There is something about the hopefulness around gardening and growing that has the ability to help people move beyond defining themselves by their illness and instead, look ahead to the future.
This has certainly been the case for Ethel, a former midwife who had a cancer diagnosis.
Ethel spent time during 2017 on our 'Living with, and beyond cancer' programme run in Battersea Park whilst still recovering from cancer and the effects of follow-up treatment.
Her energy levels fluctuated and often became low, so our horticultural therapists focus on what people such as Ethel are able to do on any particular day and encourage self management of this.
Everybody in the group bonded very quickly and were enthusiastic about gardening and the sessions our therapists had planned. Many were able to share their experience of cancer whilst working in the peaceful and therapeutic garden setting.
Ethel developed a blood disorder called MGUS in 2003 and at first she wasn’t unduly worried as in most cases this is a non-malignant condition and just needs monitoring.
Unfortunately for Ethel this eventually developed into myeloma, a cancer affecting the bone marrow. As Ethel hadn’t been feeling unwell it was very daunting to receive her diagnosis and Ethel underwent a course of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
Six weeks after Ethel’s transplant a cancer support nurse suggested that increased levels of activity would be beneficial to Ethel’s recovery. She referred her to Beth, a Macmillan Move More Co-Ordinator for Enable Leisure & Culture, who told her about the gardening therapy programme at Thrive designed for those living with cancer.
Ethel was initially a little quiet when she first arrived at Thrive in Spring 2017. She said she was overwhelmed and overjoyed with the beauty of the plants and which started to help her mentally.
She joined the 6-week programme, working alongside others under the guidance of Horticultural Therapist Tim. This led to her going on to a further 10-week programme with Thrive team at the Doddington Community Roof Garden.
Ethel was introduced to weeding, planting, potting on and transplanting as well as learning how to care for all the different types of plants – she was completely hooked!
"Gardening has helped me tremendously in so many ways. Just touching the plants, looking at the blooms and being outside is beautiful and therapeutic, I always feel very happy nurturing all the plants.’’
And it’s not just growing and looking after the plants that keeps Ethel busy, she is now a Thrive Volunteer and works in our plant sales kiosk and says that she hopes other people come to discover Thrive and the joy of gardening!
We would like to run more 'living with, and beyond cancer, gardening programmes. If you would like to make a donation to help us do this, please CLICK HERE.
To donate by Text: Just text Thri02 and the amount you want to give to 70070. EG: Thri0210 will donate £10.