One of our Retreat Yourself East peer facilitators, Dawn, has some words of wisdom for anyone registered or thinking of applying to a Retreat.
Before attending my first retreat in 2009, I felt more isolated and lonely than ever before. I sometimes refer to it as my “cancer closet” stage. It’s weird because I was surrounded by so many amazing friends and family, and as sympathetic and understanding as they were, they didn’t have cancer. Until someone tells you “it’s cancer,” it’s impossible to know what happens to your world.
In a desperate search for other people like me, I found Young Adult Cancer Canada, and one of the first things I did was attend Retreat Yourself East. Honestly, when I first arrived at the meeting place, all I could think was “Oh god. Am I a part of that group now?” Although the isolation was depressing, facing the reality of my situation by seeing it in others was quite difficult. By the time we had our first circle that evening, I realized that all those “cancer patients” were just like me. They were normal young people, just starting out in life, unsuspecting of cancer, and hit with it like a ton of bricks. We were all there together, doing the best we could, looking for camaraderie and…well maybe we didn’t even know what we were looking for. We found so much more than I could have imagined.
You’ll have to attend the Retreat to discover the magic that happens, and it really is like magic. By the end of the weekend, I left with a bunch of new best friends, a lot of resolved issues, tons of inspiration, a sense of renewal, peace of mind and hope. And that was just the beginning. Those relationships continued to grow, my connectedness to the community strengthened, and now I find myself on the other side, as it were, inviting people out of their “cancer closet.”