Just Beet It (May 28, 2014)

I get a lot of my writing done these days in the wee hours of the morning, before most of the living world is awake. This in an incredible paradigm shift, surprising no one more than myself. Family members and former lovers can confirm that I am not, to understate the truth, so much a traditional early bird as a snarling, crabby, slow moving lady bear. Yet things are changing, in ways both large and small. And the bulk of these alterations stem from the unlikeliest and bitterest tasting of sources – raw, organic beet juice.

The root vegetable’s two most important effects: generating hope where once there was none and in tandem, reducing a vicious and aggressive case of pompholyx eczema to a nearly asymptomatic state. Over the course of a year, I sat helplessly and depressingly by as the initial outbreak grew, taking over the palm of both hands, the sensitive areas between thumb and pointer finger, the lower parts of each digit and in the case of my right hand, the tiny, heated, pus-filled blisters crawled across the back. No expensive, side-effect inducing medication could slow the progression. Twice daily topical steroid applications beat back current blisters, but did nothing to address the underlying condition. The ‘roids became less effective and necessitated breaks during which the growth became more bellicose. An endless, demoralizing cycle. And who’s to say what the long-term affects of the steroid administration could be on the rest of my body?

This morning I sit typing, looking at two hands that are in the best state they’ve enjoyed since early May 2013, when two little blisters were mistaken for a boxing glove-induced fungal infection. Beet juice. I am an avowed nonbeliever but for lack of more appropriate verbiage, it’s a miracle. 20 ounces per day. I try to eat right and make sensible choices to support absorption (the occasional doughnut or chicken wing aside) of whatever juice property it is that communicates with my skin, telling it the battle is over. The attacks are extraneous. The waste emanating from my body has turned a flaming shade of crimson and I am constantly wiping up small, blood red spills from tables, desks and nightstands. The bitter flavor of the juice will never create a palette sensation, but I have learned to love the harsh elixir. It is life in a cup.

I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, a fan of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. I’m living one such tale, fortunate to be able to watch the plot unfold in real time. Not six weeks ago, the dermatological team supporting my treatment offered a last ditch nuclear pharmaceutical option. For $1800, I could sign away three years of reproductive health for a medication guaranteed to hang around my system causing birth defects, if indeed childbirth were on my mind (it’s not). I couldn’t help but wonder, if the pills could destroy a mythical baby, what would they do to the rest of me? The list of potential side effects was as long as the Dead Sea parchments, detailing the risks of everything from suicide to liver failure. It was explained to me that I had no other recourse. This was the end of the line and if the medication failed, I’d best start preparing for disability and shopping around for one of those voice recognition typing programs.

But before I could raise the funds to fill the prescription, before I recruited my sister to spend the first night with me in case I should have a volatile reaction to the medication, an angel appeared in the snarky, adorable form of my childhood friend Jessica. “Try my juice cleanse” this cherub said.

There are no forms to sign before consuming beet juice. No risky side effects unless you consider soft skin, clear eyes, hydration and better quality sleep a liability. It’s not just the beets of course. I’ve reduced alcohol consumption to almost nothing, have returned to exercising the way I once did (hello again yoga and bike riding – previously too painful for my hands), drink other raw, organic juices of varying colors and eat lighter and healthier. It’s a funny thing. It’s difficult to understand how poorly we treat ourselves with food and beverage consumption and how challenging modern society makes it to take another road….until the stark reality of it all sort of falls into your lap.

And that’s it. So many expensive, complicated chemical solutions were tried and discarded but it it’s plain old nature that’s returned my life. There’s a lot of logistical planning and thought involved. No more cramming the nearest available food-like product into my maw and calling it a meal. But I’m coming back, healthier than ever. I’m giving myself a round of applause for the daily commitment it’s taking to heal – because, awesomely, it no longer hurts to do so.


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