Hope in Bloom Brings Flowers, Hope, and Healing to Cancer Patients
Jessie Peterson. (Photo by Julie Moberly)
Susan Farmer’s home and garden in Jamaica Plain. (Courtesy photos)

Thirteen years ago my sister, Susan, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent treatments that included lumpectomy, radiation. mastectomy, and hormone therapy to prevent the estrogen-related cancer from returning. After she exhausted all of those efforts, she underwent chemotherapy. Her doctors were speaking to her in terms of “if” she survived her treatment. Susan took a leave of absence from her job and put her energy into healing, opening her communication with friends and family, and decorating her home. It was amazing to see her go from cycles of being sick and weak to shopping for the perfect piece. I watched Susan keep going against all odds. The transformation of her personal space was incredibly healing for her. Susan even admits that changing her environment radically contributed to her ability to go on. It gave her hope and something to look forward to each day.

After Susan’s home was redecorated and her health seemed to rebound, she learned that the cancer had returned. She underwent a radical but effective surgery at Mass General to remove nearly a foot of bone from several of her ribs in the hope that the metastatic cancer would be removed. While recovering from that surgery, she learned of the Hope in Bloom program through her connection with the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden here in Harvard. She was the first recipient of a Hope in Bloom garden this August.

Hope in Bloom is a program started by Roberta Hershon and Beverly Eisenberg. Hershon and Eisenberg were friends for nearly 50 years, and one of their favorite activities was gardening. When Eisenberg learned she had breast cancer, the idea for Hope in Bloom was born. Her garden gave her hope, beauty, and love. When she could no longer maintain her garden, her friends gathered together to do it for her. Her days were filled with the affection of friends and abundant flowers from her garden. While she lost her battle with breast cancer two years ago, Eisenberg lives on through her friend Roberta’s tireless efforts in extending the beauty and peace of a garden sanctuary to others.

Jessie Peterson. (Photo by Julie Moberly)

My sister has always loved gardening, too, so the Hope in Bloom program has been a dream come true for Susan. Under Hershon’s direction, Kelley Wingo of Kelley Wingo Designs of Needham created a new sitting area and backyard that included a garden bench donated by Walpole Woodworkers. Her front yard, designed by landscape architect Lynn Wagner of Weston Nurseries, was filled with blue hydrangea bushes to enhance her lilac-colored, turn-of-the-century home. Susan loves planting and working in her garden amidst plants donated by family, friends, local businesses, and the generosity of Weston Nurseries.

The whole transformation of her landscape has been a very positive event, not only for Susan but also for the landscapers, nurseries, and landscape architects that participated, as well as the Hope in Bloom program itself. The day of the garden installation, reporters and TV crews were there filming the work. Fox 25 News aired a piece on the building of the garden the day that it was put together, and the New England Gardening Channel will air the garden makeover Sunday, September 16 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. The segment can also be viewed online at www.nedreamhouse.com.

Susan loves her new garden. She spends a lot of her time sitting on her garden bench writing, reflecting, and praying. She told me that birds will actually sit at her feet as she spends time in her garden. If wildlife can feel the shift in energies, I believe that we humans can benefit too.

For more information on the Hope in Bloom project, including how to donate money or volunteer effort to the program, go to www.HopeinBloom.org or www.healinggarden.net.


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