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Dream garden gives patients haven for reflection

13 June 2013


A beautifully-landscaped garden has been created outside Southend University Hospital’s chemotherapy unit to provide a quiet oasis for cancer patients and their families.

The new Garden of Reflection was funded by the charity United Against Cancer, set up by hairdresser Rosemary Slade following her treatment for breast cancer in 2004.

Mrs Slade, a mother of two girls from Leigh-on-Sea, underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and was treated with the drug Herceptin following surgery. 

She said: "The staff and the service I received were wonderful and I decided I had to do something about it."

Too late to register for that year's sponsored Moonwalk, Rosemary opted to stage her own event and, to befit her profession, organised a 'wig walk'. It attracted 150 walkers in colourful, zany wigs and raised a phenomenal £10,000. Since then, her charity has gone from strength to strength and raised a total of £70,000. The cash has come from a range of events and donations: Westcliff High School for Boys adopted her charity for a year; friends have asked for donations instead of gifts at special celebrations; there have been 'black and pearls' girlie evenings and more wig walks as well as the more usual quiz nights and Indian meals.

Leigh gardener Simon Holmes, of SJ Holmes, has given his own time to landscape and plant the garden which features shrubs, trees, a pagoda and a reflective commemorative sign.

The £19k garden will be officially opened on Wednesday, June 26 by chief executive Jacqueline Totterdell.

Rosemary, who also volunteers at the hospital for Breast Cancer Care's HeadStrong service to support women who lose their hair through cancer treatment, said: "It has been a long time in the planning and I am absolutely thrilled it has got to this stage. Simon has been a rock throughout it all.

"I had my treatment before the new centre was opened and found the room quite claustrophobic. It would have been nice to be able to get out in the fresh air and have somewhere quiet to reflect. I wanted to do something purely for the patients to help make their treatment less traumatic - I did not want the money to be swallowed up on equipment.

"I hope it will be a legacy for my grandchildren to come and see what their nanny achieved. But it is all down to the efforts of so many supporters - I am just the channel."