A Must Have Book For All Cancer Survivor's; Review & Giveaway

Final Cover

Few of us will get through life unscathed by the Big-C; Cancer. Even if we escape the diagnosis ourselves the chances are high that we have family and friends who were not so fortunate. My Dad (esophagus), maternal granddad (throat), paternal grandma (ovarian) and maternal aunt (breast and melanoma) all faced this challenge and I have sadly lost count  of the number of friends who have battled this disease. It's a cruel, life changing diagnosis that leaves us all; patients and caregivers, reeling and wondering what the future will hold.

This powerful book written by my friend Jenny Peterson will look you in the eyes, pull you up and help you take the first step and then the next and the one after that. As a garden designer and cancer survivor herself she writes from experience, balancing compassion and empathy with practical ways to "cultivate hope, healing and joy in the ground beneath your feet". It isn't a 'how-to garden' book but rather has been written to help readers "enjoy your life and the world around you, even if you have cancer" . Consider this book your companion during the journey of healing. The Cancer Survivor's Garden Companion is set out in three section; Body, Mind and Spirit.


yoga deck garden2

Does the very thought of getting out of bed exhaust you? Does working in the garden seem an overwhelming task? Jenny has got some great ideas to help you get some gentle exercise outdoors as part of your daily routine. From cardio (e.g. hoeing weeds) to stretching (e.g. raking leaves) and ways to strengthen your bones (weight bearing exercises such as rearranging patio furniture or dragging a garden hose!) and shares how yoga has helped her together with design tips for a yoga deck garden that you could build. You'll also laugh out loud as she relays the story of her late night planting by headlight with husband Brett …..

In this section you'll also visit inspirational therapeutic gardens, learn about juicing your home grown veggies and discover easy aromatherapy.


Jenny & Rebecca in garden

Jenny and Rebecca Sweet; fellow survivors, friends, designers and mutual cheerleaders

Depression affects far more than just those struggling with cancer. That dark, foggy cave is familiar to many of us who have battled chronic disease, bereavement (loss of family, friends, job, marriage…) and more yet Jenny encourages you to "allow your garden to heal your mind, keep it sharp, and ultimately bring you joy in the midst of the difficulties".

I love the ideas in this section which were practical and creative without being too taxing. Things like seeking inspiration in gardening catalogs, Pinterest boards, magazines and books all remind us of the possibilities. Then Jenny puts her designer hat on as she shows you how to sketch a new garden bed, research cool new plants and solve garden problems.

Another idea which I highly endorse is to take up garden photography; even with your phone. I know from experience that I always feel much happier after an hour of taking pictures in the garden. Instead of focusing on myself and my worries I find myself totally absorbed in the delicate petal formation of a flower, or the way the sunlight glints on a frosty branch like a thousand diamonds, or how stunning the red maple leaf looks next to a golden smoke bush…. Basically I look out and not in and that is the first step to healing the mind at least for me. Being in the garden and observing the natural world that continues its cycle whether or not we are sick is a much needed reminder that life does go on outside our personal bubble.

This second section also talks about building your personal community and ways your garden can become a nurturing gathering place. You'll meet my dear friend and cancer survivor Rebecca Sweet in this chapter and will doubtless shed tears (as I did) reading about her Head Shaving Party but the very fact that this took place in Rebecca's beautiful garden was in itself healing. The garden and her friends and family were wrapping their arms around her during that difficult time.


hanging bells in the garden

A quiet spot for meditation anchored by a metal sculpture with bells that move in the breeze

Acknowledging different belief systems, Jenny discusses prayer and meditation in the garden  in a very easy-to-read/non-New Agey way. It won't offend Christians nor turn off atheists in case you were wondering! The sounds and scent of the garden together with the feel of the breeze all helped her body relax which allowed her heart and mind to follow. Jenny also offers suggestions for the flowers you may like to incorporate in your meditation garden based on their meaning e.g. coneflowers (Echinacea) for strength and healing.

This final section also includes ideas for activities that can be meditative such as watering and deadheading flowers together with a great idea for walking a labyrinth with tips for designing one.

Throughout the book you will also notice Survivor Spotlights where you will meet men and women, learn a little about their journey and read the ways they found their garden to be healing for them.

Win a Signed Copy


I was so taken with this book that I sat and read it cover to cover in one sitting. I laughed and I cried. I was inspired and felt empowered. More than anything I felt as though Jenny while acknowledging the difficulties life could throw at us she wouldn't allow me to wallow in a heap of self pity, but rather was willing to come alongside me and gently prod and push as needed. I don't have cancer but know many who do. I have already given this as a gift to a friend and plan on purchasing several more.

You can order copies online or enter to win simply by leaving a comment below. A random drawing will take place on Monday February 1st 7pm Pacific Time and the winner notified by email. If you are not a regular subscriber and are concerned I won't be able to find you feel free to include your email address in your comment. Jenny will send a copy to the winner as soon as I can relay your mailing address to her.

The drawing is now CLOSED. Thanks for taking part and congratulations to the winner LAUREL HOUNSLOW!! I'm sending you an email. 🙂

If you'd like to keep in touch with Jenny you can follow her on Facebook or come and hear her talk at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show next month where she will also be signing books.

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  1. Jenny Peterson on January 26, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Thank you, Karen, for this incredible review! When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I promised myself that I would not let this experience dominate me, and that I would use it for good. I hope everyone that is struggling can be helped, either by this book or by another means. I'm excited to see who your winner is!

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 9:25 am

      You are an inspiration in so many ways Jenny. I know this book will be a lifeline to many who are struggling

  2. Mark Turner on January 26, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Very timely. I'm a healthy, active guy who thought he was immune to cancer. But I just had nearly a foot of my colon removed because my gastroenterologist found a large pre-cancerous polyp that couldn't be removed during colonoscopy. Turns out there was a little bit of cancer starting there, so I guess I dodged a bullet. Then a friend and business associate announced that, at roughly 40, she has breast cancer and is facing a mastectomy next month.

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 9:27 am

      Thanks for sharing your story Mark which in itself is remarkable and I sincerely hope for a good outcome for your friend

  3. Alyson on January 26, 2016 at 9:11 am

    I am feeling inspired by your review, Karen. I too, have lost family and friends to cancer. Jenny Peterson, I cannot wait to read your book! I will also be purchasing a copy for a girlfriend who is a breast cancer survivor (twice).

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 9:28 am

      You'll love the book Alyson. If you meet Jenny at the show she could personalize a copy for your friend

      • Susan on January 26, 2016 at 10:55 am

        Perfect timing for this morning's post and this mother who is flying tomorrow to be with a daughter who will have surgery in two days for breast cancer. Pruning a hedge yesterday, some shrubs last week and smelling the blooming sarcoccoca this morning bring beauty and peace in the same space as fear. You are right. Gardens are a refuge and a place of joy.

        • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 11:02 am

          Wishing peace for you both, a good outcome for your daughter and the healing balm of a garden refuge whenever you need it.

  4. Cat Beauregard on January 26, 2016 at 9:30 am

    Thank you for writing this book… A sure hit for anyone. I'm looking forward to reading it!
    I don't know a single person who has not been affected by someone in their lives who has had cancer. In my own experience, I've seen my mom and my aunt survive (ovarian cancer post menopause), my dad, had prostate cancer, then colon cancer), my brother and my sister have both had colon cancer, and are both survivors. My niece, has had breast cancer (2x now). So far all are survivors… Anything that can be said to alleviate the stress associated with this dreaded disease, is a plus for all humanity. Thank you again for your thoughtful book!

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Wow Cat I'm speechless. You clearly come from an incredibly strong family of Survivors, all of whom will enjoy Jenny's book. Wishing you and your family good health.

  5. Laurel H on January 26, 2016 at 10:00 am

    I would do love to win this book! And wish I could be at the NW Garden Show to meet the author. I'm an ovarian cancer survivor and need this kind of refuge every day. I love the meditation corner and the gathering spot that looks like the garden has its arms around the two friends. I may have room for a meditation corner (small garden) and will be watching for chiming garden art. Dirt is my forte. Welding is beyond me. If nothing else I can hang bells in the tree behind where I will sit. It seems to me it is a book that could be read again and again to remind oneself about the healing power of gardens.

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Congratulations on being a Survivor! Welding is beyond me too but I love this screen and know I have seem similar bells at import stores so I know you can come up with something similar :). Dig with happy thoughts Laurel!

  6. Mary Nally on January 26, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Thank you for the opportunity to win! If I don't I am definitely ordering the book as it sounds life changing

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 10:24 am

      You're welcome Mary. Good luck with the giveaway!

  7. Bob Waites on January 26, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for this. It means a lot right now

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 10:25 am

      You're welcome Bob. Wishing you health, peace and a patch of garden to play in

  8. Patricia Mickelson on January 26, 2016 at 10:37 am

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2015. Luckily it was caught very early and removed by a lumpectomy. I did not have to have chemo as it was a slow grower and had not spread. I had six weeks of radiation with a wonderful team of technicians who took really good care of me. I know I was very lucky in so many ways but reading about this book and people's comments brings a lot of tears to my eyes. The book will be a must for me.

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 10:57 am

      Wishing you ongoing health Patricia; thanks for sharing your story

  9. Nancy St George on January 26, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Gardening was my healer as I recuperated from cancer treatment 2 years in a row. In the beginning I was only able to sit on the ground and pull weeds from my stone paths but I slowly got my strength back and 8 years later my garden remains my happy, healing place.

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Your story is one of encouragement and healing. Thank you for sharing it.

  10. Jennie Brooks on January 26, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I know just the person I would share this with if I win . . . after I read it. Thankfully, I have not had cancer but I am sure I would benefit from Jenny's knowledge and inspiration. Thank you.
    PS If you can't find me, I'm a FB friend of Jenny's.

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 11:35 am

      I found many nuggets of wisdom myself Jennie so I'm sure you would.

  11. michaele anderson on January 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    This sounds like a very worthwhile topic to be folded into the many benefits from gardening. I am so glad that the author has had a positive outcome and has shared some of lessons learned.

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      So am I Michaele!

  12. Donna Freeman on January 26, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Sounds like a book with many insights, much hope and gardening inspiration to deal with this challenging disease. I want to read it to further understand the disease that plagues so many. Though fortunately without cancer, I know there will be joyful discoveries for me, too!

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Yes I gained a far better understanding of the physical challenges patients struggle with after reading this book but the beauty of the text is that it reminds us all not to let cancer define us and gives a lifetime's worth of helpful ideas of finding joy, hope and healing in the garden.

  13. Carol Yemola on January 26, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    I am a registered nurse working in an oncology unit. This would be a most interesting book for me to read and I am sure that I would be able to share the information with my patients. Thanks so much for making this giveaway possible!

    • Karen Chapman on January 26, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Carol; I know you'd find a lot of great ideas to help your patients. If your Oncology Unit has a patients library perhaps they would like to order a copy?

      • Carol Yemola on January 31, 2016 at 12:17 pm

        Unfortunately, we don't have a library. Our unit is small, but the caring is immense!

        • Karen Chapman on January 31, 2016 at 12:28 pm

          I'm sure it is 🙂

  14. Kathleen on January 26, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    What a lovely book and a lovely review. These tips are things that can used by anybody impacted by illness in his or her life.

    • Karen Chapman on January 27, 2016 at 10:03 am

      Thanks for your comment Kathleen – you are entered into the drawing!

  15. Lara Ruiz on January 27, 2016 at 6:44 am

    I don't know if she will read this but many thanks to the author for taking the time to write this book and to you for sharing it. I could share my health problems but suffice to say cancer was just the icing on the cake. Learning to truly live in the moment, seeing positively and finding balance all play a crucial role and are a continuous battle. I easily can look to my garden as a reflection of how I am feeling. I have tried for some time to share with my family and friends that my garden, even with its weeds and needs, makes me feel better some how. Your beautiful explanation of this book was an epiphany of sorts for me. I used to look at the garden as a sanctuary. with ideas like Jenny's I can take little tiny parts and breathe new life into my garden and my spirit too. Thank you.

    • Karen Chapman on January 27, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Hi Lara, I have forwarded your message to Jenny so she can read it as I know she will appreciate you taking the time to offer encouragement. May your garden continue to be your sanctuary during such challenging times.

  16. Bonnie Pond on January 27, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    thank your for your thoughts as a garedener, I lost my younger Sister to Cancer last year

    • Karen Chapman on January 28, 2016 at 11:33 am

      Thanks for entering the drawing Bonnie. I am so sorry to hear about your sister. Having recently lost my Mum, albeit not to cancer, I have some understanding of your grief

  17. Laurel on January 31, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I am a survivor and would so like to enhance my recovery journey with this book. Every time I think I have completely recovered something reminds me that there are still things that need to be done. Thanks for the chance.

    • Karen Chapman on January 31, 2016 at 11:14 am

      Hi Laura, congratulations on being a SURVIVOR! You are entered to win a signed copy of Jenny's book; wishing you good health

  18. gail eichelberger on January 31, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Karen, That was a wonderful review. Please add my name in the drawing.

    • Karen Chapman on January 31, 2016 at 11:41 am

      I'd be happy to Gail!

  19. Maxine Mitchell on January 31, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Although I'm not a cancer survivor, I am a heart attack survivor (only a month ago while vacationing in Florida). The exercises and activities you refer to in her book should be transferable to my situation as I recover. I look forward to seeing her in person at the NW Flower & Garden Show in a few weeks and wish her all the best in her recovery.

    • Karen Chapman on January 31, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Oh my goodness; I'd no idea Maxine! I hope you are doing well now. I so agree; there are many great ideas in Jenny's book that you can glean. Although it was written with the cancer survivor in mind many others with health challenges will learn a great deal

  20. Ed Yemola on January 31, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    This sounds like a very worthwhile book for those unfortunate enough to have a cancer diagnosis. Good to know that you care.

    • Karen Chapman on January 31, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      I certainly do Ed. Thanks for leaving a comment; you are entered into the drawing for Jenny's book!

  21. Julie on February 1, 2016 at 6:45 am

    Karen, great review. I don't have cancer but I know of someone currently in this battle and think they would benefit from reading this book. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

    • Karen Chapman on February 1, 2016 at 9:02 am

      Thanks for entering Julie and I wish your friend good health

  22. Cathi Lamoreux on February 1, 2016 at 7:36 am

    I laughed and cried just reading your review! I, too, have family and friends who have dealt with cancer. As a garden educator, the healing aspects of gardening and communing with nature are my top priorities and I know I have people attending my seminars looking for that type of info who are grateful for the message.

    • Karen Chapman on February 1, 2016 at 9:03 am

      This book will really resonate with you Cathi. You are enetered into the drawing!

  23. Lois Alberts on February 1, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Great review. My copy will go to my friend, Lisa, who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She has a lovely garden already and this book and it's message will really resonate with her.

    • Karen Chapman on February 1, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Lois. Unfortunately your entry arrived an hour after the deadline. Hope you'll buy a copy for your friend anyway.

  24. Karen Chapman on February 1, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Although the winner has now been selected I still love to hear your stories. Thank you everyone for taking part. Be healthy and keep gardening!