Thoughts on My Own Personal Garden Therapy Program and Treatment Plan During Crisis

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Warning: This is a post about a crisis—not an emergency—and its subject matter concerns living with an illness more than living with plants; but the conclusion will be that no matter what, if you live with an ongoing illness that causes crises (or whatever it is in your case), even when you are a wreck, and you don’t really care as much about your plants as you usually do (or whatever it is for you), that’s ok. So don’t let me—or this post of mine—get you down…I am doing just fine.
Mt. Konocti as seen from Walker Ridge Road in Lake County, CA. If I hadn’t walked up that peak on the left, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this post right now. Do I regret the steep walk uphill? Uhm, HELL NO! I already want to do it again, but with better attention paid to the additional necessary precautions in order to prevent more heath scares.
For some time I’ve been trying to locate and define the line I cross when illness makes my life so difficult that the subjects of gardening and plants cannot immediately resuscitate me. Then, suddenly last week—but maybe it wasn’t that unexpected–I found that line again, and Thud! I was knocked out fair and square by the indwelling opponent I hadn’t really been keeping an eye on recently.
Last week my larynx nearly closed and it was terrifying. Since it had happened in the past I knew what it was and what to do, but I was home alone and terrified. For many with Hereditary Angioedema, this is our worst nightmare and up until only recently, this is how many people died from this disease. What many physicians still do not understand is that this is not an allergic swelling and that what we actually need is not corticosteroids or antihistimines but instead, fresh frozen plasma, or sometimes even more expensive treatments.
That night I faced a difficult decision and worse still was that I was alone. I could stay home and use the old treatment of anabolic steroids, hoping that it would help my body produce more of the C1 complement factor I needed in my blood, or else I could run the risk that my own hospital might actually deny my treatment in the emergency room. Being without my handy advocate, I chose not to attempt to fight the system that evening, and overall, that made me really angry. No one should have to put off potentially lifesaving treatment because they don’t want to argue with an emergency room doctor. You heard me correctly, and yes, this probably does not make sense.
Luckily, the old anabolic treatment kind of worked. I stayed up all night just in case, making sure that the swelling didn’t worsen or spread. If it had, I was committed to calling 911, so I wasn’t being too unreasonable.
Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa. Garden booty from my recent road trip to California.

This experience reminded me that I’ve not yet won the recognition of a diagnosis I’ve lived with for almost 10 years from my own medical insurer, and that’s solely due to the fact of its potential expense. I live knowing that I cannot get the help I need because the quality of my life does not matter as much as their Bottom Line. To say that this is a heavy weight to carry on my back is an understatement. Unbelievable still is that my interest in plants and gardens could paper over the indignity of the healthcare nightmare I am so sick of living.

Many other patients already qualify for brand new expensive treatments that our large advocacy group fought hard for, but as of right now, I still do not qualify. There are several Types of HAE and I have now fallen into the Type III category that’s not only a catchall, but it’s also the least understood group and is currently still more theoretical. So, I wait, and if a study comes up and they need me, I will go, but until then, on paper, my own insurer will not accept the diagnosis. Scientifically, statistically, mathematically, symptomatically, they will only treat me in an emergency room based upon the symptoms as they are observed. To treat me with plasma would open up the door to my petitioning and potentially suing them in order to get special new treatments. This is sick. It is a sick system.
Each year my doctor writes a new letter describing why I need a treatment and why her diagnosis does not fit their criteria. Going to your insurance company repeatedly to ask for help, while being repeatedly denied, is really quite humbling. Even though I am basically too sick to work full-time, I am not ill enough. If I could get treatment, I could actually have some kind of life again. Instead, I am told no, and then am instructed to stick with the old treatment until more research has been completed. I think this round I will dig deeper. I might even fight back.
At least last week I knew exactly what I have, and although it is mysterious, I was informed enough to understand what it was and I can now see how I’d created the perfect storm for a health crisis during my trip to California. When I returned home and noticed I was physically shaking a lot, I knew something was going to happen but I was hoping it wasn’t going to involve my throat.
In the past my doctors and I had discussed a way to try again with the committee and had created a plan to re-petition but it was a long shot. At that time, I gave up because I couldn’t take any more, but I am ready now—even if it means having to make myself sick again.
Last week’s experience was a tipping point in my life. Seeing massive old growth native Californian oak trees has inspired me to want to see more and I cannot do so unless I seek the medical attention I need to prevent attacks like the one I had. Walking around staring at plants in the wilderness felt more normal to me than anything I’ve felt in ages. For a time, I felt free.
Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius. One of the blooms used in some arrangements I’ve been making this past week.
Luckily, while everything else has recently been a struggle, I have somehow successfully kept up with a daily Ikebana post on the other blog. After weeks of arrangements, I am really satisfied with the piece “Trapped” because it beautifully showed how I was feeling. What it made me realize too was that I needed to write this post. What’s important right now is my own personal growth and rebuilding, the plants that have papered over my frustration can rest a bit, and I will tend to that garden I have inside, just as we all do, and what’s left of the garden and plants I’ve neglected this year can come along with me and we’ll go at it again. Differently.
I don’t want the plants to be papering over anything anymore.
The tide has turned. My weight has shifted. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe.
“My blog will always be primarily about gardening, and my love of seeds and growing 
oddball ornamental plants from seed, but today, I wanted to write an illness post because 
if if weren’t for my rare hereditary blood disease, I doubt I ever would have ended up 
here and I would have been doing something else.” 
One of our hummingbirds striking its best Ikebana pose…

Vashon Island, Washingtion

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My first visit to Vashon Island occurred when I was in high school. One of my friends at that time had family here and we were often invited up to visit her when she was visiting them. After I purchased my first car, I drove her up and dropped her off. That was my first solo road trip, and as anyone who knows me now knows, it was the beginning of my long love affair with road trips. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have returned for a quick visit. This island is the first place I ever felt freedom as a young woman and that still means a lot to me.
It might be hard to see, but the name of this Washington State Ferry is Rhododendron.

I wasn’t sure what to write about Vashon Island, since there is simply so much to say, but I had to start somewhere so here we are on the water!

There are four ferries to the island. One leaves from Tacoma and takes you to the south end of the island while the other three leave from the north and can take you to West Seattle, Southworth or downtown Seattle. The ferry to downtown Seattle is a passenger-only ferry and we utilized it a lot when I was younger.

Nowadays I stay with another friend from high school and it’s at her in-law’s vacation home. Lucky for us, the drive from the ferry is a quick one so I had my feet up resting in no time.

We had to drive to the north end of the island to gather some dinner items and as soon as we returned, the chef was hard at work. Our hostess did an amazing job of making everything pleasant for us and the evening could not have been better!

My friend’s mother-in-law is great with interior design and it is fun to see her love of nature and plant-life. This charming marigold print is a new favorite of mine. Surrounded by the grey-blue of Puget Sound and the sky it compliments the environment well.

Outside on the deck, a lonely Aloe awaits us. It is such a great touch and it is almost starfish-like. (Yes, you can lean over the deck sometimes and look directly at starfish and other creatures. It is really dreamy that way.)

Like all vacation homes, the house has plenty of hens and chicks—and these are beautifully arranged.

There is a mixed succulent dish too.

When you first arrive at the house, after a long walk down several flights of stairs, this is what greets you  beside the front door. It is nice to enter a house smiling and I think the homeowner has nailed that requirement.

Nearby, you will find other garden and patio decor. And although this is a catfish, I’d like to imagine it to be a sturgeon.

This morning I awoke early, excited for the day ahead, with plenty of plant shopping on my mind, and I watched the fishermen and the wildlife. I grew up on a creek and I often saw herons all of the time, but living in the city now, I honestly miss them. They are really beautiful birds.

Nearby on the back deck there is also this lovely piece. I am guessing this was purchased, but it could easily be handmade by anyone with enough time to collect the driftwood.

I was also able to see some amazing watercraft this morning too other than the plain ole salmon boats with their screeching outboard motors and huge almost ridiculously over sized nets that are honestly necessary to land big salmon.

Sorry this is only setting the scene, and I haven’t truly dug my teeth into any REAL garden material, but trust me, I will. (Have you ever seen abandoned overgrown orchid greenhouse? Oh, you will!)

The Cats vs. The Birds

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Most gardeners are lovers of animals, and for some reason, the two almost always seem to go together. I have heard that in Great Britain, it is most frequently the moggie cat that is much beloved, but here in the US, it seems that we may have just as many dogs digging in the dirt with their owners. Here at our home, we have three black cats, but in addition to Macavity, Maurice and Mona, we also have another black cat neighbor named Meng. There are tons of other cats that come and go too, but our hearts, and garden, belong to the first four, and for the most part, these four seem to tolerate one another.
Like other soil toilers, I also adore birds. This can be a bit difficult though if you also care for cats. Every year we try to make their collars louder, but I still worry about my feathered guests. In general, I have tried to design a garden which encourages bird-watching, and not bird killing. During the last four years, only one bird has been killed–as far as I know… This may have something to do with my pets’ penchant for napping on the job. (See Above: Mona on an average day.)