RYW 2011: A “fanta-bulous” time

August 4, 2011

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Wow. What an experience. Retreat Yourself has been described to me in many words and through many mediums since my role at YACC began. Staff and survivors have shared photos, videos, and told many stories about the magnitude of the program. Nevertheless, I was completely unprepared to be so astounded and moved by the event. Looking back, I feel nothing but grateful to have been a part of such a fantastic four days, with such openly courageous (and hilarious) individuals!

As a facilitator on my very first retreat, I was lucky to have some pretty remarkable colleagues to work with. Take Jocelyn, our lovely nurse from Toronto. Always gentle, full of knowledge, and ready to give a killer back massage. Our peer supporters and facilitators: Mikey, Bonnie, Danielle, Jen, Shannon, and Mary-Anne, were the collaborative pillars of strength, offering perpetual entertainment and assistance. One of my favourite parts of the weekend was listening to their own stories and cancer journeys. Witnessing their reflective presentations was a very cool scene. Last but not least, this entire retreat was executed by YACC’s own leading light, Karine. Nowhere will you find a more compassionate, versatile, inspiring program director—what a rockstar.

And Edenvale Conference Centre, this place is delicious. Chef Joseph had everyone well-fed from the bounties of this organic BC farm—all day, every day. He even hosted an informative session on healthy cooking and nourishment. That was some of the finest food I will probably ever encounter (especially the carrot cake). Like Bonnie says, “eat real food!”

The welcoming staff and relaxing comforts of Edenvale amazed us all. We had restful sleeps, gorgeous walks, and many dips in the pool—our own private oasis. Most importantly, this environment set the stage for beautiful conversation and reflection. I will never be able to put into words the sense of community that was cultivated this weekend. I think the group would agree that a hybrid word would be appropriate here. Perhaps “fanta-bulous,” or “amaz-tic”?  Thank you Edenvale!

The Retreat would not have been complete without the on-stage acts of our surprisingly talented survivors. We were fortunate enough to witness a chemo-inspired beauty pageant, a rap battle, and a burping performance of the ABC’s. If this wasn’t enough, there was also stand-up comedy, Tim-Tam Slams, and a valuable “seminar” on Newfoundlander-lingo. I will be utilizing these effective phrases for my next visit out East!

The sessions offered at Retreat Yourself are incredibly releasing and uplifting. Whether you’re comfortable in small group chats, art therapy, exercise, breathing, or just plain relaxation, there is something for everyone. Thank you to all the survivors for your participation, and for so openly sharing your narratives with me.

After many laughs, many cries, and a lot of banter, this group became fused in a very exceptional and unique way. I will never forget it. Furthermore, these “strangers” are now home with a new network of survivors who truly “get” what they are going through—the makings of a successful Retreat, if you ask me!

-Stacey Rosehill

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