By: Holly J. Bertone
Springtime brings a rite of passage when we venture out into the garden to watch life blossom out of the dead of winter. We shed the layers of ice and snow; and look to the earth to give us green and growth.
Cancer was my winter. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation targeted the tumor, but killed everything else. Everything inside of me was dying. I lost my hair. My nails were dead and brown. I ached from the inside of my bones out as the treatment worked at the cellular level to kill all things bad… and good. In death there is life, and as my body began to heal, everything started to grow back. As I marvel at the miracle of spring, I think about life and death. Gardening and cancer. Flowers and weeds. Sowing and reaping.
When we moved to the Homestead in 2011, gardening became my new obsession and therapy. It is a peaceful activity, and brings a new serenity to my life. We inherited some very invasive Boston Ivy with the Homestead. It’s pretty to look at, but it will kill a house and surrounding foliage and everything in between. Despite the ivy being everywhere, and being extremely invasive, it’s actually pretty wimpy. Give it a little tug and it gives up.
Onward to a different part of the garden and a different kind of weed. I have no idea what this weed was called, but it had deep roots of steel. It didn’t budge. Even my super strong-muscled Green Beret husband struggled to remove these stubborn weeds.
These roots are like a cancer. Sometimes they are wimpy and simply need to be removed. Sometimes they are invasive and run deep, and are difficult to completely eliminate.
It was great to admire the garden completely empty. The weeds were gone and it was a blank slate; a chance to start new.
It was time to plant beautiful flowers. We planted Shasta Daisy’s, Cornflowers, Black-eyed Susan’s, and Phlox. All of these flowers are not only beautiful, but are perennials, and will grow back year after year. Ideally, these flowers will grow and bloom in the garden long after we are gone.
When you face mortality, it’s only natural to think about how you want to live. What is the cancer in your life? How deep are its roots? Are you committed to getting rid of it? How much do you want to start over? Are you ready to face a blank slate? What are you planting? What are you growing? How are you blooming today?
About the Author
Holly Bertone is originally from Waynesboro, PA. She holds a Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University, a Bachelor’s Degree from Elizabethtown College, and is a Project Management Professional (PMP). Holly is the CEO and President of Pink Fortitude, LLC, a company dedicated to promoting inspiration and positive self-esteem to cancer survivors and ALL women. Holly has published several books, including the heartwarming “Coconut Head’s Cancer Survival Guide – My Journey from Diagnosis to ‘I Do’.” You can follow Holly on her website and blog: http://coconutheadsurvivalguide.com/. She is passionate about reaching out to breast cancer survivors, and also volunteers for organizations supporting our Veterans. In her free time, she loves to garden, putter around the house, hit flea markets, antique stores and yard sales, and drink a cup of coffee on her back porch. Holly is married to a retired Green Beret, is a stepmother, and lives in Alexandria, VA.