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Legacies of inspiration and hope are always important to revisit. And the legacy of Lenore and Walter Parham is one of those legacies. It links a garden of cancer-fighting plants, a botanical researcher, and the art of quilt making.
Lenore A. Parham was a longtime Vienna, Virginia, resident, fabric artist, quilting teacher, wife, and mother who died of cancer in June 1997. She believed that those who receive chemotherapy cancer treatments might benefit psychologically from seeing the beautiful plants used to provide some of the chemicals to fight cancer.1
This unique garden of cancer-fighting plants took root at Meadowlark Gardens, Vienna, Virginia, in 1998. Plants growing there contain powerful chemicals that are toxic to various kinds of cancer cells. These cancer-fighting plants are divided into 3 categories: Category 1 consists of plants that are sources of effective chemicals used today in chemotherapy for cancer patients. Category 2 consists of plants that produce promising chemicals currently under investigation in clinical trials. Category 3 includes some previously investigated plant chemicals that are being reexamined for their suitability with new biological techniques (monoclonal antibodies).
Such plants as Happy Tree, Sweet Potato, Western Yew, and May-Apple are among the many that fight cancer cells.1
Because Lenore Parham was an accomplished quilter, Dr Parham encouraged her friends to commemorate her life by making quilts that feature the healing plants. These artistic representations have brought the concept of the healing garden to thousands in a traveling display made possible by the Smithsonian Museums under the auspices Society for Arts in Healthcare.
Another legacy of beauty and education can be found at Walter Reed Army Hospital. In 2005, before she died, Judy House, a noted art quilter, organized a group of 37 art quilters to make art quilts based on the plants and animals used in chemotherapies. These quilts now hang in the oncology areas of Walter Reed. Judy was battling ovarian and breast cancer when she conceived this project.
A dear friend of mine who lost her battle with ovarian cancer said, 'Cancer equals WAITING.' You are either waiting for doctors appointments, tests, results of those tests, treatments, or results of treatments. This is stressful time for the patient, their family members, and friends. I would therefore like to provide them with something pleasant to look at and reflect on during those often-difficult moments.2
(To view the quilt gallery, go to http://www.healingquiltsinmedicine.org/quilt_gallery.htm.)
1. Garden of Cancer-Fighting Plants [brochure]. Washington, DC: Society for the Arts in Healthcare; 2005. [Context Link]
2. Healing quilts in medicine: art quilts making a difference in the lives of patients and their families. http://www.healingquiltsinmedicine.org/quilt_gallery.htm. January 26, 2010. [Context Link]
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