I’ve been wondering why I’ve been ‘off’ the garden  this autumn. I’ve speculated in previous posts but this week something happened that gave me some perspective: the purple sprouting broccoli produced its first astonishingly bright, violet head. I filled Facebook and Instagram with pictures of my fabulous broccoli. I made the family stand and admire it many times a day. Suddenly the garden felt like it had a point again.

I’ll have to rewind a little to show you why:

“It’s not blood. It’s not blood.” Joshua’s words made a strange echoing sound as he heaved up into the loo.  The day before, Friday,  he’d been diagnosed with cancer. A biopsy, scheduled for Sunday, would be needed to confirm that the type of cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) was so much worse (and more rare) that our worst nightmares predicted. I looked over Joshua’s shoulder, the loo pan was crimson. He collapsed on the bathroom floor.

“I think we should call the doctor and see what she says. ” I said. I tried to keep my voice calm as I frantically signalled to Shannon to make the call.

“He has enlarged veins that have burst inside his stomach. It’s quite common with this type of cancer.” The ICU doctor said. “To  have lost this much blood, I think he must have had a slow bleed for a long time that has become acute.”

“The position of the bleeds is making them difficult to attend to surgically. We will have to keep giving him blood until the bleeds slow down by themselves.” The surgeon said.

It took fifteen pints of blood and nearly two weeks to get that bleed under control.

On the day he moved from ICU to High Care, we noticed that his left leg was hot and swollen. Josh winced when we touched it.

“A deep vein thrombosis,” The Oncologist said, “many cancer patients are hyper-coagulative. Joshua’s blood clots too easily.”

“What do we do?” I asked.

“Nothing. The treatment for DVT is a blood thinner. We can’t use that until we we are sure he won’t bleed again. ”

Untreated, Joshua’s leg, hip and eventually groin continued to swell. Even sitting in bed brought tears of pain. The only relief came from intravenous opiates. Cancer and opiates are the death of appetite and Josh seemed to shrink by the day.

The doctors weren’t talking about cancer anymore. They seemed convinced that the bleed or the DVT’s would be terminal. In many ways I think they considered either a preferable death than to face the monster of his cancer.

“Nutrition is import.” My Facebook page filled up with well-meaning (and often erroneous) advice on ‘cancer diets’. No meat, no dairy, no sugar, no tap water… everyone had a view.  I, in turn,  filled the garden with leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, Swiss chard, cabbages. I could surely feed Josh out of cancer.

I only planted two beds of things for pleasure: broad beans in one and fancy broccoli transplants in another.

Three months, two more bleeds, another DVT and a new medical team later Joshua’s bleeds, blood thickness and tumour growth seem to be contained.  The crops are a bust, though. All except the broccoli and the beans.

The problem, it turns out,  with all my leafy veggies is that one of the many vitamins they contain is vitamin K. Vitamin K is a blood coagulant. Eating leafy greens is a sure fire recipe for another DVT.

The garden that I planted to heal my son, it seems, is filled to the brim with beautiful, heirloom, organic Josh poison.

The broad beans are still coming but for now I have four of five wonderful glimmers of joy – my purple sprouting broccoli. Worth being excited about.


Broccoli - may 2017  I should have planted more broccoli and less Swiss chard