Healing GardenLocal Club Provides Strength, Hope With Healing Garden At Southwest Virginia Cancer Center

A local garden club is applying its green thumb to promote hope and strength with a new healing garden at the Southwest Virginia Cancer Center.

Inspired by Quentin McCoy, a former patient of the cancer center, the garden will provide a soothing view for patients receiving infusion services, as well as a place of respite for them before or after appointments. It will also serve as a source of comfort for other Southwest Virginia residents who have been affected by cancer.

The Green Thumb Garden Club of Norton constructed the garden in the rear of the cancer center by the infusion suite. It contains a short walkway filled with about 300 bricks purchased in honor or in memory of someone. The garden also contains more than 200 plants, including daylilies, irises, rose and butterfly bushes, lavender and hostas.

"This healing garden represents life at every stage and will be a place to pause, reflect and heal," said Carmen Cantrell, the garden club's president. "It is our fondest wish that this garden will bring that same sense of well-being to all who visit or enjoy it from a distance."

The club held a brief ceremony at the center, which is part of the Wellmont Cancer Institute, on Monday, April 29, to dedicate the healing garden. Many people who attended the event snapped photos of different bricks.

"Our goal in creating a healing garden in our community was to provide comfort, inspire strength and rejuvenate the spirit of cancer patients, their families and friends," said Cantrell, whose maternal grandparents died of cancer and whose mother is a three-time cancer survivor. "We are tremendously pleased with the way the garden has developed. It has been successful on levels we didn't expect."

The cancer center provides a team approach to cancer treatment. Services include medical oncology, radiation oncology, hematology, research and genetic testing. The center also participates in multidisciplinary tumor conferences and continuing medical education. It is housed in a warm and inviting facility that resembles a ski lodge and promotes emotional and spiritual healing.

Medical oncologists Drs. David Miller, Hayan Moualla and Daryl Pierce; radiation oncologists Drs. Scott Coen and Byron May; and nurse practitioner Kelley Mayden lead the medical staff. All these physicians are board-certified in their field of specialty.

Pat Adkins, who started the volunteer program at the cancer center, said infusion patients would always talk about the facility's beauty and the ability to see the mountains as they received care. Many patients expressed an interest in seeing flowers outside the window and perhaps the installation of a bird feeder.

"One particular patient, Quentin McCoy, would always come in and sit at the same chair by the window," said Adkins, a cancer survivor. "We talked a lot about a flower garden and the possibility of getting one started. During each visit, he would always ask, 'Are you making any progress on that flower garden?'"

The project evolved with the Green Thumb Garden Club taking the lead on developing the garden in conjunction with Wellmont Foundation. The project still has a few finishing touches to be applied, but patients and the community are already enjoying the garden.

Freida McCoy, wife of Quentin, who died in 2010, said she was pleased with the outcome.

"It's a great honor," she said. "Quentin would have been so pleased and proud. He loved nature, beautiful flowers and birds."

In addition to the efforts of the garden club and Adkins, the project received assistance from another kind-hearted individual. Don Clifton, owner of the Iron Works in Big Stone Gap and Kingsport, Tenn., fabricated two metal sunflowers that McCoy said are symbolic of the sun's healing powers.

"It's my way of giving back to the community," said Clifton, whose sister is a cancer survivor. "I thought it would be something nice to do."

Karla Lane, the cancer center's director, said the level of community support for the cancer center is impressive.

"We are grateful to the Green Thumb Garden Club for this awesome garden," she said. "A lot of time, effort and planning has gone into this project, and I know the patients and cancer center's co-workers will enjoy this garden for a long time. It will greatly enhance the healing environment our patients experience at the Southwest Virginia Cancer Center."

Bricks can still be purchased for $40 by calling Cantrell at 276-679-0412 or Martha Wells at 276-679-5435. These women can also assist with other donations for the garden.

For more information about the cancer center, please visit www.wellmont.org.