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Fight Like a Girl

taking the gloves off in the battle of their lives

(page 1 of 5)

Touch it. Experience it. Own it.

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OCTOBER IS BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, BUT THE FIGHT AGAINST THE DISEASE IS A YEAR-ROUND CALL TO ACTION. SHARED COMMITMENT, PASSION, STRENGTH AND FEARLESSNESS IN ACTIONS LARGE AND SMALL HAVE TRANSFORMATIONAL POWERS FOR CANCER PATIENTS, SURVIVORS AND CAREGIVERS.

 

 


 



 

IF GARDEN SHOPS were set up like paint stores, there’d be a vast, wall-wide display of crisp little cards from which to select a mix-and-match color palette. From ‘a’ (azaleas) to ‘z’ (zinnias), gardeners would be presented with a mind-numbing rainbow of creative possibilities.
 

Karen Kruse kept things simpler in designing a garden. In her little corner of the Metcalfe Park/Country Club neighborhood, it’s all about pink.
 

“I call it my cancer survivor’s garden,” Kruse said of the cacophony of pink that, through a thoughtful blend of plantings and accent pieces that vary in scale and form, presents a variegated tableau that is anything but monochromatic.
 

KRUSE WAS DIAGNOSED with breast cancer in June 2009. Her mother’s support included tending to the greenery on a property that had always been handsome but is now drop dead gorgeous.
 

Work on the cancer survivor’s garden began in earnest in 2010 and getting her hands dirty again, Kruse said, paralleled her path to recovery. She hung up her trowel (again, pink) and christened the garden exactly one year to the day after her first chemotherapy treatment.
 

“Gardening for me became therapeutic,” Kruse said. “I’ve always loved it, but this experience has reminded me how important it is to me, how powerful it has been in my recovery.”
 

If there’s any doubt that Kruse’s pink-pinker- pinkest yard is a tribute to the work of the Nebraska affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the familiar ribbon logo on a decorative yard flag removes any guesswork.
 

“Almost everything that is in or has to do with this garden, including my set of pink garden tools, was purchased through stores and organizations that were supporting foundation fundraisers,” she said.
 

ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING elements of the space is, oddly enough, the sole casualty of the garden’s inaugural winter. But even in death a dwarf pussy willow tree is a thing of beauty. Now sporting a coat of pink paint applied by Kruse, its spindly, umbrella-like tendrils assume the organic role of edgy contemporary sculpture.
 

“Planting the garden was a wholly selfish act,” Kruse added. “I did it for myself and was surprised when I realized that my neighbors appreciate it too. I’ve even had complete strangers come to my door to ask about my garden.”
 

Kruse’s connection with the soil extends far beyond her cancer survivor’s garden. She operates Cream of the Crop, the fresh produce business that has been a familiar sight all summer long at 77th and Cass streets. It was there that she found inspiration for one of her newest dreams, that of becoming a “calendar girl” for next year’s Project Pink’d effort. Kruse is in talks with the people behind the Susan G. Komen fundraiser whose calendar features classic pin-up photography of topless breast cancer survivors in tasteful poses that obscure their… well, you get the idea.
 

“I want it to be like this,” Kruse said in positioning a duo of ripe props as men honked their car horns in buzzing past the produce stand. “I want to be shot holding a pair of strategically placed melons!”

 

 

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