Landscapes for people with cancer – A (former) patient’s point of view. Guest post by Kevan Busa

Busa at lake

Kevan at the lake.

Kevan Busa first contacted me in August of 2012. He was in his last year as an undergraduate in landscape architect at SUNY-ESF, and had been excited about the upcoming semester abroad program in Barcelona, Spain…until he was diagnosed with Leukemia. When he emailed me, he was in his fourth out of five rounds of chemotherapy, and was scheduled to be in Buffalo for three months to get a bone marrow transplant. He wrote, “I talked to my school and doctors and i think that i am going to be doing an independent study of healing spaces while i am there.” Seriously? You plan on doing research while you recover from chemo and a bone marrow transplant? Wow. And he did! His research was subsequently published in the June, 2013 issue of Landscape Architecture magazine. I asked him to write a guest post for the TLN Blog, and he graciously agreed. The post is below.

Looking back at by far the hardest year of my life, I have realized the potential that I have to share my information with the professional world and especially people interested in healing spaces. There is more information being added every day that will help so many people in the future and am honored to be adding my research and experience to the Therapeutic Landscapes Network.

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and went through a Bone Marrow Transplant within the past year. There was a lot to take in when I got sick and to think about, especially life. Being a landscape architecture student at the State University of New York: College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the topic of healing spaces from within a hospital setting was always on my mind. I went through chemotherapy rounds as the world around me was enjoying summer and the outdoors. All I wanted to do was to be outside when I wasn’t getting treatment.

Busa with bone marrow

Busa in the hospital with the donated bone marrow he received.

The fact that even thinking about the outdoors kept me mentally engaged was something that I could not have understood until I was in such a hard time in my life. I wanted to research healing spaces for patients who were going through something but both my doctors and advisors weren’t sure about the concept of trying to get a Bone Marrow Transplant while taking credit in school. They didn’t know me well enough because when it was time to travel to Buffalo, New York for the Bone Marrow Transplant, I was enrolled with nine credits in school and ready to learn about healing spaces from a patient’s point of view.

I became fully immersed in the healthcare setting and was restricted to no contact with any green space. I had to take a different stance than most landscape designers by creating a synthesis of landscape design with what my disease and doctors were allowing. I became obsessed with studying the history and recent precedent projects of healthcare design. The relationship between humans and the environment goes back hundreds of years and the adaptations that they used to heal mentally and physically were amazing to see over generations and cultures. By looking at this research, it interested me to do a complete analysis project of the park at Roswell Cancer Institute named Kaminski Park.

Although I wasn’t able to visit the park at all while doing my research because it was unsafe for my health, I was able to pick up on minor details of the site and how the design could actually further complicate a patient’s health. The fact that these details were overlooked might not seem like a lot to an average human but for someone with a compromised immune system, going through chemotherapy/radiation, and other issues, it could be life threatening. Even down to the detail of patients with I.V. poles needing a smooth surface for them to walk with their poles, was being overlooked. Such a simple concept but was not done in the correct manor for these patients. It looked great, but the hospital would not be there without patients. Patients are the ones who need these spaces to heal, and that needs to be the focus.

As I continue to deal with health issues on a daily basis, I am very happy to be out of a hospital room and back into the environment. I use every opportunity to be outdoors with my short leash attached so that I can use the landscape in a healthy and precautious matter. Please take a look at the attached 3 page spread that appeared in Landscape Architecture Magazine in June 2013 to see more of my work and ideas.

Thank you and be in good health always,

Kevan Busa

And thank YOU, Kevan! Keep up the wonderful work.

Bio: Kevan earned his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the State University of New York: College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). After being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, he underwent a Bone Marrow Transplant. During treatment, he analyzed the Healing Garden at Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. His project, published in the June 2013 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine, examines healing spaces from the patient’s perspective revealing lifesaving details designers often miss. He has spoken at the New York State American Institute of Architects convention and published multiple interviews about how his work can inform healthcare design.

Busa, K. (2013, June).  The designer becomes the patient. Landscape Architecture Magazine, 114-117. Busa LAM June 2013

Healthy Kevan