Patient brightens medical office with green thumb

Published 12:11 am Thursday, November 8, 2007

NATCHEZ — In October of 2006, Peggy Burns’ life drastically changed.

“I went in for a routine check-up and the doctor saw something he did not like,” she said.

Burns was diagnosed with lung cancer, but decided early on to fight the disease and keep a positive outlook.

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So 37 radiation and six chemotherapy treatments later, Burns’ cancer is in remission.

But the fact that Burns has beaten cancer is not as surprising as what she did while she was being treated for it.

During Burns’ very first chemotherapy session said she looked out the window of her doctor’s office and noticed something odd.

“It looked like a barren desert,” she said of the courtyard area of the Natchez Medical Plaza.

The barren courtyard inspired Burns.

“I’m an outside person,” she said. “I wanted to see something nice out the window.”

Burns said cancer, without the drab view from the widow, was depressing enough. So Burns got to work.

Burns rallied friends, family and even some of her doctor’s staff to turn the brown plot into a verdant spread.

Armed with spades and rakes Burns and her all volunteer crew have planted a truly amazing garden in what was once just tracts of dirt.

Burns said she wanted to cultivate a garden not just for herself but also for others receiving cancer treatments at the same facility.

And when Burns first approached her doctor, Jack Rodriguez, with her idea he was taken aback.

“I asked for a faucet,” she said. “And he thought I was thirsty.”

After she clarified her plan, Burns said, Dr. Rodriguez was much more receptive.

Burns next took her idea to officials at Natchez Community Hospital and got near immediate results.

Burns said the after she made her pitch to hospital officials a load of pine straw was delivered the very next day.

“We just went to work,” she said.

Between radiation and chemotherapy Burns would spend time transforming the garden.

Burns’ best friend Mary Everett said she never had any doubts about Burns’ ability to succeed while receiving cancer treatments.

“I know Peggy,” Everett said. “I knew she could do this.”

What started out as a way to brighten Burns’ landscape has turned into something much more.

Burns said she has been approached and thanked by numerous patients who say they love the newly landscaped grounds.

Even Burns’ doctor was impressed by her work.

“It sets an example to other patients,” he said.

Recently Burns said her husband asked how long she plans to keep tending the garden.

Burns had a simple answer.

“Until I can’t or I’m dead,” she said.