Healing Waters: Soothing Relief From A Devastating Diagnosis

In the face of a devastating diagnosis, Michelle Harris is finding ways to heal her heart and soul, especially against the now almost constant companion of fear.

These days, as chemo saps her energy, wraps a scarf around her bare head and tapes her fingernails in place so that she can play another tune on the piano, Harris is comforted by the everyday gifts of normalcy with her husband and four children and the calming gurgle of a waterfall garden freshly installed through the Healing Waters Project for breast cancer survivors.

“We already love having the waterfall,” Harris says. “We fall asleep to its soothing sound and wake up to it in the morning. I was so touched that there are so many in the community with such generous hearts.”


Join the Journey Joins the Cause

The Healing Waters Project is an annual program led by Whitewater Gardens that honors a woman with breast cancer by donating and building a water feature in her yard. This year, Join the Journey was honored to become a partner in Healing Waters, says executive director Christine Fredriksen. Join the Journey is a Rochester-based nonprofit organization that supports programs and projects that promote breast cancer awareness and provide support to individuals on their breast cancer journey.

Whitewater Gardens in St. Charles, owned by Michael Otte, installed the Harris waterfall, marking its ninth garden project for breast cancer survivors. “The generosity, kindness and joy experienced during the all-volunteer installation was poetic,” Otte says, “and even more so when a Healing Waters recipient from nine years ago made a surprise visit to help with planting flowers.” Christine’s Landscape Design of Winona provided plantings and guidance, and Reinders of Rochester provided mechanicals.

Garden tour feature

The Healing Waters garden at the Harris home in Northeast Rochester is among six private gardens featured in this year’s annual garden tour of the Rochester Garden and Flower Club, which takes place on July 16. The garden tour showcases gardens with a variety of landscape patterns, plants and usage and also features local musicians and artists, demonstrations and learning opportunities.

If you can’t make it to the garden tour, consider attending Olmsted County’s Tour with the Masters event on July 22, a fundraiser for the Master Gardener Program, featuring six gardens in Southwest Rochester. Both the Garden and Flower Club tour and the Masters tour are self-guided tours, with the option of taking each tour via trolley through the Rochester Trolley & Tour Co.

Finding comfort amid uncertainty

Throughout her treatment, Harris has leaned heavily on her family, friends and faith community, who stepped up with unwavering support, providing meals, cleaning, spending hours with Harris at her chemotherapy appointments, even loaning a car to her college son so he could come for a visit. Though frightened at times about what the future may hold, Harris doesn’t harbor bitterness or anger. “No matter what happens, we know that God has always been faithful to our family, in past good times and in past hard times,” Harris says. “Nothing is going to happen to me that isn’t part of my good and loving purpose for life. That doesn’t make this less painful—the fact that, wow, I may not have long to live—but it keeps this from being random or meaningless, which would cause me to despair.” As Michelle Harris can attest, gardens boast healing powers amidst uncertainty.

Garden tour information

Rochester Garden and Flower Club: rgfc.org/index.html

Olmsted County Tour with the Masters: co.olmsted.mn.us/extension/mgnewsletters/events/Pages/default.aspx

Jennifer Gangloff is a Rochester-based freelance editor and writer and a 15-year cancer survivor.