HUNTSVILLE, Ala., May 14, 2009 – Today Intergraph® and the Huntsville Botanical Garden once again partnered to honor three remarkable cancer survivors at the Intergraph Garden of Hope spring dedication. The honorees, their family and friends and leaders from the Huntsville community convened to celebrate life at this inspirational gathering which coincided with National Cancer Research Month.
The Garden of Hope serves as both a therapeutic venue for cancer patients and survivors to express their emotions through the meaningful planting of beautiful flowers, plants, trees and shrubs, and also a means of raising community awareness about the disease that claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people in the United States in 2008 alone, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
In addition to supporting awareness of cancer survivors’ fight through the Garden of Hope, Intergraph also is marking National Cancer Research Month with its sponsorship of the Huntsville Classic Dinner and Golf Tournament, of which Intergraph is a founding sponsor. All proceeds will benefit the Huntsville Hospital oncology unit to fund new technologies in the detection and treatment of cancer and in a high touch manner to assist individuals and families in off-setting the cost of fighting this terrible disease.
The spring 2009 Garden of Hope honors one ovarian and two prostate cancer survivors, all of whom are members of the Intergraph family: Garth Keesler, who credits his wife, also a cancer survivor, as his inspiration during his battle; Wayne Hamlin, husband and father of three who hopes his fight with prostate cancer will encourage others to become more proactive about their health; and Nancy Wallis, whose fight with the “silent killer” ovarian cancer further reinforced her faith.
“The word ‘cancer’ is one that invokes fear in the heart of every person here today,” said Intergraph Chairman, President and CEO Halsey Wise, who introduced the honorees at the dedication. “However, today’s show of unity at the Garden of Hope proves that we can stand together, fight back and celebrate life in the face of this terrible disease.”
The first Garden of Hope dedication was held in 2006 when Intergraph and the Huntsville Botanical Garden collaborated to create a meaningful sanctuary where cancer patients and their families could artistically express their individual journeys with cancer. Each spacious, personal garden is designed and planted entirely by the honoree, with help from family, friends and Intergraph volunteers, to represent the honoree’s personal battle against the disease. The Garden of Hope holds one planting in the spring and another in the fall each year and continues to stand as a unique symbol of determination, solidarity and hope.
Wayne Hamlin’s cancer story is a recent one. In September 2008, during a routine check-up, doctors discovered Wayne had prostate cancer. His Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels had been consistently high for about a year, and biopsies further confirmed his diagnosis. Wayne’s next step was to determine how best to treat his cancer. Prostate cancer has many treatment options – radiation, seed implants, hormone treatments, and surgery – but this plethora of choices makes the path of treatment a very personal decision for each individual. After conducting considerable research and consulting with oncologists and urologists both in Georgia and New York City, Wayne chose to undergo a radical prostatectomy in late March 2009.
Wayne’s surgery was a success, and was much easier on him than originally expected. When asked about his cancer journey, Wayne replied, “You always think, this isn’t something that’s going to happen to me. I’ve just dealt with it on a factual basis, so it hasn’t really hit me on an emotional level yet.” He feels blessed that doctors detected it early and could take care of it before it had the opportunity to spread any further. Early tests indicate that the cancer has been eradicated.
Wayne’s family has been by his side the entire time. He credits his wife Jan and his three children, Greg, Vicki, and Chris, as his inspiration and support network. Coworkers and friends who have had family members who battled prostate cancer provided insight and support as well. His mother also gives him hope for his future, as she’s overcome both colon and breast cancer.
Wayne’s garden is filled with yellow and multi-colored lantana and deep red coleus. With it, he honors his family, especially his father, whom he lost to lung cancer. He hopes other men facing prostate cancer will do exactly as he did. “Learn all you can, and don’t rush into a decision or you’ll start second-guessing yourself. Talk to other men who have lived through it, as they can tell you what to expect down the road.” Wayne feels that if his story can open someone’s eyes and help men be more proactive with their own health, something good has already come out of his experience.
In the words of Garth Keesler, having prostate cancer is truly “life-altering.” During a routine exam in March 2008, Garth’s Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test levels rated higher than normal. Given his family history of prostate cancer, Garth was proactive and consulted a specialist for further tests. Over a period of eight months, he underwent several more examinations and biopsies. In December 2008, it was determined he did indeed have prostate cancer, fortunately in its early stages.
After conducting extensive research on the Web and chatting online with other men with the same diagnosis, Garth decided to undergo a radical prostatectomy in January 2009. He made a speedy recovery after his surgery, even returning to work after only three weeks. Tests following the surgery show his PSA level as undetectable, which is as good as it gets for prostate cancer patients. When talking about his recovery, Garth was frank. “The healing process takes a very long time. You don’t really know what life will be like until 18 months after surgery.” He credits his wife, Carol, of 41 years as his greatest inspiration during this challenge, especially since she conquered her own battle with lung cancer. Garth commented, “I had somebody there in my corner who had been through something even worse, so we could really relate and support each other.”
Garth’s garden is an extension of his personality. His winning smile and positive attitude is reflected in the total disarray of multi-colored petunias and salvia, which Garth’s wife says is quite fitting for him. It is meant to raise the spirits of all who visit the garden.
When asked what advice he’d like to pass on to other men, Garth stressed the importance of early detection. “Prostate cancer is the one of the deadliest forms of cancer for men in the United States. Knowing is always better than not knowing. If you are between 50 and 70 years old, you need to get yearly screenings. Then you have both choices and chances.”
In December 2008, Nancy Wallis was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer, known as the “silent killer” of women because it is often difficult to detect. Her story, however, really begins two years prior, when she underwent a partial hysterectomy given her family history of breast and uterine cancer. During a routine doctor visit a year following her surgery, Nancy mentioned having unusual bloating in her abdominal region. After a battery of tests, Nancy’s doctors determined she had ovarian cancer, and called for immediate surgery. During the surgery, physicians found the cancer to be very pervasive – two cancerous tumors in her stomach, a large platter-size mass across the top of her stomach, and affected areas within her colon. The operation was lengthy and required considerable reconstruction.
Nancy is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments that specifically target the formerly cancerous regions of her body. Her biggest challenge in her journey through cancer is overcoming fatigue. She is diligently working to build back her energy and strength and return to her day-to-day life as best she can. When asked what helps her during those especially demanding days, Nancy commented, “I am continuously inspired by the enormous amount of love and support from my family, friends, and even complete strangers. It is just all so touching.”
For her garden, Nancy wanted to help raise awareness of ovarian cancer. Just as breast cancer is represented by the color pink, ovarian cancer’s color is teal. Nancy’s garden features a teal pot, filled with white flowers signifying her resilient faith and the purity of God. Surrounding the pot are colorful flowers that celebrate life, as that, after all, is her ultimate goal.
Nancy hopes other women can learn from her experience. “Ovarian cancer is so quick and can progress so fast. Pay close attention to your body and any unusual changes.” Nancy especially wanted to stress four key symptoms of ovarian cancer: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and abnormal urinary symptoms. “My prevailing hope is that someone can catch this much sooner than I did.”
For more information about the Garden of Hope, please visit www.intergraphfoundation.org.
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About The 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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