Saturday, May 22, 2010

Camp Mak-A-Dream Ovarian Cancer Retreat May 13-17, 2010

 View from camp

Last weekend I had the awesome opportunity to go to beautiful Gold Creek, Montana to Camp Mak-A-Dream’s Ovarian Cancer Survivors retreat.
After a long day of travel and having to accept the assistance of wheel chairs, I finally arrived at Missoula’s airport and was met by the smiling faces of some of the camp’s staff members. After going to baggage claim, I met a few of the strong warrior survivors I would be spending the weekend with.

Caught this one walking to the cabin, 
now I understand the term "Big Sky Country"
Meeting these women and hearing their stories is an awe inspiring experience. Like me, every one of them has been treated for Ovarian Cancer and although all of experiences are similar, each of their journeys is unique. There were 12 survivors at the retreat and I loved the intimate setting that gave us all an opportunity to get to know each other.

Some of the ladies enjoying the nice weather 
The three days was spent in workshops and small groups. We had a motivational speaker talk to us about the importance of doing things that feed our heart and asking for help, an oncologist that discussed treatment advances, American Cancer Society’s Look Good, Feel Good workshop, art therapy, healing benefits of tea, coping skills and self image, time in the art studio to express our inner creativity, massages, hot tubbing and plenty of time to chat with each of the women. The staff was great about supporting us and worked very hard behind the scenes to make our stay at camp wonderful.

Sampling of my art projects

I had a couple of rough days. The trip west took a lot out of me and that and the elevation difference, I was in pain and very tired. The first day I tried to be very stoic and not let on to anyone how I was feeling however, it was apparent on my face on day two that I was not doing very well.

People came to my aid and set things up so I could sit in comfortable chairs with plenty of pillows to ease my pain, fetched things from my cabin so I did not have to walk much, and many other supportive acts. I realized that all you have to do is ask for help and you shall receive. The staff and participants were happy to help and expressed to me that it feels good for them to help others.
Jamie - One of the Presenters
Like last year, there are some women that I will stay in touch with and others that I will probably never speak to or see again, but that does not mean they will not be in my thoughts on a daily basis. I will send them healing thoughts for their own journeys hoping their treatment will be successful and they can get back to their lives pre-cancer. Although many of those with a cancer diagnosis are never really the same after they have been told those three horrible words “You have cancer”, many are able to live a more aware life and in some ways a better life post cancer.

At camp we refer to the other survivors as sister geese. Geese fly in the “V” formations. Each goose, by flapping her wings, creates an upward life to the goose that follows. When all the geese do their part in formation, the whole flock has a greater flying range than it would if each bird flew alone. In addition, when a goose lags behind, the others “honk” her back into place. And more importantly, when a member of the flock has to drop out because of sickness or injury, at least one of her flockmates will stay with her to watch over and take care of her.
"International Night"
The women I have met at camp have become my flockmates. We are now a part of a special sisterhood, unasked for, but deep and empathetic in our support. We have bond between us now, and all it takes is a plea for support and we will rally around. I lost two ‘sister geese’ from last year’s retreat and I will always remember Marcia and Michelle and the impact they made on my life.

To all the women at camp this year, I thank you for sharing your story with me and making me a part of your journey through this horrible disease. I am better for knowing you and will always keep you in my thoughts.


Jaime said...

I'm so excited to be a part of your blog!!! I miss you already.

Kris said...

Amy, it is wonderful to hear your about your experiences at camp! I am absolutely in love with the imagery of geese flying in a V and supporting each other. I will defintely be sharing this concept with my nurses and the women at my treatment center. Every time I talk or email with fellow cancer fighters, I find that I am stronger in my spirit and my resolve. Wish I could have joined you at camp. You're on my list of friends to call.
May blessings and love continue to grace your life. You are a wondrous woman and I'm glad to have gotten to know you even a little bit.

Pat Steer (Gaelen) said...

Alli - I soar on the wings of your spirit. And congratulations on your recipes blog!