HUNTSVILLE, Ala., May 14, 2010 -- Two brave women and one courageous child – all cancer survivors – their families, friends and members of the Huntsville community celebrated life today at the Intergraph® Garden of Hope spring dedication in a poignant display of inspiration at the Huntsville Botanical Garden.
The spring 2010 Garden of Hope honors Maria Jimmison, a mother of three whose fight against breast cancer began on Mother’s Day three years ago; Sydney Newton, a six-year-old whose vibrant spirit has helped her cope with childhood cancer; and Teresa Smith, who refused to let her battle with breast cancer define her self image.
Since its inception in 2006, the Garden of Hope has served an artistic and meaningful sanctuary filled with beautiful flowers, plants, trees and shrubs representing each of the three honorees’ personal fight against cancer. The Garden of Hope, a place of determination and hope, is also a means of raising community awareness about the disease that the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates claimed the lives of more than 560,000 people in the United States last year alone.
“The Garden of Hope is much more than just a beautiful flower garden – it is a display of unity against this terrible disease that touches all of us,” said Intergraph Chairman, President and CEO Halsey Wise, who led the dedication. “Today’s ceremony coincides with Women’s Health and Cancer Awareness Month, adding further significance for the three honorees we proudly celebrate today.”
Plantings at the Garden of Hope are held in the spring and fall each year when the honorees, their families and friends and Intergraph volunteers join together to plant gardens that represent the honorees’ personal battles against cancer. Honorees are granted creative freedom to choose which flowers, plants, trees and shrubs will adorn their gardens as a therapeutic outlet for expressing their dreams, hopes and fears. The emotional inspiration that these courageous individuals lend to their gardens makes Garden of Hope a truly moving experience.
Spring 2010 Intergraph Garden of Hope Honorees:
On Mother’s Day 2007, a day usually filled with happiness and celebration, Maria Jimmison found a lump in her right breast. The life of this young, 29-year-old mother of three beautiful children – Danielle, Devin, and Dallas – was about to radically change. She immediately went to the doctor, who conducted a series of scans and tests that ultimately concluded she had Stage 2 metastatic breast cancer. Because her cancer was growing rapidly, her doctors opted to have her start chemotherapy and radiation treatments right away. Her treatments began July 4, 2007, and lasted nine months. The side effects during Maria’s chemo and radiation treatments were brutal; she couldn’t eat or sleep and lost her hair, fingernails, and toenails. Once her tumor was deemed cancer-free and had shrunk significantly in size, they removed it through surgery. Maria has now been in remission since 2008 – and faithfully takes her daily medications and sees her oncologist twice a year.
For Maria, her biggest struggle during her trial with cancer was seeing her children have to experience cancer and its ill effects. The radical lifestyle change was also difficult – from going to school, working, and being an active mom to feeling sick and not being able to do much. Her mom, Jackie, was and remains her source of strength. Upon Maria’s diagnosis, Jackie stated she wished she could take this cancer from her, and carry that burden herself. To Maria, that just reiterated how strong a mother’s love really is. Maria also drew closer to God during this time. “My mom was there for me physically, but God really helped me from a spiritual standpoint. I never asked Him why, I just trusted Him to see me through this.” Maria also thanks the rest of her family, friends, and prayer partners for their unfailing support.
For her garden, Maria chose pink and white vinca, which to her symbolize faith, courage, and peace. They are planted in the shape of the breast cancer ribbon – with pink violets in the center and white outlining it.
Maria stresses that cancer is not the end; it’s the beginning of a new life. “It is so important to rely on God when going through something like this. He’ll give you the faith, hope, and courage you need to be victorious over any obstacle that comes along to destroy you.”
Like most little girls her age, six-year-old Sydney Newton loves playing with baby dolls and her dog, Alice. However, unlike most other little girls, Sydney was diagnosed last year with an inoperable rhabdomyosarcoma behind her left eye. After receiving the diagnosis, Sydney’s devoted parents, Cynthia and Jamie, immediately jumped into action, entrusting Sydney to the care of the Children’s Hospital of Alabama for radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
While fighting her cancer, which primarily affects children, Sydney has demonstrated that she is a very brave little girl. She enjoys showing off her Beads of Courage, colorful beads representing strength and courage for undergoing cancer treatments. “They’re like medals of honor,” explained Cynthia.
Sydney’s biggest challenge in her fight against cancer has been spending time in the hospital, away from her friends, family, and older brother, Dawson. Yet, her experience has made Sydney even more empathetic toward others, especially children. “She definitely thinks about others’ feelings more now,” said Cynthia.
Sydney’s garden gives one a glimpse into her sweet and playful heart. She chose to decorate her garden with bright pink and red flowers to represent the love she feels, as well as lantana and salvia to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Sydney, who enjoys helping her mother take care of the family’s flower garden at home, also selected an ornament of a “lucky ladybug” to adorn her vivid garden – a symbol that has carried Sydney through her journey with cancer.
The Newtons, who have relied on their faith in God, as well as their tight-knit family to help them through Sydney’s cancer treatment, believe the diagnosis is one of the best things that has ever happened to their family. “We only thought we knew what was important before,” explained Cynthia. “We just hope people are able to see our faith, our love for one another, and our desire to do more for others just as others have done for us.”
Teresa Smith defines her cancer story in two words … a journey. It began in July 2009, when she found out what had been previously diagnosed as a cyst was actually Stage 2 breast cancer. Something seemingly minor soon became life-changing.
Upon consulting with the superb medical staff at Atlanta Piedmont Hospital and conducting her own research, Teresa began her battle against cancer with chemotherapy, followed by surgery. Her doctors felt that was the best “plan of attack” given the aggressiveness of the cancer. She underwent two rounds of chemo, 16 total treatments, over 20 weeks. The first several treatments were the most severe, with many side effects. But Teresa steadfastly kept her eyes on the end goal – to be cancer-free and healthy. In January 2010, Teresa had a bilateral mastectomy to remove all the cancer, and is scheduled to have her final reconstructive surgery sometime in the summer of 2010.
Teresa approached her cancer journey in much the same way she approaches her work – with a clear plan with set milestones. This approach also helped her keep her life as normal as possible. “Cancer is not my life,” voiced Teresa. “It is something that happened in my life, but I didn’t want it to become my only focus. There’s no real way to speed up those 20 weeks of treatment, so keeping my focus on work and other things was so helpful to me – a good distraction.”
Teresa is blessed with a wonderful support network, both personally and professionally. She credits her family, friends, management, colleagues, and the Piedmont Hospital medical staff for helping her through this journey. Wayne was and remains always by her side, never missing an appointment. Others who had fought and won their own battles with cancer also encouraged and inspired her.
For her garden, Teresa chose a colorful and fragrant mixture of pink begonias and rosemary. She stresses the importance of listening to your own body. “You know it better than anyone does, and when something doesn’t seem or feel right, go get it checked out. It’s always better to remove all doubt.”
For more information about the Garden of Hope, please visit www.intergraphfoundation.org.
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