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Garden Lifestyle

How Gardening Helps us Heal

Jenny Peterson’s new book, "The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion," is filled with insight and inspiration for turning gardening into a healing experience.

The Cancer Survivor's Garden Companion, by Jenny Peterson, is a complete guide for using a garden to help heal the body, mind and spirit.

I wish Jenny Peterson didn’t have to write her new gardening book, but I’m glad she did. The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion (St. Lynn’s Press, 2016) is an inspiring approach to dealing with cancer by using the garden as therapy.

Gardeners often call their hobby therapeutic, but for people who are directly affected by cancer the garden can become an essential ingredient for healing.

“Your garden – no matter how large or small, how grand or humble – can be a place of beauty and refuge for you at a time when you need it the most,” Jenny writes. “It can help to strengthen you and widen your world, and it can remind you of who you are.”

Jenny, a landscape designer in Austin, Texas, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Instead of letting the cancer define her, she turned to her garden as a prescription for healing her body, mind and spirit. 

Her book is divided into those three parts with chapters that detail the steps to take for turning the garden into a healing retreat. Others affected by cancer bravely share their stories and helpful advice in featured Survivor Spotlights sprinkled throughout the book.

In Chapter 4: Food is Good Medicine, Jenny writes about the vegetables, fruits and herbs that can help give people the strength they need while undergoing cancer treatment.

Greens like kale, spinach, collards, Swiss chard and beet greens are easy to grow in home gardens. These leafy greens can be whirled into a smoothie or a green drink as “a healthy way to keep calories and nutrients down when your system is in revolt,” she says. 

Especially helpful is Jenny’s list of good juicing combinations that takes some of the guesswork out of which liquids, fruits, greens and add-ins taste best together. No doubt some of her personal favorites are among the tasty combos.

Jenny also recommends growing and using all kinds of herbs, especially mint, parsley, basil, rosemary, chamomile, lavender and thyme. The more aromatic the herbs, the better. She includes a helpful guide to fragrant herbs that can help soothe some of the common ailments related to cancer treatments.

If you have a cancer (or a chronic illness) you need Jenny’s book. If you have a friend, relative or acquaintance recently diagnosed or going through treatment, they would also benefit from reading this book.

The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion is the most uplifting approach I’ve read for moving through the disease process from diagnosis to treatment to healing. It really is a book for “cultivating hope, healing and joy in the ground beneath your feet.”

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