What I’ve learned about hope

 In Blog

Read a guest post from Susannah Meadows, author of “The Other Side of Impossible”:

Working on my book changed the way I think about hope. I used to think that hope was rooted in the known possibility, however small. If you’re diagnosed with an illness that 99 out of 100 people won’t survive, you could still have hope because of the example of one.

But while I was reporting “The Other Side of Impossible,” I spent time with people who faced diseases and conditions that it was unheard of to come back from and they still thought recovery was doable. One little girl had intractable epilepsy and autistic traits. Another child had such severe food allergies, he had avoided 27 different foods. I also met Dr. Terry Wahls, who, of course, has MS and had been using a wheelchair to get through the day. Under those circumstances, the reasonable thing would have been not to have hope.

And yet somehow they did. There was no example of one, but rather than give up, they became it. 

After you meet people who can find success against impossible odds, you start to wonder what else is possible. When I came home from spending several days with Terry and her family in Iowa City, cooking with her in her kitchen, shopping with her at the local co-op, and taking a long bike ride, I was more committed than ever to eating well. If Terry was controlling MS inflammation with her 12-cup-a-day diet of vegetables, what could it do for all of us? Cancer and heart disease, for example, are also inflammatory diseases. We already know that a high-fiber diet reduces the risk of all-cause mortality.

I live in Brooklyn, and although it’s tiny, I’m lucky enough to have a yard. This year, in two garden boxes, I have planted five different kinds of kale, three varieties of lettuce, and a lot of herbs. The beauty of kale is that it’s “cut-and-come-back”: you clip off just the outside leaves and in a couple days, the smaller leaves grow and make up for the loss. We will be eating these fresh, nutrient-dense greens one or twice a day through the fall.

I think of Terry often, as I count the number of vegetables my family eats in a day. We eat them for lunch, for snacks, for dinner and often get up to eight. My 9-year-old twin sons join in, counting the number of colors we’ve had, to ensure that we’re getting a range of antioxidants.

I’ve been a journalist for many years. I’ve covered crime and politics. Writing about Terry was definitely a new experience. It’s the first time I’ve walked away from a story I’ve written about a person wondering how to make her proud. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go water the garden.

Visit Susannah’s website here.