Stopping to Plant the Roses: Adele Cave’s Story

February 29, 2024

A growing body of science is proving nature benefits physical and mental health. Adele Cave recovered from cancer with the help of a garden. This March, Vancouver Island grocers are using flower power to help make more space for cancer patients to heal through supportive care services.

Adele Cave and her husband enjoy the rose garden she planted while recovering from colon cancer.

Qualicum Beach photographer Adele Cave found a deep sense of peace in Victoria’s many rose gardens during her radiation treatments for colon cancer in 2018. And so, after deciding she needed a project to focus on during her year-long recovery, she started to work on a rose garden of her own.

She poured over gardening books, chose and ordered different varieties and, with the help of her husband and professional landscaper son, excavated and prepared the garden beds. In the last weekend of February 2020 she planted. Two weeks later, the world shut down.

“The good news, we had nothing but time to stay home and work in the garden. The bad news, due to COVID-19, our son was no longer able to come and help.”

Adele and her husband persevered and thanks to “a good dose of patience and hope — something I learned a lot about on my cancer journey — we waited for spring to awaken the roses from their slumber.”

As anticipated, in July the buds arrived, velvety petals unfurled and the garden burst into bloom. What Adele didn’t expect was that her healing place would become home to other creatures seeking refuge.

One morning she noticed a tiny, bright green tree frog nestled in a rose’s dewy folds. She ran and got her camera. Soon, Adele couldn’t step foot in the garden without spotting one. For Adele, the frogs were much more than just a sign of the healthy ecosystem she had created.

“We have this saying in my church: ‘God winks,’ little coincidences or unexpected encouragements. My rose garden became a sanctuary for me to find joy and appreciate my life. These little green visitors created an opportunity for me to use this gift to raise funds to help others on their own cancer journey.”

The Froggy Rose Project, a boxed collection of notecards featuring her photos, was born and Adele donated all proceeds to the BC Cancer Foundation.

While she credits the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for saving her life, it was her garden and the supportive care services at BC Cancer that helped her feel whole again.

“During my chemotherapy treatments, the nausea was awful. They tried me on different anti-nausea medications but they made me feel really anxious. I couldn’t read or focus so I started going to relaxation sessions at BC Cancer – Victoria. It was the only thing that helped.”

BC Cancer’s nutrition support also suggested foods to help ease the nausea. “With colorectal cancer there are so many things that upset your digestive system. Coupled with the radiation, there were a lot of things I just couldn’t eat but I wanted to be healthy.”

A little green visitor to Adele's garden is featured in the Froggy Rose Project, a notecard set in which all proceeds go to the BC Cancer Foundation.

A BC Cancer dietician helped Adele understand that rather than a prevention diet of high-fibre foods, normally associated with good health, she needed a treatment diet of easily digestible foods such as white bread and white rice.  “It was like a light bulb went on — it was really helpful.”

Supportive care at BC Cancer also includes psychiatry, patient and family counselling and hereditary counselling. To make more space for these essential services, the BC Cancer Foundation has launched a historic $15 million campaign, $11.3 million of which will support the purchase and renovation of a new building, the BC Cancer – Victoria Integrated Care and Research Pavilion.

Just a short walk from the existing BC Cancer – Victoria centre, Adele is thrilled that the new building has plans to include a healing garden. “Having a beautiful outdoor space that patients can easily access will be wonderful. During my treatment I would regularly drive to enjoy nature. When you’re facing cancer, you crave life, vibrancy, new growth and things that are coming alive. I found that in a garden.”

From March 1-21, $2.65 from every potted gerbera, cyclamen, violet or begonia sold at participating Vancouver Island grocers — Red Barn Market, Country Grocer, Thrifty Foods, Fairway Market and Tru Value Foods — will support the new BC Cancer – Victoria Integrated Care and Research Pavilion.