KENNEWICK -- When Patty Taylor, 47, left town last Friday, her backyard looked sad and neglected.
Beautiful and welcoming better describe it today, thanks to the work of 30 volunteers, some of whom don't even know her. They simply felt compelled to help make over her Kennewick yard after hearing her story.
Taylor was diagnosed five years ago with breast cancer but had almost beat it. It returned last June, and she underwent a regimen of chemotherapy that left her sick and unable to work in the garden she loved.
She completed chemotherapy in April and was declared cancer-free.
"I was so happy, I felt so strong," she said. "I thought I was done with cancer. But then I discovered I had brain tumors."
She's getting radiation treatments, which again leaves her too ill to garden or to work. She's on long-term disability from her job as executive assistant to the Kadlec Regional Medical Center board of directors in Richland.
Her son, Houston, who lives in Kennewick, and his sister, Peyton, who graduated from Kamiakin High School this month and lives with her, have been doing what they can.
"But the flowers are really my thing. I usually put in a lot of annual flowers all over the yard. But I was just too sick this year," she said.
Houston goes over on weekends to mow and water the plants and trees.
"But the lawn itself was not in good shape and the sprinkler system didn't cover all of the flower beds. She had a makeshift dog run, the deck needed to be restained and some of the patio concrete blocks were cracked," Houston said. "It needed a lot of work."
Plus she and Peyton have two large dogs who take their own toll on the grass and other plantings.
A friend of Patty's and former co-worker at Kadlec, Janet Brinkerhoff, approached Jason Rose for help. He works in plant operations at Kadlec and knows both women.
"(Janet) had been going over and weeding the flower beds at Patty's," Rose said. "But with this last diagnosis, Patty needed some cheering up. She needed her garden."
Rose put out a call for volunteers and approached some of the contractors who have worked on various projects for Kadlec for donations.
"Garrett Electric stepped right up," Rose said. "They said that's what we're all about, we're there. We'll do whatever it takes."
Another contractor, Bouten Construction, donated money and others, including private citizens, also contributed to the landscaping project.
"Also when we contacted the vendors for materials and told them what we were doing, they gave us really good discounts," Rose said. "A lot of people wanted to donate."
On Friday, Patty left to visit her brother who lives outside Denver and attend his surprise 50th birthday party.
Later that day, Houston stopped off at his mother's home and found huge piles of gravel and basalt chips in the driveway.
"They brought in fencing, put in a dog run, a real one, put down gravel in the walkways, redid all the flower beds, stained the deck; it was awesome," he said. "There must have been 20 people working there."
"And they paid for it themselves. I work in construction, and I know there had to be at least $5,000 in materials there," he said.
When his mother returned on Tuesday, everything was done.
And the work didn't stop at the backyard. The work crew also weeded and barked the front flower beds, added a table and chairs and put down some brick to make an area where her trash can sits look nice too.
"I was blown away. It's amazing what they did in the time they did it," she said.
Wednesday morning she was still astounded, even though the makeover wasn't a complete surprise.
"Jason (Rose) said he wouldn't do it without my OK because he was going to do a bit of redesigning to make it easier to care for and he wanted my thoughts," she said.
She said the help and support she and her family have received since her illness is immeasurable.
"Cancer is awful, but it's given my family so much love and appreciation of the kindness of the human spirit," she said. "People just want to help. It's a beautiful thing and a beautiful community we live in.
"Thank you are the only words I have and they don't even come close to how I feel," she added.
You can read more about her battles with cancer, and the good things that have happened in her life too, on Patty's blog, Pink Tumor Road, http://pattytaylor.blogspot.com/.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org