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I’ll be the first to agree that college is our prime time to meet important people. I use the term ‘important’ loosely, but by that, I mean someone that we know will hold a significant place in our lives. It could be a professor, a random person sitting in front of you in a lecture hall, or the person you just happened to run into while on the wrong floor in your dorm— which is how I met Mary. I was desperately looking for a lounge in my building to study for finals in and was quickly pulled into the third floor main lounge before the police and rescue squad came running through the elevator to help a student who had hurt themselves, but that’s another story. Anyways, Mary was one of the people in that lounge.

            

studying group of friends
Photo by Alexis Brown from Unsplash

I give Mary full credit for where I am right now in college. I met her the last week of my first semester here. I was a mere naïve freshman that had no idea what I wanted, but wasn’t happy with where I was. Luckily, she was in the same boat, and we spent a really long time talking about school, life, and the works. Since then, I knew she was someone I needed to keep around, and we’ve both worked to see each other as much as possible in the past year and a half.

In that time, Mary has been through more than anyone I know. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in September after experiencing serious health issues that started around the time we met. Along with Crohn’s, she had been previously diagnosed with Bipolar II, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, and IBS. I feel the air leave my lungs every time she reminds me of this. Because of her chronic illnesses, she is gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and does not eat anything with processed sugar or preservatives. I’m sure there’s more I can’t remember.

            

healthy meal
Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

It’s the way Mary turned lemons into lemonade that inspired me to dedicate my last article of the school year to her. Since her diagnosis with Crohn’s, she has completely changed her diet and way of living by finding a new love in cooking. Now, she’s decided to write a cookbook customized for anyone who has dietary restrictions so they can still receive all the nutritional value they need to live comfortably.

“I write one to two new recipes a day,” said Mary when I had a conversation with her on the Huckleberry Trail. “It’s my artistic outlet.”

Mary spent time educating me on the way that doctors approach diets for diseases such as Crohn’s, and it’s common to simply assign a diet of white meat, white rice, and saltine crackers for people with these conditions. However, these foods do not provide people with the nutritional value they need to feel completely satisfied.


“assorted fruits on display in store” on unsplash
Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi from Unsplash

“I’ve created recipes that are full of substitutions,” Mary said. “So, if there is something that I can digest but someone else can’t, they know what they can substitute it with to still get that nutrition they need to be at their best.”

By writing this book for others, Mary has developed a new sense of meaning in everything she does. 

“I spent 2 years trying everything possible to get my health and spirits back through medication regimens, diet changes, and therapy,” Mary said. “Cooking is where I have found the most joy, and I want to be able to share that with others. It’s completely focused on this theme of empowerment to share my vision for whole-food, whole-minded living to inspire and educate those living with or without chronic illness so they can thrive no matter what cards they’ve been dealt.”

This book, this lifestyle change, and this attitude are what make it so easy to adore her. I’ve seen what Mary was before and after her diagnoses and life changes, and I can confidently say they were both extraordinary people. Chronic illness has failed to take away Mary’s compassion for those in her life, and I’m grateful to have witnessed how she has approached these life obstacles.

To say it’s inspired me to do better seems obvious, but it couldn’t be more true. She spoke with me about how there is no complete cure for her chronic illnesses, but there are many ways that she can cure herself through the food she eats, the people she chooses to spend time and cultivate connections with, and her exercising habits. Her new normal and ways of living are what I aspire to accumulate over time, and I’m eternally grateful to watch her grow and thrive through her new, empowered view on life. 

Mary’s book, which currently has a secret title, is expected to be completed close to Christmas. I thank her again for letting me share her story with you all, and I hope this article encourages you all to live your best life through good people, good health, and even better food.

Gabby Taylor

Virginia Tech '22

I am a junior at Virginia Tech pursuing a degree in Communication Science with minors in Psychology and Sociology. While writing is one of my greatest passions, I also enjoy spending time with my friends, my cat, and living in my daydreams :) enjoy my stories!
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