YOUR HEALTH: The power of a healthy view

Researchers say they can improve the health of cancer patients by the sights they see

HOUSTON — When cancer patients are administered chemotherapy, it can mean long hours sitting in a chair in a room with nothing more than medical equipment. 

"I need to get chemo and it takes usually seven, eight hours," explained cancer patient Rick Shoejaei.

Researchers are studying whether views of nature impact a patient's healing. 

Using a traditional room, a virtual reality room, and one with a view of a luscious outdoor garden, they are measuring pain, blood pressure and saliva cortisol, which indicates stress.

"We have so many patients, especially first-time coming in here not knowing what to expect, so anxious, so tense. you can see the fear in their face. and then, when you give them such a spectacular view, such a natural view, it instantly relaxes them," said registered nurse Ashley Verzwyvelt

The project is the brainchild of Ashley and colleague Renee Stubbins who secured funding to build the garden on a previously empty rooftop outside the chemo rooms.

"As a dietician, I do believe we have this innate connection to nature," said Stubbins, who specializes in the diets of cancer patients.. 

"Our food comes from nature. We are part of nature."

Virtual reality goggles allow patients to interact with nature scenes filled with animals in the wild.

It's not the same in the room with no view or virtual reality equipment.

"In a room like this, you feel pretty isolated. but, in a room like garden, that you got view to look out, it is a big difference," said Rick.

The goal of these studies is to influence hospital design guidelines in the future.

The study, which will include 36 cancer patients, is ongoing and was funded by a non-profit conservation group, studying how factors in nature lead to better health.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.