Cancer Healing in the Garden


It’s been a wicked winter, but yesterday winter was decidedly viewed from the rearview mirror.  Sunny and hot, it was almost a shock given the wet and wild weather of this spring.  I did some yoga and then stepped outside, all sweat and readiness for more physical exertion.  I’ve waited for this moment a long time.  After two years of cancer funk, it’s finally time to get back in the garden and put my hands into the dirt

Just pulling weeds and grooming my perennials was glorious.  In 2009 I couldn’t do a blessed thing – I didn’t buy a potted plant, didn’t pull a single weed.  I left my gardens on autopilot and trusted them to carry on without me.  Luckily, two years before I had thinned out and replanted the orange day lilies my friend brought to me from her mother’s garden.  I sprinkled them throughout the gardens, creating a wondrous tapestry of orange, purple, chartreuse and white.  Those day lilies became the focus of the guided imagery that got me through my mastectomy and the healing that followed.

I thought 2010 would be better, but cancer funk was still with me.  I just didn’t have it in me to be creative, let alone put my back into physical labor.  I kept thinking I was “finished,” my last surgery over months ago, what exactly was the problem?

What I didn’t know then is that a cancer diagnosis and its treatment leave you with lots of emotional work to do. With all of my energy focused on healing, there was no energy left for gardening.  I turned to my favorite gardening books, P. Allen Smith’s Garden HomeThe Decorated Garden RoomParadise Found: Gardening in Unlikely Places, and Creating a Family Garden. (Amazon Associates links.)  They reminded me that my love of gardening began with the simple desire to be surrounded by its beauty.  Throughout the years, I had gotten away from focusing on the beauty, because I was always aware of the work that needed to be done to maintain it.  Without that workaholic energy driving me, I had the time to sit still and return focus to where it belonged.

A garden needs tending, and getting dirty and sweaty is part of the deal.  It was the simplicity of being in the moment with the garden, however, that calmed me during my cancer healing.  When I go out there now, I remember what those orange day lilies did for me during the worst of cancer times, and I appreciate them now because I am present.

Survival > Existence,


photo courtesy of hounddiggity

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