Meet the Models: Betsy Tyson-Smith

Betsy Tyson-Smith, first diagnosed in 1990.

Out of nowhere, with no family history, no bad habits and no genetic markers, I was diagnosed with BC at age 48. My experience of surgery and treatment was a lot different than it is these days. I went into Boston for surgery and radiation and it was a very difficult time. During radiation, every day for 7 weeks I sat in a waiting room filled with men, women and children with many different cancers. It was very bleak and stressful – down in the basement, no windows, no staff available. I felt so scared, and so abnormal.

I am a psychotherapist, and was very aware of the emotional effects of illness on people. After my treatment ended, I started a support group for women with breast cancer in a community hospital. It continued for eight years, and the women were very open with their fears and concerns, and the isolation they felt during and after treatment. The group helped them express their experience and share it with others, helped them not feel so isolated with this frightening disease. I decided to try to provide more support to others – I hoped to create a healing environment which would include education,a healing community, and access to nature.

With the support of Bill Thurston of Harvard, MA, whose wife Ginny was in my group, The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden was established on their property in 2000, after Ginny’s death. The organization became well known for its wide variety of mind-body offerings, group, individual, and family counseling, and availability of the beautiful, healing gardens on the eight acres of property donated to form it. Eventually, the services we provided were for all people with any cancer.

in 2004, I had another breast cancer and underwent more surgery and radiation. By then, the Healing Garden was up and going, and I benefitted greatly from all the services we provided. I stayed at the HG as Co-Founder, Executive Director and counselor until 2009 when I started my private practice for people with cancer

In 2015, I was diagnosed with a spread – stage lllB BC, and underwent a mastectomy. Now I have lived with BC for over 26 years and I value every day!! I know, deeply in my heart, that breast cancer is a formidable opponent; I also know that support for both body and soul is essential. I am very grateful to my wonderful husband, David Smith, and my sons Chad and Rick Tyson, their wives Krissy and Lisa, and my very special grandchildren Charley, Jack, Milly, Matthew and Ella.


  1. Betsy carpenter on September 8, 2016 at 2:56 am

    Thank you. I had no idea. This is an inspiring story, beautifully simply written.

  2. Sheil Norton on September 8, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Betsy, You are such an inspiration!
    I will be sending your article to our
    friends & relative who are also
    going thru treatment for
    Various forms of cancer.
    Love & prYers for you,