Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cancer Victory Gardens - Ohio State Style!

Gracious, I had not realized that my last post on this blog was in 2014...........yikes! time flies when you are farming full-time, however I do have some hopeful news to share today for cancer survivors. :)

In my previous post I shared my excitement about the research project called Harvest for Health being coordinated through the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham for breast cancer survivors. This 3-year research project (which my endowment at AICR has been helping to fund via proceeds from the sale of my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story) is still in progress, and although I have seen some of the preliminary data, I will wait to share that news until more is analyzed and published.

Today I am sharing my excitement about a multi-disciplinary research project called Growing Hope being done at The Ohio State University, which is evaluating multiple potential beneficial outcomes that gardens may confer upon cancer survivors. That research is being led by a friend and professional colleague Colleen Spees, PhD, MEd, RD.

Dr. Colleen Spees outside in her Growing Hope garden at The Ohio State University

I invite you to read some of the following information about Colleen's work:

However, I especially encourage you to watch the following YouTube video (~15 minutes) in which Colleen eloquently describes her personal and professional motivation for this pioneering work.

Even more information is compiled at the following website  (,
which includes a list of Dr. Spees' publications along with descriptions of the overall programs involving gardening, cooking classes, and diet and health coaching by Registered Dietitians as components of this research for cancer survivors being conducted at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

There are so many meaningful gardening quotes – this one continues to be one of my favorites:

A garden is the best alternative therapy. 

~ Germaine Greer

In reality, this quote is one of my favorites precisely because I look forward to the day when gardening is not considered "alternative therapy" for anyone with a cancer diagnosis but instead is included as "best practice" or "standard therapy" as a component of true comprehensive cancer care (along with proactive and individualized nutritional assessments, cooking classes, and medical nutrition therapy where appropriate to help reduce the risk or impact of nutrition-related side effects of cancer treatments, to improve efficacy of cancer treatments, and to increase overall quality of life during cancer treatments and beyond). 

Both Alabama's Harvest for Health research and Ohio State's Growing Hope research are working on extending the life span plus improving overall health, wellness, and quality of life in cancer survivors. I am excited about both of these efforts and will continue to follow and report their results. 

However, in the meantime, please don't think you need to wait for official results from a research study to get out there with your hands in the soil. It is still snowing here in SE Michigan today (yuck!) but spring is really here. 

Get ready! Cancer survivor or not, I hope you take the following words to heart to "be alive": 

As long as one has a garden, one has a future.
As long as one has a future, one is alive. 

~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden, "In the Garden"

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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