By Kelley Granger
Travel can be a transformational experience – it exposes you to fresh experiences and pushes you to take chances, forging a bond between the people you’ve shared those unforgettable moments with. It may never be such a life-affirming exploration as after a breast cancer diagnosis – when you’re questioning why, searching for strength and needing to be reminded of the richness of life and relationships – or even after you’ve recovered and feel renewed with a vigor for seizing the day. Travel seems a natural antidote for coping with the situation, and a number of retreats have been born that provide an emotional, physical and spiritual getaway that lends support through the varying chapters between diagnosis and recovery.
Women of all ages and breast cancer stages have attended the following breast cancer retreats, and we encourage you to look into them for yourself or one you love. If you haven’t been touched by breast cancer, volunteering with a retreat can be a powerful and moving way to be involved in a cause that affects more than 211,000 new women in the U.S. each year.
Infinite Boundaries | Breast Cancer Recovery Foundation
Making prayer flags is a healing creative pursuit at Infinite Boundaries
Infinite Boundaries’ four-day retreats focus on life after treatment and lessons on survivorship through a variety of settings and specialty retreats, chosen for their beautiful natural surroundings. Women who are single and going through the recovery alone, women who are diagnosed at a young age and women who have metastatic breast cancer will find a weekend on the schedule that is dedicated to their particular circumstance. All retreats focus on providing nutritious meals and teaching a new physical skill, which could be kayaking, hiking or biking depending on the location, and on creative pursuits like beading or making prayer flags. Most importantly, women participate in discussion groups that address some of the key causes of fear and anxiety, dealing with emotions and rediscovering sensuality. The retreats make a huge impact – according to a study done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, women who had participated in the three day retreat with Infinite Boundaries had improved positive affect, significantly reduced anxiety and reduced symptoms of depression compared to women in a control group who did not attend. Many Infinite Boundaries retreats are held on the shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin or in Minnesota, and costs (minus airfare) are low due to underwriting sponsors. Breast Cancer Recovery is willing work with women who cannot afford the fees to ensure they can experience the retreat.
Retreat for Cancer Survivors | Women’s Wilderness Institute
The Women’s Wilderness Institute provides a haven for nature lovers to reconnect
The goal of the Women’s Wilderness Institute is to strengthen courage and confidence among women, and their Retreat for Cancer Survivors provides a four-day escape to do just that. Crafted for women in all phases of healing, the retreat centers on deepening the relationship with one’s self while providing a strong social network of encouragement. This year’s retreat was held at the Blue Moon Ranch in Colorado, where women can enjoy rock climbing, hiking, expressive art-making, journaling and yoga with a yoga therapist who was a cancer survivor herself. The retreat draws heavily on the experience of connecting with nature, and guests at Blue Moon camp in comfortable tents among the rock outcrops, wildflowers, meadows and forests of the property. Financial assistance is available for those who need it.
A.W.O.L – A Way of Life…After Breast Cancer | Chrysalis to Wings
A.W.O.L. links women
Chrysalis to Wings’ A Way of Life retreat focuses on de-stressing those who are dealing with the pressures and anxieties of diagnosis, invasive procedures, the loss of a breast or an altered body image. Through trust building activities, art and writing workshops, yoga, tai chi, hiking and evening events, participants learn to transform their stress into a productive and peaceful approach to life. More and more studies show a correlation between stress and a negative outlook’s physical impact on the body – so through programming and the services of volunteer massage therapists and estheticians, A.W.O.L. works to bring out the relaxed and positive facets during a weekend that is poignant for all who attend. Retreats are held in southern California and require advanced registration. Though fees are nominal and all inclusive, scholarships are available.