One in seven women in the United States will hear a series of four words that will forever change their lives: "You have breast cancer." This translates into a new diagnosis every two minutes. While many of these women will survive the disease, thanks to increased awareness, new advancements in medicine and technology and increased access to support groups, the struggle to live a fulfilling life while dealing with breast cancer can be challenging. That's why I'm so pleased to be able to tell you about a wonderful program called Hope In Bloom. Roberta Dehman Hershon founded the organization in 2007 to help improve the lives of women living with breast cancer after her friend of 50 years, Beverly Eisenberg, died of the disease in 2005.
Roberta spoke to me about the program she created and was excited to share the story with Martha Moments readers:
"While Beverly was sick, I saw firsthand the harsh realities of treatment and the emotional upheaval she faced every day. To cheer her up, I took care of her garden and made sure her house was always filled with flowers. I saw how she perked up every time she looked outside at the riot of color in her yard or received a new bouquet. When she passed away, I decided to honor her memory and set about creating a way to keep her spirit alive and improve the mental roller coaster for breast cancer patients."
Hope in Bloom. Based in Massachusetts, it is essentially a gardening service provided to breast cancer patients, enabling them to create a beautiful spot to experience the calming effects of nature, which studies have shown can increase serotonin levels, boost energy and ward off depression. Patients who can work in their gardens also receive the added benefit of regular exercise. All these factors place people in a better frame of mind to be more receptive to medical intervention.
Volunteer landscape architects or designers begin by meeting with each recipient to develop a landscape plan. Hope in Bloom purchases the plants and materials and a group of the organization's 850 volunteers comes to the home to install the garden. (Indoor 'gardens' and balcony gardens can also be created for apartment dwellers using containers and a variety of houseplants.) To date, the program has planted 118 gardens across Massachusetts, brightening the lives of each recipient and their families. In the process, awareness has been raised about the positive effects and special brand of healing gardens can provide.
Roberta says that many of the Hope In Bloom recipients were living with some of the deadliest forms of the disease when they received gardens. Months later, many of these women were deemed cancer free. "Everyone involved knows their gardens played a part in their miraculous turn of events," she says.
Below are photos of some of the Hope In Bloom gardens that have been planted so far. Roberta hopes to expand the program across the United States and, eventually, around the world. If you'd like to learn more about the program, or pledge a tax-deductible donation, please visit the website.