Healing and the Gardens at Roswell Park

Pictured: The hellebores were the first flowers to bloom in March. They greeted Ola Nowosad as she walked to Roswell Park to visit her husband.

If spring is best greeted in a garden then I was fortunate to be in Buffalo in the spring, while my husband Roman was receiving his blood and marrow transplant (BMT) at Roswell Park.

We had arrived in mid-March (just as winter was ending) for Roman to be admitted. I was staying at the nearby Kevin Guest House.

As I walked to and from the hospital daily to be with Roman, beautiful flowers greeted and calmed me. First to bloom (before the end of March!) along the sidewalks at Roswell Park were the showy hellebores, soon followed by masses of bright daffodils, tulips and then the most gorgeous lilacs and peonies.

For centuries, the healing power of plants has been studied and acknowledged. How wonderful to see that Roswell Park has such an oasis of green space with carefully designed and tended gardens! Benches are placed throughout the gardens. Sitting there quietly is a restful, healing experience, allowing the eyes and the soul to feast on the beauty of nature. Each day, I looked forward to seeing the Kaminski Park gardens at Roswell Park.

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After Roman was discharged from the hospital, we moved into a BMT recovery suite at the Kevin Guest House. Often, we came to sit in the gardens and take in their beauty. Of course, Roman dressed appropriately (sun protection and mask)! In those early days, we watched the flowers change. The vivid colors of the tulips made way for the more subtle mauves of lilacs. We indulged in the beauty and fragrances of the changing flora.

As the season moved from mid- March to the end of June, Roman moved through many challenges. As his health progressed, so did the blossoming of the natural world around us. I found pleasure in volunteering at the gardens at Kevin Guest House. There too, we could sit outside to experience the gardens’ tranquility and color.

Many restrictions are placed on the patient after a transplant, so the visits to the gardens for Roman had to be in line with the doctors’ orders. For the caregiver, the gardens provide a special space to breathe in beauty and to rest in nature. While I met so many remarkable people who supported and encouraged me, the gardens, too, played an important role in uplifting my spirit.

When we came home at the end of June, I was ready to work in my own gardens, which continue to be a source of joy and relaxation.

For the exquisite gardens, I am grateful to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Mr. Kaminski and Buffalo! Thank you for sharing your beautiful and memorable gardens with us!

For the Caregiver:

Tips to nourish the “inner gardener” in you.

  • Feel the connectedness to the natural world.
  • Focus on beauty – colors, textures, fragrances.
  • Make time to visit real (or virtual/online) gardens.
  • Consider, if you have time, volunteering at a public garden or joining a horticultural society.
  • Bring plants into your yard (or home) when the doctors give the green light.
  • Allow yourself time and space to tap into the healing power of nature.

Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.