HUNTSVILLE, Ala., May 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- One brave woman currently undergoing chemotherapy and two 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 2013 Garden of Hope honors Tammy Miller, a mother who spends her time giving back to the community and is currently battling cancer; Jeremy Shelley, who battled a rare form of thyroid cancer while keeping his focus on his faith and sense of humor and Ramona Zullo, a strong, colon-cancer survivor who refused to let cancer slow her down and ran a 5k race while undergoing treatment.
Partnering with the Huntsville Botanical Garden in 2006, Intergraph created the Garden of Hope to serve as an artistic and meaningful sanctuary filled with beautiful flowers, plants, trees and shrubs representing each of the honorees' personal fights against cancer. The Garden of Hope, a place of determination and optimism, is also a means of raising community awareness about the disease the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates claimed the lives of more than 570,000 people in the United States last year alone.
"The Garden of Hope is not only a display of beautiful plants and flowers, it is a symbol of hope, courage and cancer awareness," said Ed Porter, Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Intergraph. "The honorees are an inspiration to all affected by cancer, and they encourage us by their strength, faith and perseverance throughout their journey."
Plantings at the Garden of Hope are held each year when the honorees, their families and friends and Intergraph volunteers join together to plant gardens that represent the honorees' personal battles with 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 these courageous individuals lend to their gardens makes the Garden of Hope a truly moving experience.
Spring 2013 Intergraph Garden of Hope Honorees:
Tammy Miller was blessed with a beautiful voice that she shares with others at Asbury United Methodist Church. But she doesn't just leave her voice at the sanctuary door. Tammy is also an advocate for those in her community who need a voice as well – young women in difficult situations. "There are lots of people out there who are worse off than me," she stated. And it's this attitude that exemplifies Tammy's humble approach to life.
In August 2011, Tammy awoke to feel a lump in her pelvis area. Concerned, she went to the doctor for an ultrasound. Although the doctors thought it was a benign tumor, it grew rapidly – reaching nearly six pounds in weight. After undergoing surgery to remove the tumor, Tammy traveled to New York to see a specialist. She learned she had Leiomyosarcoma, a rare uterine cancer that affects one in four million people.
In a seven-month timeframe, Tammy had more than 40 tumors in her abdomen removed and underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy to battle the return of her tumors. Despite the struggle of shielding the effects of her disease from her children, she finds solace knowing her family: husband, Bobby; his children, Audrey and Morgan; and her children, Layne and Preston, continue to offer their loving support.
Although the disease weakens her physically, Tammy finds inner peace through her faith in God. "When you're first diagnosed, there's such fear and panic about the things you don't know. But then you come to this place where it's up to your faith to see you through," Tammy explains. "The doctors are fantastic, but ultimately, it's up to God and my faith in Him. He meets us where we are."
Tammy's garden, consisting of a vibrant bed of color, is meant to draw visitors from a distance. "Bright, beautiful flowers bring me great joy, and I wanted to share that with someone else," Tammy says. She also incorporated vinca into her garden after learning this plant had a hand in creating her chemotherapy medication.
When asked what Tammy wanted to share with others on a similar journey, she stated: "Even though cancer tries to dominate your life, you have to decide not to let it be all-encompassing. You still have a life with so much you can enjoy and be thankful for. No matter what life throws at you, you can still have joy and laughter."
Jeremy Shelley is a firm believer that humor is the best medicine. With his upbeat attitude and ability to find the positive in whatever life throws his way, nothing seems able to keep him down…not even cancer.
In 2003, shortly after Jeremy's 30th birthday, his endocrinologist felt a lump in his throat. Although he thought it was minor because of thyroid issues in the past, Jeremy soon learned he had thyroid cancer. "It felt like a kick to the stomach," he said. "In my mind, cancer was something that happened later. Not at age 30."
In April 2003, doctors removed Jeremy's thyroid. Shortly after, he began an oral radiation treatment to kill the lingering cancer cells. During his three-day treatment, Jeremy had to be totally isolated in a saran-wrapped hospital room. One of the toughest side effects of his medication was a shortened attention span. "To worsen things, I couldn't even make it through one daytime television show," Jeremy quipped. "I was constantly reminded how awful they all were each time I changed the channel."
After his stint in the hospital, Jeremy's thyroid sample was sent to Mayo Clinic. When the results came back inconclusive, his sample was sent to one of the foremost thyroid doctors in the world. It was only then Jeremy learned what he truly had – a rare cancer with only six documented cases in history. Jeremy joked, "I always knew I was unusual. Now I have medical proof to back it up."
Now cancer-free for ten years, Jeremy was able to overcome his disease through his faith in God, the support of his family – wife, Alicia, and son, Liam – and his unyielding sense of humor. "If you can make someone laugh about your cancer story, it has no power over you," he affirmed.
For his garden, Jeremy selected a cross centerpiece consisting of white SunPatiens – symbolizing faith and church family. Neighboring this is a field of blue petunias and red salvia, followed by rosemary and a small section of herbs for Jeremy to use incorrectly while cooking.
Jeremy wanted his garden visitors to remember these words of encouragement: "People have told me I don't strike them as a cancer survivor. I take that as a compliment. Some people expect the worst when they're diagnosed, but if you look for grace and peace in God, you can find it everywhere. You're not alone in this."
Ramona Zullo, a native of Germany, is what some would deem a powerhouse. She walks three to four miles several days a week, swims regularly, bikes on weekends, and participates in several sprint triathlons and 5ks and 10ks. Keeping strong in mind and body, she lives each day to the fullest. And by the way, Ramona is currently in remission of colon cancer.
In February 2012, four months after her 50th birthday, Ramona had a routine colonoscopy. With no symptoms or history of cancer in her family, she was shocked to learn she had stage III colon cancer. After undergoing an operation to remove part of her colon, she began chemotherapy treatment. But this didn't slow Ramona down. Two days after her fourth round of chemo, she participated in the Running through the Roses 5k race, earning her the Adult Racer of the Year award. "I never thought of myself as a victim," Ramona stated. "Everybody can get cancer – I'm living proof of it."
Ramona's diagnosis was especially tough on her husband Joe and son Sean, who supported her every step of the way. Her friendship with Julie Willis, who was unsuccessfully treated for breast cancer, provided an intimate outlet for Ramona to openly share her deepest fears and concerns. "You learn a lot about yourself and others while battling cancer," she said. "And the best that comes from it is the love and support from your family and friends."
To raise awareness for colon cancer, Ramona's garden includes a large blue ribbon framed with white alyssum, which symbolizes hope and strength. The ribbon is accompanied by a vibrant green sweet potato vine – a favorite of Ramona's because of its easy maintenance and almost indestructible nature to withstand Huntsville's summer heat. "This reminds me of the strength it takes to fight cancer," she explained. In honor of her friend Julie and others touched by breast cancer, Ramona's flowerbed is framed by pink pentas and nemesias. She also incorporated hydrangeas, which change from blue to pink depending on soil conditions, to resemble the colors of colon and breast cancer.
Ramona's strength in life reverberates in her message to others: "Do not give up. Cancer is not the end – it is the end of a part of your life and then you start something new. Everything in life has a purpose and if my experience encourages others to get a colonoscopy, then some good came out of it."
For more information about the Garden of Hope, please visit www.intergraphfoundation.org.
About Huntsville Botanical Garden
Huntsville Botanical Garden is open year-round and features a large nature center, a 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 more than 7,000 member families and 1,500 volunteers, the Huntsville Botanical Garden is truly the community's garden.
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