By Jennifer MacKenzie
Young Adult Cancer Canada’s (YACC) Retreat Yourself Adventure is one of its most popular programs, and with just 12 spaces, you have to be quick to secure a spot. I was fortunate enough to have entered my name early enough, though I was not sure what to expect. I am not a hiker or overly active, however Newfoundland has always been on my bucket list and I was jumping at the opportunity to visit!
The thing is, it wasn’t until this trip was getting closer that I realized how much trust I lost in my body after cancer. I went with the intention to do my best, whatever that was. I really try to live like this and always feel proud that my best is my best and I tried.
Upon arrival in Newfoundland, I was greeted by some of the kindest people I have ever met. My neighbour in the plane gave me a ride to my hotel. “It’s just what we do around here,” she said. I’m from Quebec. Saying “Bonjour/Hi” can be a problem, never mind giving a complete stranger a ride!
I really was in another world.
As the rest of the participants arrived in Deer Lake, we headed up to Rocky Harbour where we would stay for five days. I grabbed shotgun in Karine’s car and was given the task of looking out for moose. We had our own personal DJ in our car for the hour-long ride and singing broke out pretty quickly. There’s nothing like good tunes and beautiful scenery to ease the nerves. As we drove by Gros Morne, the excitement, anxiety, and some doubt hit me. The mountain is as beautiful and she is big!
Although hiking is the main “adventure” of this retreat, there is so much more going on! It was about new relationships; laughter; pushing each other; cheering each other on; LOVE; facing fears; tears (good, bad, and ugly); LETTING GO; real, hard, happy memories; and making bonds with people who just get it. Bringing all of us together was life changing. We did not only hike, we shared our stories, thoughts, and experiences without judgement or fear. We were understood by other people who just understood us.
It is important to get out of your comfort zone sometimes to make memories that will last forever. It’s better if that happens in a place where you feel accepted. This retreat gave us support, let us know we are not alone, and challenged us. It helped me let go of a lot of baggage I was carrying with me, some I picked up after cancer and some I had before.
Even if you don’t think hiking is your thing, Retreat Yourself Adventure offers so much more. I will be forever thankful I let go of the fear. I trusted my body again, I did way more than I expected I would, and I learned more than I could ever imagine. But most of all, I’m grateful for the bonding, memories, and laughs! I never thought I’d say this, but I will be back on that mountain!