Everything I Needed to Learn About Dealing With Cancer I Learned While Digging Up A Bush

Rodney Warner, JD
Rodney Warner, JD

You’ve got this bush in your yard you really don’t like. Maybe it’s dead, dying, diseased, ugly or just in the wrong place. You want to get rid of it. You could cut it just above the ground, but you’ll have this stump there. It’ll have a much cleaner look if you can dig it out, then fill in the hole, and make it easier to plant other things in its place.

When you’re digging up bushes, you need the right tools. You need heavy duty gloves, a round point shovel, a cutter mattock, an axe, a hand trowel and a crowbar. Other than the trowel and crowbar, try to use tools with fiberglass shafts, as wooden ones may break under the stress of digging up a bush.

Depending on the size of the bush, you may want to trim back the branches (which will take pruning or lopping shears), but don’t trim it back so much that you just have a small stump. Leave enough so you’ll have something to grab onto (more about this later).

The key to digging up a bush is persistence and creativity. Try to dig completely around the bush (if it’s possible, it might not be if it’s next to a wall or fence). The round edge shovel will not only take out dirt, but cut smaller roots. You’re not so much digging up the bush as undermining it. You’re cutting roots and removing the foundation upon which it stands. You dig round and round, deeper and deeper, cutting as many roots as you can.

With the hand trowel, you may be able to get closer and dig out more dirt and get a better look at what you’re dealing with. For bigger roots, use the axe to cut them. The cutter mattock can also be really helpful. You can use the cutter side like an axe and cut roots. You can dig up the roots with the mattock side, and once you’ve made progress, wedge it under the bush, and using the tool as a lever, try to pull the bush up.

You can also use the crowbar as a lever. You can ram it under the bush, and push down (with hands, or feet if you have something or someone safe to hold onto) to loosen it up. Using a foot or two for this will allow you to literally put your weight into getting the bush out. If possible, have some cut up sections of 2″ x 4″ handy to put under the crowbar to act as a fulcrum and increase its angle and leverage.

Once the bush is loose enough, you can try to rock it back and forth (with your hands, or sit on the ground and use your feet…if you cut the bush down to a short stump, you won’t be able to do this). I think this is especially effective in larger bushes. You’re using its weight against itself and it can tear out remaining roots. If this doesn’t do the trick, depending on how it’s rocking, you can tell where the remaining roots are, so you can focus your attention on that area and finish the job.

You have to be creative because you just don’t know how many, or how strong, the roots are. Don’t assume the roots will be a certain size and be in a certain place. Persistence is key. You need to keep digging, cutting, loosening things up, going round and round, plugging away until you get it done. Of course, help would be great. It can cut your work load and time it takes to get the job done. That person may also come in handy if you hurt yourself too (these are heavy, sharp tools you’ll be working with).

Being treated for cancer is like digging up a bush. You need the right tools. You need the right meds, surgery or radiation. You need to be persistent. This can be a slow process, for me it took years. You need to keep plugging. You need to hunker down and get it done. If you can’t be cured, you still may be able to live for many years with cancer, given the right circumstances and treatment.

You need to be creative. Don’t take things you read, or are told, at face value. Think about them critically. Get second or third medical opinions. Think about, if this is right, what do I do? If this isn’t right, what do I do? You could get hurt. There are many long and short term potential side effects to treatment and cancer (other than death).

Having someone to help would be great. If you have a partner/spouse/friend/family member to help you get through this (not everyone does), it will make this whole nasty mess much more tolerable. Get help if you’re having a hard time emotionally, financially, professionally, or with your relationships.

If all goes well, you’ll have a tremendous feeling of satisfaction. It’ll feel good to know you’ve gotten that ugly bush out of the way. It’ll feel a million times better when you get good news from your oncologist.

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