June 24, 2008

Garden Planned for Cancer Awareness

By Ann Bryant

FARMINGTON - Just over three years ago, Rita Porter planted about 100 tulips around her home. Before they came up in the spring, she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

When diagnosed that March, her doctor gave her just three weeks to live, but she told him she wanted to see her tulips come up, she said.

He offered her chemotherapy with maybe a 60-day window of life, which was better than the three weeks, she added.

While she underwent treatment, her son, Fred, would come home and shovel the snow off the lawn so she could see her tulips when they started. After the treatment was over, the tulips finally started. They were thin but straight and tall and beautiful, she added.

As she watched them, she said she thought, "Some day I'm going to paint the world in tulips."

Three years in remission, Porter feels good and is doing well. A bad diagnosis can work out sometimes, she said. It did for her and it can for others too, she added.

Working for Franklin Health Access, part of Franklin Memorial Hospital, she knows how much the hospital has done with detection and awareness, especially through the Martha B. Webber Breast Care Center and Oncology Department.

It prompted her to ask for a little plot of land at the hospital to create a healing garden like one she has planted at her home.

"I thought that if I felt that way (seeing the tulips come up) maybe some at the hospital with cancer would take strength from them, too," she said.

A garden of colorful tulips and irises to honor awareness of breast and other cancers will be planted in front of the new Franklin Health Medical Arts Building behind Franklin Memorial Hospital.

At first, a garden of pink tulips for breast cancer awareness was considered, Porter said, but then she began to think about who recognizes all those other cancers. So a variety of tulips will be planted around pink ones.

"The iris was chosen as it is the flower of the breast care center at FMH and demonstrates strength and courage, while the tulips meaning is perfect love," she said.

The garden will honor the efforts taken at FMH to fight and treat cancer, she said. Placed in a centralized area in front of the building's entrance, it's a colorful and wonderful way to remind people of the disease and acknowledge people who have cancer, she said.

"There is hardly anyone who hasn't had some form of cancer in their families," she said. Bulbs for the garden may be purchased for $1 in honor of, support of or in memory of a person with cancer, she said. Bulbs will be planted this fall but need to be ordered in July.

The minimum goal is to raise $500 for the garden. Any additional funds beyond the need for the garden will be donated to the breast care center, she added.

Some other varieties of plants will also be added.

A committee of volunteers is involved in the selling and planting as well as maintaining the garden. Porter expects to set another goal next year in order to keep the garden going.

Anyone who would like to show their support and place an order can mail a check to Rita Porter at 111 Franklin Health Commons, Farmington, ME 04938. Checks should be made payable to FMH with a note in the memo section "for the tulip project."

For more information, contact Porter at 779-2772.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

(c) 2008 Sun-Journal Lewiston, Me.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.