Cancer Survivors' Garden - Chicago, IL
The Gateway For Cancer Research Helping Revive Cancer Survivors Garden
Important Place of Peace and Solace Went Through Tough Times
CHICAGO (April 2012) – When it was dedicated in June 1996, the Cancer Survivors Garden was immediately embraced as a tranquil setting for cancer patients, survivors and their families. It gave them serenity and hope, and a place to share their stories with one another. The surrounding neighborhood saw it as a precious jewel.
The Gateway for Cancer ResearchSM, www.demandcurestoday.org, has been involved from the beginning, when the Bloch Cancer Foundation, gave $1,000,000 to the Parkways Foundation. The Foundation, in turn, gave the money to the Chicago Park District to build the garden and to maintain it.
In recent years, however, there have been plans to move it to make way for redevelopment and it has not been fully maintained. Graffiti blights its beauty and hardscapes are in ill repair, such as a rusting, though still magnificent, wrought iron gazebo. Even so, visitors still flock to the unique garden, which has regained some of its original splendor through the efforts of The Gateway and the Bloch Cancer Foundation.
“The Gateway has done tremendous work in taking control of a garden that was being allowed to crumble,” says Vangie Rich, executive director of the Bloch Cancer Foundation. “We’ve brought the park back up to a good level, but not it’s best level. We’re working with everyone we can to bring attention to the garden. We’d like to see (renovation) move faster.”
Since the summer of 2009, The Gateway has assisted with the replanting and maintaining of the floral sections of the garden each season, which had been dying, while the Bloch Cancer Foundation has replaced inspirational message plaques that line a special walkway, and added ambient lighting. The 15 plaques amount to a guidebook for fighting and beating cancer.
Located along East Randolph Street in Grant Park, the garden is organized into three tiered “rooms” that symbolize stages of healing – recognition, support and wellness, and community celebration.
The Gateway President, Lynette Bisconti, a cancer survivor herself, has been working vigorously with the Chicago Park District, the Parkways Foundation and the Grant Park Conservancy to ensure that renovation of the unique garden continues.
“We would like the park district to allocate funds toward renovating the garden and along with The Gateway and the Bloch Foundation, rededicate it at some point in the near future,” she says. “Its upkeep is a critical point of inspiration for so many who are living with and surviving cancer.”
The garden has been so important to cancer survivors that some moved to nearby buildings so they could gaze down at it from their terraces. Hundreds of cancer survivors and patients have visited, many to watch the joy of dozens of weddings that have taken place there and the bright futures they represent.
Breast cancer survivor Kay Collins, 64, will celebrate five years of remission in 2012. “I’m tempted to throw a party at the garden,” she says. “Without it, I would have hibernated a lot more. I would have stayed inside and rolled up into a little ball. It gave me a place to go outside and that was a godsend for me. I go back there on my remission date each year and sit by my favorite plaque, the one that says, “Make up your mind that when the cancer is gone, you’re through with it.”
Because of the garden’s essential, every day role in the lives of cancer survivors and neighborhood residents, sadness prevailed when they learned the Chicago Park District had tentative plans in 2010 to move it and redevelop at the northeast corner of Grant Park. But opposition to the move, much of it channeled through the New Eastside Residents Association (NEAR), 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office, and Friends of the Parks, slowed redevelopment plans.
“The Cancer Survivors Garden provides visitors a serene place to relax and reflect, away from the bustle of downtown Chicago,” Reilly says. “It is a vital part of Grant Park and I fought, along with other green space advocates, to protect this area from unlawful development. I will continue to advocate to protect and maintain this important space which honors and celebrates cancer survivors.”
“We feel confident it will not be moved,” added NEAR President Richard Ward.
The extraordinary renewal of the floral sections of the garden by the Land Management Group, a group contracted by The Gateway, has dazzled visitors with its beauty.
Award-winning designer Walter Holmes, who can view the garden from his terrace, says the renewal work has been a great success.
“It takes a lot for me to be impressed, but what they have done is quite remarkable creatively,” he says. “It looks like a piece of tapestry or a mosaic. It’s a piece of art.”
Holmes adds that the garden has become known by international tourists, some of whom ask him where to find it. “In addition to it being an inspiration for cancer survivors, it’s become an intrinsic part of the city and everyone is in awe of it because you don’t see something like this anywhere else.”
Kay Collins spent most every day at the garden in 2006 when she was first diagnosed. “It helped me think there might still be a future because I was terrified,” she says. "I thought that if it’s my last autumn I want to remember how pretty it is. Reading the plaques made me feel better because I knew I was doing what I was supposed to do.”
When she’s at the garden, people will approach her, asking what to say to relatives who have been diagnosed and she’ll give guidance to them, just as the garden has given guidance and support to her.
The garden was designed as a tranquil place for cancer patients, survivors and their families during their healing processes. The Positive Mental Attitude Walk’s Inspirational and Educational messages, include:
• There are treatments for every type of cancer.
• Cancer is the most curable of all chronic diseases.
• There are 10,000,000 living Americans who have been diagnosed with cancer; 5,000,000 are considered cured.
• Some people have been cured from every type of cancer.
• Make a commitment to do anything in your power to help yourself fight the disease.
• Realize that cancer is a life threatening disease but some beat it. Make up your mind you will be one of those who does.
• Regardless of the prognosis, get an independent, qualified second opinion.
• Find a qualified doctor in whom you have confidence who believes he/she can successfully treat you.
• Get PDQ state–of–the-art treatment information from 1-800-4-CANCER. Know all your options. Knowledge heals.
• Treat your cancer promptly, properly and thoroughly and have a positive attitude.
• Have plans for pleasant things to do, and goals to accomplish.
• Seek and accept support.
• Make up your mind that when the cancer is gone, you are through with it.
• Read and practice suggestions in the book “Fighting Cancer” available free from 1-800-4-Cancer.
• With appreciation to all the cancer patients, physicians and scientists who have gone before us so the present treatments are available.
The color pallets have consisted of the following:
• Pansies, fragrant stock, ranunculus, and #2000 daffodil bulbs that get transplanted every year into the other native areas of the Garden.
• Cannas, Dahlias, Impatiens, Crotons and many other Fragrant Tropical’s, and more
• Mums, Pansies, Ornamental Kale (White Peacock, Dinasour), Tri-color Sages, etc.
• Multiple types of Berry Branches, Variegated Holly, 6’ Spruce Tops, Miscellaneous Mixed Greens, including Noble, Silver, and Douglas Fir, White Pine, and Blueberry and Leland Cedar.
ABOUT THE GATEWAY FOR CANCER RESEARCH
The Gateway for Cancer ResearchSM is a non-profit organization committed to funding innovative research and bold new ideas for lifesaving treatments. We’re demanding cures to improve and save the lives of today’s patients, now. Our mission is to speed clinical breakthroughs to the bedside to help cancer patients live longer, feel better and be cured today. Since our founding in 1991, The Gateway has funded $20 million in leading-edge research, including blending the best of conventional and complementary/alternative therapies. Follow us on Twitter@DemandCures and become a fan at facebook.com/GatewayCancerResearch.