwhelmed with inflammation that, at times, he was unable to urinate. He lost 40 pounds in two weeks and was hospitalized around Labor Day of 2011. Because he was having 20 to 30 bowel movements per day, nausea and vomiting, and struggling to remain conscious through painful bowel movements, he was put on a pain pump of Dilaudid. He developed “moon face” from high doses of prednisone and was placed on a strict liquid diet.
Several days into Mark’s 2011 hospitalization, some very candid conversations began with Mark’s doctors. He was not responding to high doses of IV steroids and antibiotics, nor his previous medication. They wanted to start Remicade, but our insurance was denying coverage. I was scared of Remicade because of his serious reactions to past medications and the risk of scary side effects. His doctors assured me that Remicade was his only option, outside of a colectomy, which they were unsure he would be able to avoid. Additionally, his GI doctor was concerned he would develop a blood clot. I was terrified he would succumb to infection. Ultimately, our insurance agreed to coverage, and he started Remicade in the fall of 2011, along with a high dose of Sulfasalazine, oral prednisone, and other supplements.
While Remicade did prove helpful for quieting the UC, Mark was miserable in other ways. He was rotating about ten foods that he seemed to tolerate okay, the most palatable being duck eggs. He was receiving monthly Remicade infusions, as well as three Myers’ cocktail IVs a week. (Myers’ cocktail is an intravenous nutrient mixture, originally developed by Baltimore physician John Myers.) He spent the next year worn out and weak and lost a lot of his hair. He frequently experienced chest pain and struggled to gain weight.
In late fall of 2012, his symptoms began to turn for the worse. His doctor moved up his scheduled Remicade infusion and he was sent to the hospital for IV fluids. I expected he would be admitted, and I messaged everyone I knew who was part of a prayer group and we prayed hard over him. Early in the evening the same day, he called me to tell me that they were going to let him come home. Although we did not know it at the time, this Remicade infusion was also his last infusion. Praise Jesus.
By early 2013, Mark’s health had stabilized and, for a variety of reasons, he thought it would be best for our family to return to Northeastern South Dakota to the farm that he was raised on. In 2014 he had two flares that, again, required prednisone, but he was mostly stable and so we made plans. The idea of this transition was somewhat difficult for me. We were in ideal positions with our current careers and I was approaching ten years with my court reporting firm and a manager/firm owner that I had a great relationship with. Mark was busy trying to keep up with Seattle’s crazy housing market. Ultimately, though, we moved forward and closed on the sale of our house in May of 2015 and returned to the SD farm and Mark’s childhood home.
As time has passed, Mark’s original vision around the farm has evolved. Initially, he sought organic certification as validation that he wasn’t using chemicals. Through this process, however, he’s developed a passion around improving the health of his soil and his goals for the farm have become so much more than “organic.” To date, Mark has one fully certified organic field, three more in transition, and more to go into transition this year (2018), Lord willing. He also continues to own and operate his residential construction company. I continue to maintain my certification as a court reporter. We have an amazing and healthy ten-year-old son, who loves the Lord with all of his heart, a Boxer named Deacon, and a pardoned turkey, Thanksgiving. (Sadly, she passed away in September of 2017.) In addition to raising crops, Mark is an avid gardener, and raises meat and egg chickens for our family, as well as turkeys.
This blog is about our lifestyle that came about, initially, out of necessity, that led to life changes and a transition that, 15 years ago, I would not have envisioned for our family. While I pray to never see my husband in that kind of pain again, we both agree that, as people, and as a family, we would never change the circumstances that have grown us to become the people that we are and how it’s shaped our priorities and how we view soil and food and physical and spiritual health.
We are perpetually “in progress” in every area of our lives. We have days we eat better than others and times we don’t manage stress in ways that we should. While Mark still has some residual struggles, he's mostly well and he's strong and has been medication-free for a year this coming May (2018). 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.