Growing as a breast cancer survivor

Dr Inge Kriel explores a recent study that shows gardening has great health benefits for cancer survivors.

Transitioning from cancer patient to cancer survivor can be quite challenging. This process can be likened to gardening: an ongoing process of planning, planting, pruning and then harvesting the fruits of your endeavours.  

A cancer survivor, much like a garden, needs tender loving care, support (from an enthusiastic support team of gardeners), and an adequate diet of nutrients, water and sunshine to thrive.

Health benefits of gardening for cancer survivors 

An interesting study was published in the journal Cancer; it looked at the health benefits of gardening for cancer survivors. The survivors were mentored on how to plan, plant and maintain a garden over three seasons in one year. 

The gardening programme received an overall positive response from cancer survivors, who reported increased quality of life. The added benefits included increased levels of physical activity (anyone who has worked in their garden for a day knows how exhausting this is) and improved diet (nothing beats home-grown fruits and vegetables – Yum!)

Personally, I think this is such a fantastic initiative. So, gather a group  of fellow cancer survivors at your next support group meeting and plan your vegetable garden. Add some seeds, TLC, water, sunshine and teamwork.Then reap the benefits of your hard  work for years to come.  

Not only will you increase your physical activity levels and improve your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, but you will also make friends and expand your social network. Not to mention the sense of accomplishment you will feel once you have an established fruit and vegetable garden.

A garden needs a skilled gardener

Planning and maintaining a successful garden requires a skilled gardener with the requisite knowledge and experience to guide you on the best time to prepare the soil, plant and water the seeds, and harvest your vegetables.

In much the same way, transitioning from cancer patient to thriving cancer survivor requires a healthcare practitioner with experience in cancer survivorship. You don’t have to grow your garden alone – a survivorship specialist is always willing and able to help and guide you along the way.

Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital.


Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital.

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