HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Sept. 30, 2008 – One courageous little boy fighting a rare cancer and two mothers, each breast cancer survivors, their families and friends came together today to celebrate life and unite in the fight against the disease at the fall dedication of the Intergraph® Garden of Hope at the Huntsville Botanical Garden.
The event, an artistic and meaningful presentation of flowers, trees and plant-filled gardens representing each of three honorees’ personal fight against the disease, served as an inspirational display of determination and hope. The Garden of Hope is a peaceful refuge that allows those personally affected by cancer and their families to express themselves through the therapeutic creation of beautiful plantings, while raising community awareness for a disease that affects millions of people worldwide.
“The Garden of Hope is much more than just a flower garden,” said Intergraph President and CEO Halsey Wise, who led the dedication. “It is a show of solidarity against a disease that touches all of us. I am privileged, honored and humbled that Intergraph has once again been able to provide an important platform for such strong and meaningful displays of courage and hope.”
Intergraph and the Huntsville Botanical Garden have worked together on the Garden of Hope since 2006 when Intergraph approached the Garden with the idea to create a sanctuary where cancer survivors could express their hopes, fears, dreams and experiences in a meaningful way. Since then, the Garden of Hope has served not only as a positive outlet for those affected by cancer, but also as a means to boost awareness for the disease in the Huntsville community.
This season’s Garden of Hope dedication proved especially significant for the three honorees and their families as the event coincided with both National Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month and National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, while October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins tomorrow.
The Garden of Hope holds one planting in the spring and another in the fall each year. The honorees are granted creative freedom to choose which flowers, plants, trees and shrubs to include in their large, personal garden space. The plantings, which are accomplished with the help of volunteers from Intergraph, represent each individual’s personal battle with cancer. The emotional inspiration that the brave honorees lend to their gardens is what makes Garden of Hope truly remarkable.
Fall 2008 Intergraph Garden of Hope Honorees:
Just before Hunter Aiton turned six, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a rare cancer that affects just one in a million children worldwide each year. The cancer was detected early under his right arm; within two weeks it had spread to both kidneys, his left thigh and areas next to his pancreas and liver.
Throughout his fight against cancer, there were difficult periods – including losing his hair, a severely restricted diet and not being able to play outside with his twin sister, Hailey. However, Hunter bravely underwent numerous chemotherapy treatments and never doubted he would be healthy again.
Today, Hunter is a vivacious seven-year-old who is using his own experience to help others battling cancer. Last summer, he helped raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where he received treatments that helped save his life. “I know there are kids who have cancer and are scared,” Hunter says. “I want to help them live and let them know that I’m alive today.” After more than 100 hospital visits in 14 months, he is in remission.
Hunter enjoys being back at Mt. Carmel Elementary School. His parents, Jean and Lisa Aiton, believe Hunter’s battle brought the family closer to each other, their friends and coworkers, and appreciate the opportunity to raise community awareness for cancer. They say they have learned more from Hunter’s courage than they have in their entire lives; the way he approached his treatments day to day with dignity and pure faith in God was inspirational. Hunter says that those suffering from cancer should let their faith be their guide. “I believe heavily that Jesus is taking care of me and that with God in your heart nothing is impossible.”
Hunter says life is like a beautiful flower. The vision for his garden is one of hope and courage, one that speaks of faith and strength.
In May 2002, Doris Riccelli looked forward to celebrating her 40th birthday, unaware she would receive a startling diagnosis. During a breast self-exam, Doris found a lump in her left breast and immediately sought medical attention. Extensive tests and a lumpectomy confirmed stage 1 breast cancer. In August, she began receiving chemotherapy through a surgically-inserted port in her chest. In October, the port became infected and had to be removed. After much prayer and against her doctors’ recommendations, Doris decided against a new port. In December, she found a lump in her right breast where the port had been. A second lumpectomy again proved positive for stage 1 breast cancer. Doctors recommended a more aggressive regime of chemotherapy, but Doris decided against it. She then received 34 radiation treatments.
Doris took cancer preventative drugs, but after suffering for four years from unbearable side-effects including loss of energy, arthritis and pain, she stopped taking the drugs in November 2006. While Doris still struggles with the after-effects of her treatments, she trusts God with her life and has been cancer-free for six years.
Her garden symbolizes people she loves. In the center is a ribbon of pink pansies, outlined in red to signify her husband, who always inspires her. The white flowers represent Doris’ faith. Attached to the ribbon are two flower pots; one signifying the courageous spirit of her beloved mother and the other her dearest friend, Linda, both who lost their lives to cancer. A third pot honors her daughter, Britney, and symbolizes hope. Two areas represent beaches where Doris and her loved ones shared precious moments together. The peonies are in memory of her husband’s mother, and the tulips signify new life.
Doris’ desire is for all to have a personal relationship with God, show care for those experiencing challenges, and be vigilant about regular check-ups for early detection. Doris has experienced amazing blessings during her cancer journey and believes God has a plan for each person’s life.
In March 2007, life as Vickie Sauer knew it changed forever. Always vigilant with her yearly mammograms, her appointment that month showed an uncharacteristic mass. Tests were run, and soon after Vickie received the news – she had stage 1 breast cancer. Her doctors gave her several options, and Vickie conducted thorough research on each one and spoke with other women who were battling or had overcome breast cancer. Armed with information, Vickie decided to have a lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy in May 2007.
After her surgery, doctors ran tests to see if chemotherapy was needed. Thankfully, it was not necessary as the cancer had not spread outside of her breast, but she did undergo seven weeks of daily radiation treatments. As follow-up to her treatment, Vickie has to have mammograms every six months and hormone treatments for five years. Right now, all test results show that the cancer is no longer in her body. She will be declared cancer-free after five years. One year down, four to go!
Vickie’s family – husband Don, son Matthew, 21, and daughter Niki, 20 – attest to Vickie’s great strength during her ordeal. Vickie credits her family and friends as her inspiration during her diagnosis and treatment, as well as other women she met who have actually walked in her shoes. They gave her hope that she, too, would overcome this disease. Also important, Vickie stresses, is coming to terms with having cancer. It was a difficult realization, but a crucial step toward healing.
For her garden, Vickie chose a variety of hot pink pansies and tulips to represent the celebration of life. The flowers are planted in the shape of the breast cancer ribbon, serving as a reminder to all women of the importance of yearly mammograms. Rosemary, cabbages and kale complement the flowers.
More information on the Intergraph Garden of Hope can be found at: www.intergraphfoundation.org
About Huntsville Botanical Garden
Huntsville Botanical Garden is open year-round and features a magnificent 110-year-old dogwood, picture perfect aquatic garden, a spectacular wildflower and nature trail, and numerous specialty gardens and plant collections. The 112-acre Garden is a privately operated 501(c)(3) non-profit organization garden which receives a majority of its support from Garden members, supporters and corporate donors. With over 7,000 member families and 1,500 volunteers, the Huntsville Botanical Garden is truly the community’s Garden.
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