Gardening for Survivorship

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As a new dietetic intern at AICR, I enjoyed many thought-provoking presentations at last week’s annual AICR Research Conference. However, just as interesting were conversations we had over lunch and between sessions.

One conversation I particularly appreciated was with author and registered dietitian (RD), Diana Dyer. She is a three-time cancer survivor who changed her own diet and lifestyle for recovery and to help prevent recurrence, as told in A Dietitian’s Cancer Story. Her story has been helpful and inspirational to many cancer survivors.

Now, Diana is an organic garlic farmer in Michigan and as an RD, she shares her nutritional expertise and love of farming with dietetic interns who spend some time with her – and get their hands a little dirty – to learn about growing food.

Why garden? Many cancer survivors find gardening therapeutic, and an important part of the cancer healing process. The physical activity recommendation from the 2007 AICR expert report is to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Physical activity doesn’t have to be running or lifting weights. Gardening is a great way to be active while doing something you enjoy – that way you’ll be more likely to keep doing it.

There are other reasons to garden too:

  • Know where your food comes from – the interns on Diana’s farm learn what it takes to grow food.
  • Nutritional benefits – freshly harvested (cancer-fighting) foods are generally at peak nutrient levels.
  • Improve the earth – you can compost foods scraps and leaves and then use the resulting humus for healthier soil.
  • It’s a great hobby to re-introduce exercise for those recovering from cancer treatment, and…
  • it’s a lot of fun!

Check out our video on container gardening if you’d like to try your hand at growing food.

Does your local cancer center have a vegetable garden?