South Africa
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Cancer survivor gets a new lease on life with her Garden of Hope

Cape Town - The Garden of Hope brought out the light and life in Natasha Johannes after she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015.

Johannes from Mitchells Plain was aware she had to make changes in her life and decided to conduct research leading her in the direction of a plant-based diet. Because she couldn’t afford it, she turned to nature and converted a dumping patch behind her home into a garden where she started growing vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and cauliflower.

Natasha Johannes grows vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and cauliflower. DWAYNE SENIOR

Six years down the line, with chemotherapy treatments and surgery behind her, Johannes is in remission and is an avid gardener.

“When I found out I was diagnosed with colon cancer it made me lose motivation for life and I was traumatised and depressed. Gardening helped me with mental status, was therapeutic, helped me to forget about my pain, suffering and improved both my mental and physical health.

“It is called Garden of Hope because I have so much hope for the future, eating a plant-based diet and I want to make people aware of turning to a plant-based diet, which will improve their health.

“Gardening made a big positive impact on my health, at the same time I could not afford to buy vegetables when I was sick and was unemployed but my garden gave me all that I needed. The dumping area behind my house has been turned into my garden. It is challenging but I have never given up on gardening,” she said.

Natasha Johannes was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015. DWAYNE SENIOR

With Garden Day taking place tomorrow, Johannes will be celebrating it with her family.

“We will be making potjiekos with the vegetables from my garden, chilling, unwinding and relaxing. It is important to learn and get educated about the health benefits of plants/nature.

“Each month I try to sell the vegetables to the community once they are harvested. However, due to the challenges of land and shortage of equipment and resources, I usually only manage to sell them every second month,” she said.

Her dream is to become a large-scale farmer one day and to be part of SA Food Security.

“I want to invest in the children and the community and share this knowledge. I grow what I know I should eat, basically by focusing on what the snails love. I still face many challenges, but am not going to give up. My garden has brought me light and it has given me life,” she added.

Clinical psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst, Grace Reid, said gardening is one of the best possible stress relievers.

“It combines physical activity and mental focus, with the extra benefit of contact with the earth and nature. Focusing on the activity provides distraction from our troubles, and we can’t help but be affected positively by witnessing the growth of new life. Even replacing plants after their life span provides a sense of renewal and an experience of the ever-flowing river of life.

“The beauty of flowering plants in particular is a feast for the senses, satisfying a spiritual hunger similar to the satisfaction that a sumptuous meal provides for physical hunger. It’s long been established in clinical studies that time spent in nature is one of the most effective treatments for a wide range of emotional and mental challenges in particular, the grief of loss,” she added.