Health Column:Celebrate Spring is retreat for women with cancer

By Carmen Haun

Sometimes we all need to get away. Leave everything behind -- work, weekend errands, family, and dirty clothes and dishes -- and make time for ourselves. For those who’ve endured -- or are enduring -- a cancer diagnosis or treatment, that’s another thing to leave behind for the weekend, especially a specific weekend in just a few weeks.

It’s because a little laughter and fun go a long way that the Blount Memorial Cancer Center offers a weekend prescription to begin celebrating spring -- and life -- for the community’s female cancer patients and survivors. But, like most prescriptions, this one isn’t just for a single patient or survivor, it’s for a whole slew of them -- and their caregivers, family members or
friends who assisted -- or are assisting -- through the diagnosis or treatment phases of any type of cancer.

Celebrate Spring: a mountain retreat for women with cancer is a two-night, three-day retreat to the mountains, happening Friday, March 16 through Sunday, March 18 in Pigeon Forge, where women aren’t only surrounded by beautiful views of the Smokies, but also the compassion and concern of about 100 other women who have been touched, in some way, by cancer.

Returning to this year’s line-up is the crowd-pleasing duo of Sandra and Kerry Gentry who’ll lead a country hoedown with music and fellowship, and new this year are a couple of educational- and lifestyle-themed programs focused on make-up tips, fitness, nutrition, yoga, travel and improving life through mindfulness.

Over a soup and salad lunch, women will enjoy the inspirational humor of keynote speaker Patsy Hatfield Lawson, a descendent of the original Hatfield family that dueled with the McCoy’s. Of course, there’s plenty of time for socializing, relaxing and eating, too. And, I’m a recipe fan and looking forward to the first-ever recipe swap amongst attendees. Those who come are encouraged to bring the directions for some favorite dishes to share with their new friends and support system of about 100 people.

The best part of the retreat, though, is that women who attend represent different stages of cancer and recovery, but have one thing in common. They bond, in some way, with other attendees, staff and in some cases, their support person who also made the trip.

Those bonds are especially important in a cancer diagnosis and recovery, and it’s something that’s an essential part of the Cancer Center’s offering and support system for patients and non-patients, alike. While this retreat happens only once a year, I can say, too, that there are programs and groups in place that happen each week -- closer to home -- in an effort to provide some of the same emotional assistance and support that the retreat does in 48 hours. They’re free to the community, and just like the retreat, you don’t have to have had treatment at Blount Memorial to attend. They meet from 10-11:30 a.m. every Thursday in the center’s second-floor conference rooms.

If you’d like to know more about the upcoming retreat or the weekly group meetings, call 865-980-4922.

Haun manages the cancer registry at the Blount Memorial Cancer Center.

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