My eyes sprung open in a state of utter panic! Where was I? I scanned the room. Nothing looked familiar. Who is that person sleeping in the bed right next to me? Why does my head hurt? And why, in God’s name, am I wearing a pink feather boa? Then it dawned on me. I am at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Annual Retreat. I rolled over and slipped back into a deep and peaceful sleep.
I just attended my third annual retreat, and what a blast! Where to begin? It just keeps getting better and better! In 2012, I was invited to be guest speaker at this event. I had no idea what it was all about, but I agreed to give it a shot, sharing my “perks” with 200 courageous survivors and warriors. (By the way, I use the term “warrior” to refer to those who are in active battle with the disease. As far as I am concerned, the battle never ends. Even though I am cancer free at the moment, and I am referred to as a “survivor”, the threat of recurrence is always there. Therefore I continue to battle cancer on a daily basis through my lifestyle choices. But I digress…..) So there I was, at my first retreat in 2012, not knowing a soul, and not sure that I really belonged there, when these two skallywags came up to me.
Judy and Suze took me under their wings and we struck up a friendship that I am sure will last a lifetime. Isn’t it funny how you can feel that instant connection with some people? Even though we had just met, it felt as if we were old friends; like our souls were reuniting after a long absence. I truly believe that soul mates come in all forms, and these ladies are certainly two of mine. I only get together with them once a year, and that is one of the reasons why I really look forward to the retreat.
Here is another reason I look forward to it:
Dana is considered the Rock Star of the Retreat. She is a fabulous musician and overall phenomenal woman. Although she received chemo on Friday, she entertained us all weekend with her angelic voice. I am sure there must have been 50 of us crammed into her room Saturday night, singing, laughing, and sometimes crying. ‘Cause that’s what you do at these retreats (that and drink booze!) If you would like to listen to Dana’s song, I have included the link. Warning: better grab a box of tissues first! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U07BVbZerhE)
Just in case anybody from the CBCF is reading this, I must add, we don’t just go for the partying ya know. The retreat is also about education and empowerment. I didn’t get to take in all of the sessions, because I was pimping my book, but those that I did attend were fabulous! I am sensing a new movement emerging, as survivors are taking more control of their own health. This was reflected in the sessions. These two gave a fabulous session on Surviving and Thriving with Stage 4 cancer:
I could talk all day about this dynamic duo. In a nutshell, both were diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and given their death sentence of 2 years left to live. Both educated themselves on lifestyle choices for cancer prevention, and started making the changes. Against the odds, they put their cancer into remission. It is far beyond two years (I cannot say for sure, but I am thinking at least 6 years) and both of these women have NO EVIDENCE OF CANCER in their bodies. Conventional medicine is wonderful and I am very grateful for my treatments. BUT, if you are really serious about kicking cancer’s butt, you gotta do the work. Just sayin’ (I must add, cancer is a bitch, and adopting a healthy lifestyle does not guarantee that you will beat it. But just look at these two miracle survivors! What do you have to lose?)
In addition to the sessions, one of the things I really enjoyed this year was the healthy food. For the first time EVA, I ordered the vegan option and did not get stir fried veggies in a sticky, sugary sauce! In fact, my vegan meal was so delicious, that Suze was picking off my plate and practically ignoring her roast beef and Yorkshire pudding! I know that everyone is not in to this way of eating, but it is great that we have that choice. We even had a session where this fabulous chef showed us how to cook healthy and delicious food.
Survivor Chef, Stephanie
I could have listened to Stephanie all day, she is so funny. (I hope she gets her own cooking show!) She showed us that kale and quinoa are not so scary, and that they can actually taste GOOD!
So that is my report from this year’s retreat. I am currently detoxing my body with lots of lemon water and yoga and getting pumped for my TEDx talk which takes place tomorrow night. I will keep you posted. Have a great day, mes amis!