Thursday, 22 September 2016

Autumn equinox: flowers during chemotherapy

As it's the autumn equinox today, I thought I'd postpone the last instalment of the Florist on Tour to share autumnal flowers from last week.

It is now estimated that one in two of us born after 1960 will get cancer at some point in our lifetime. It's a sobering thought, which feels more real if you have loved ones with cancer. In the last few years, it seems like more people I know have had the disease, and it has hit young friends as well as older relatives. In my work at a hospice, I hear stories about the effect cancer has on people's lives - those bereaved as a result of it, and those currently dealing with their own or their loved ones'.

So when I was asked to do flowers for someone whose cancer treatment has affected their sense of taste and smell, leaving them unable to enjoy the sweet things they used to - simple pleasures such as cake, biscuits, and floral scents - I was only too willing. I did "roast dinner" flowers: a pumpkin from a local allotment, filled with my sage and rosemary, autumnal-hued peony leaves, and non-scented flowers. There were asters, sedum, and a single dahlia that have all flowered again this year, and hypericum from Blooming Green. I have to thank Simon Lycett for the tip about peony foliage - I have never thought to use it before.

I delivered them on a beautiful, hot day last week, and warned that they probably wouldn't last long - the combination of vegetables (fruit and veg give off ethylene, which speeds up the flower-wilting process) and hot weather wasn't helpful. But they were gladly received, and smelled without any horrible nausea. On one of the hottest days of the year, we all craved a roast dinner.

Simple pleasures. They don't cure cancer, unfortunately. But sometimes they are all we can turn to, to help to ease us through the rubbish that life throws at some of us.

If you have or care for someone with cancer, there is advice available here. And if things feel really difficult, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on the phone number 116 123 if you are in the UK.

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