Q&A with Jenny Peterson, Author of “The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion”

By Shelley Pierce | February 28, 2016
Image by St. Lynn's Press
by Shelley Pierce
February 28, 2016

Jenny Peterson is an Austin, Texas-based garden designer with her own firm, J. Peterson Garden Design, as well as a writer, author and speaker. She specializes in designing, writing and speaking about gardens that enhance the quality of life, heal from the inside out and help to create balance and wellness.

Jenny Peterson is a cancer survivor.  In her book, “The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion,” she shows other cancer survivors, with gentle empathy and humor, how they can create a haven for healing in their own backyard – with a bonus of well-grounded guidance on diet, exercise, mental focus and spiritual renewal.  Read on for more information about this book and find out how to win a copy, courtesy of St. Lynn’s Press!

1. How does your book help someone affected by cancer to cultivate hope, healing and joy in the ground beneath their feet?

My hope is that people will begin to understand all the different levels of healing that can be had in the garden apart from simply being good exercise and growing health food. From taking your yoga/meditation/prayer practice outside, to be being exposed to beneficial soil bacteria, aromatic plants, Vitamin D through sunshine — the garden is a Master Teacher in health and balance.

2. Your book features several survivor spotlights where cancer survivors offer their best tip.  What is your best tip or advice?

My best advice is to get outside every day even when (especially when) you don’t feel like it. Breathing in fresh air with light on your face is almost magical in how transformative it is. On my worst days, just sitting outside with my coffee cup eased my difficult emotions, and on my best days, my garden helped me to give thanks and feel joy.

3. What are some easy things that a home gardener can do to make their space more therapeutic?

My top 3 easy things would be 1) create a small seating/gathering area to create memories with friends and family 2) grow aromatic plants (lavender, rosemary, roses, lemon thyme) because scent is almost instantly uplifting and soothing, and 3) create a personal “nook” just for you to relax, read, meditate/pray, have alone time.

4.  Those diagnosed with cancer may be tempted to abandon their garden entirely due to a multitude of reasons, such as feeling overwhelmed or having newfound physical limitations from cancer treatments.  How does your book help people approach gardening in a way that keeps it enjoyable, attainable and manageable?

I felt the same way when I was in treatment, so I recommend that people scale back and focus on “just one thing” — the biggest thing in their garden that gives them enjoyment. It might be their vegetable garden, their houseplants or their porch/deck area. Also — ask friends and family to help keep the rest of the garden alive while you are in treatment or recovery — it won’t do your spirits any good to look out and see a dead garden!

5. In your book you discuss how your friend Rebecca, a fellow cancer survivor, said she was “tired of cute saying and writings that make [cancer] sound like a walk in the park” and added that you “better write a different book”.  How exactly is your book different?

I think my book is different because I strive to be real — I’m not a fan of simply providing inspirational sayings, nor am I a proponent of simply white-knuckling my way through difficult times. While we all have times when we do both, my goal for myself and my readers is to strive to be real — acknowledge the difficulties while simultaneously actively looking for the beauty, because it’s always there. Life is very messy and not always pretty, but there is always beauty. You have to train your mind and your heart to recognize it. I worked very hard to make sure this book offered that balance.

6. What’s in your garden?

I have a really ugly vegetable garden (I have pics in the book to prove it!) that gives me healthy food, I have an awesome fire pit area that has large flat-topped boulders for chairs, a yoga deck with surrounding tropical garden, and lots of animals. We currently have 2 dogs, 4 goats, 5 ducks, and over 20 chickens.

To connect with Jenny Peterson, please visit her blog, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest!


WIN  A COPY OF “The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion“!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Thursday, March 3, 2016 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Is there someone in your life that you would like to share this book with?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See Rules for more information.)

UPDATE 3/24/2016: Congratulations to Bill Davis, the winner of the Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion book giveaway!

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  • Jenny Peterson
    Comment added March 7, 2016Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful write up of my book! I hope all who read it are inspired to use their gardens to find hope and healing.

  • Bill
    Comment added March 3, 2016Reply

    I am in need of this kind of book, a fan of gardening and in hopes of becoming a survivor. What a dynamic duo.

  • Jennifer Shaw
    Comment added March 2, 2016Reply

    Though I don't have cancer, I have just come through battling an autoimmune disease and am now in remission and trying to regain strength. I would love to have your book to teach me how to create a healing garden at home. What a wonderful idea!

  • Cathi Lamoreux
    Comment added February 29, 2016Reply

    I have several friends coping with a cancer diagnosis. And, I know that it is possible I may be heeding the message for myself someday, so I think about creating a nurturing garden for myself and my friends all the time. I speak, on behalf of the Master Gardeners, on the healing aspects of nature so this book would greatly contribute to my message.

  • Brian Williams
    Comment added February 29, 2016Reply

    Hi, thank you, Ms. Peterson, for writing this book. Id like to win one and buy several. My mother is a survivor and my friend Barbara is currently battling cancer. They are both wonderfully strong, courageous, God-fearing women. I would give away copies to people I know who are dealing with mental illness. From what I've read about your book there is benefit for them as well from reading and following the guidance. Thank you.

    Comment added February 28, 2016Reply

    My husband is has cancer for the past 11 years and now he has reached stage4..little do i know about the diesease that is so much talked about out of every 2nd person i associate with..he has such a strength and so positive and daily fighting it..i would to resad your book to inspire my sick husband.

  • Ann Braden
    Comment added February 28, 2016Reply

    Thank you for writing this book! I am a cancer survivor and am happy to see a book like this in the world!

  • Cindy Vincent
    Comment added February 28, 2016Reply

    I'd love to share this with my niece who is a stage 4 cancer survivor !

  • Carol Itter
    Comment added February 28, 2016Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I would love to win this book to give to a friend who is a cancer survivor.

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