Gardening can help people with cancer to manage depression and sadness, according to research.

A report by Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) found that four in five gardeners living with cancer believed that gardening can reduce stress and anxiety.

It also assisted in taking people’s minds off treatment.

Gardening helped cancer patients’ physical wellbeing: over half said it gave them more energy, while one in three said gardening helped them manage fluctuations in their weight as
a result of treatment.

“It’s important that we bust the myth that cancer patients should ‘rest up,’” said Macmillan’s chief medical officer, Professor Jane Maher.

“So many patients and professionals still believe that it is necessary to rest during and after cancer treatment.

“However, we know that doing moderate physical activity such as gardening on a regular basis, actually helps to significantly reduce the impact of side effects of cancer treatment such as depression, fatigue, bone-thinning, muscle-wasting and heart damage,” Jane said.

Caroline Fox, 66, from Hertfordshire, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and five years later with cancer of the appendix. 

She turned to gardening to help recover from the physical and emotional effects of her diagnosis and treatment.

“I discovered that gardening was a teacher: it taught me to be patient and to trust,” said Caroline.

“Gardening was a way of showing I could believe in tomorrow. I felt depressed and physically weak as a result of chemotherapy but gardening changed all that.

As I slowly nurtured and restored it, my garden restored me in return.”

The NGS is a key supporter of Macmillan. NGS president Joe Swift, the TV gardener, said: “We know from experience how watching plants grow can help someone feel more positive when they are going through a difficult time, and bring back a sense of control to their lives.

“This year we are hoping to grow our partnership with Macmillan even more by raising awareness of the great benefits that gardening can bring.”

  • caroline ross

    hi, I am writing on behalf of my daughter in law after reading the article on gardening helping with effects and treatment of cancer. My daughter in law was diagnosed with breast cancer July 2011 at the age of 25yrs, she has had to undergo a mastectomy and is continuing to endure chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment until Jan.,2013. Throughout her termoil she and her husband have tried to ensure they keep as much positivity as they can muster for the sake of their two children aged 4yrs and 2yrs. My daughter in law has had articles printed in various magazines and newspapers highlighting the importance of self checking, despite her own ill health, and that this is not something that happens in certain age groups. Her treatent to date has though, left her extremely tired a lot of the time, she has attempted to retrun to work but unfortunately for only a short period when she had to be admitted to hospital for emergency treatment, due to side effets. My son works extremely hard, and when not at work, is helping support, financially, physically and emotionally, suffice to say the garden is at the bottom of thepile of jobs to be done. This has meant the children have been unable to utilise the garden as it is in such a state. He did attempt some work on it spring 2011, and temporarily laid down an area of wood/bark, this has now gone mushy, mucky and unusble. They have only been in the property a couple of years, there is a patio of sorts which is grubby and full of broken flags, a slope of concrete from the garage to the gate which is all uneven. At present there is nowhere for the children to playsafely and nowhere for my daugher in law and my son to relax and for a moment try to forget about illness and treatment. I would love it if the programme or any other garden makeover shows pending could bring some sunshine, and positivity into their my lovely family’s lives.
    many thanks
    Mrs. C, Ross