harke3 | Chandler-Gilbert Community College
Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Navigate Up

Gila River Review
Lynne Hartke

Gardening, Breast Cancer, and One Dumb Dog

When I reached my one year milestone of being a breast cancer survivor, I figured I deserved a party. Nothing fancy.  Something small and intimate.


One hundred guests.

An orchestra.

A five-tiered chocolate cake.


But when I began dropping hints to the family, I was met with glazed looks as they rushed out the door to go to school, to work or to hang out with friends. Gone were the days when I was Queen of the Couch, being waited on by my subjects as I recovered from surgery and treatment.  


Mom, can I get you anything?

A drink of water?

Another pillow?

Is the fan blowing too hard?


Since the family didn’t jump on board, I decided I would have to make my own fun. Maybe go shopping. Or get a manicure. Or invite a friend to lunch. In my wildest imaginings I never thought I would spend my day planting a garden. It’s not that I don’t like plants, because I do, but my husband always laughs when somebody gives me a potted plant as a gift. He jokes that it has come to our house to receive hospice care. The sad thing is, he is right, but I console myself with the fact that I can either keep the kids alive or the plants, and so far the kids are doing pretty well.


So it is somewhat surprising that every fall and spring I find myself back at the Garden Center buying a few flowers and vegetables to plant in the backyard.





Sweet peas.


This year I felt especially inspired and planted seeds, rather than transplants.  I was quite proud of myself when I spotted green dots of life pushing through the dark earth. I patted myself on the back, thinking that finely (gasp), I was a gardener.


That is, until my dumb dog lumbered into the backyard.


Ebony’s ten years have calmed many of her bad puppy habits, but not all of them. She still has a fascination with the household trash. In fact, she is the only one who is interested in taking out the garbage—in mouthfuls—after first spreading it all over the living room rug. While pooper-scooping the backyard the kids have found some interesting items, including whole socks that have gone through our dog’s digestive system. So far, none of the kids have taken me up on my offer to wash the sock so it can be worn again.


Ebony also likes to dig.


I discovered when I went out to water the plants one morning that Ebony had maneuvered her way around the fence and the netting and destroyed the entire garden in a fit of black lab lust. I don't know if she was looking for buried bones or what, but you would think as a canine senior citizen that her Digging Days would be over.  Seeing the carnage, I was angry enough that ALL her days would have been over if I hadn’t been afraid that it would send the wrong message to the kids.  Mommy put the dog to sleep for digging up the garden so be sure to make your bed and clean your room or who knows what she’ll do to you. Yeah, not exactly the message I wanted to convey.


So no chocolate cake.

No friends.

No party.

I celebrated my one year anniversary as a cancer survivor by replanting a garden—which seemed like a life-celebrating thing to do. And I didn’t kill the dog—which also seemed like a life-celebrating thing to do. Most importantly, I realized my family and I had returned to our everything-as-usual, back-to-normal life.  And that was the biggest reason of all to celebrate.

Lynne Hartke is enjoying the writing classes at CGCC. She has been published in Woman's Day, The Chandler Tribune, Christian Parenting, Children's Ministry Magazine and the Spring 2010 edition of The Gila Review. She is a mom of four, wife, preschool music teacher and a breast cancer survivor. Lynne is also writer and director of We are the Voices, a drama production about social injustices involving children.


Chandler-Gilbert Community College
2626 East Pecos Road, Chandler, Arizona 85225-2499
Phone: 480.732.7000 Fax: 480.732.7090

© 2014 Chandler-Gilbert Community College, A Maricopa Community College
Legal Disclaimer
AccreditationMCCCDHonor RollBe The Connection