Ninety-four women recently joined together at Celebrate Spring to arm themselves with support in the battle against cancer.
Some of the women are currently going through treatment, some recently completed treatment and some have been survivors for seven to 10 years. Some of the women were there in support of their mother, sister or friend who is a survivor. “A lot of the support people who came this year also were survivors,” Blount Memorial Cancer Center director Carmen McCloud said.
The mountain retreat, which is sponsored by the Blount Memorial Cancer Center, is a way for women currently battling or surviving cancer to gain extra knowledge and support from other women who also have experienced a lot of the same things, McCloud explained. “Through the retreat, women realize that other people are going through and have gone through what they are experiencing now. Knowing other women who also have survived cancer and the treatments eases the tension and the feelings that no one understands what is happening to them.”
McCloud said the retreat’s purpose is to bring women together at different stages of treatment and post-treatment to focus on the fact that there is life after cancer. “It is an opportunity for women to share their stories and experiences and to learn from one another on how to cope with cancer,” she said.
Brenda Brown, 56, Maryville, was diagnosed with cancer on Feb. 11, 2009. During that time, Brown said she began getting familiar with the Cancer Center and started joining in on the many events hosted by the center. She decided to attend Celebrate Spring in Pigeon Forge and invited her two daughters from Atlanta to come with her. “It’s a great community of people and many of them share your faith. The Blount Memorial Cancer Center is just fabulous. It’s just a really great place if you have a need, and I’m really glad to be a part of it.”
Brown said she developed friendships with other women who understood what she had been through. “There was an older lady that, for some reason, we connected and always sat together. She actually lives right here in this area, and I got her address and phone number. I will try to keep in touch with her,” she said.
Kay Beason, 52, Maryville, began going to the retreats three years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and said she also finds fellowship at the retreats. “It’s nice to be with other people that were in the same shoes that I was in. I got to hear their stories, and everybody had a different story.”
McCloud said the stories that the women shared were inspirational and provided valuable information for all that attended. “There was one lady who shared her experience with her children about how she had lost her hair and how she couldn’t hug them because of surgery. She described the feelings she had when she went down a waterslide with her child after losing three years of being able to play with or hug her children.”
Beason said she enjoyed “getting away,” playing Bingo and the many other activities that took place over the weekend retreat, which began five years ago. The weekend getaway included games, dancing, music, safety and security tips, rehabilitation and treatment information sessions, and nutritional counseling. McCloud said the crowd’s favorite activity seemed to be a show called “Back in My Day,” which included dancing, singing and a hula-hoop contest.