Jenny Peterson is a two time cancer survivor who has kindly written about her inspiration for writing The Cancer Survivor's Garden Companion". You can find her book on the Live Better With store here
USING YOUR GARDEN TO HEAL BY JENNY PETERSON
I come from a family of gardeners. (All of us garden except our brother, Phil – we think he got a recessive gene somewhere, but we love him anyway.) Growing up, our father worked hard in his garden — from his vegetable plot to the perfect lawn, his garden received our neighborhood’s “Yard of the Month” award numerous times.
I’m also a garden designer, a garden speaker, and a garden writer. It’s safe to say that gardening is in my blood, so when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2012, I was very disheartened at how my cancer treatment affected my ability to garden.
Like many of you, I felt tired, sick, and listless during treatment. I had a number of side effects, some lasting to this day (lymphedema and nerve damage), and I just didn’t feel like going outside. But the more I stayed inside, the worse I felt, so I began making small efforts.
If you love gardening like I do, and consider it your “therapy,” don’t let your cancer diagnosis keep you from your outdoor space. You might need to adjust the way you do things and get some help, but it’s not only possible to keep gardening, it’s recommended as an aid to your healing.
As I worked my way through treatment and recovery, I wrote a book called “The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion: Cultivating Hope, Healing & Joy in the Ground Beneath Your Feet” (St. Lynn’s Press 2016) as a way of helping other survivors use their gardens as places of healing and balance.
- Exposure to beneficial soil bacteria strengthens the immune system
- Gardening lowers cortisol levels and lifts serotonin levels, leading to a more balanced mood
- Gardening for 30 minutes lowers stress levels
- Light gardening is great exercise for those who have chronic pain, mobility issues, and persistent low mood
I wrote “The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion” because I want people to know that there is a deep well of healing right outside their own back door. From growing healthy food and getting some light exercise to taking a yoga practice outside, your garden is ready for you. No matter what you are experiencing, making your garden a backdrop to your physical, emotional and spiritual health can be very profound.
I know that gardening isn’t going to cure my cancer, and it won’t heal my nerve damage or my lymphedema. But while I am out in that garden, the scents, the cheerful colors, the gentle breeze, and the fresh air remind me in a powerful way that I am alive and have much to be thankful for. Even if it’s for 30 minutes, I’ll take it — cancer treatment and recovery is really tough, but the garden reminds us that life is still beautiful.
Shop Jenny's book "The Cancer Survivor's Garden Companion" here