Weekend retreat celebrates life beyond cancer

Each woman who has been diagnosed with any type of cancer has a different story to tell and different ways of handling her cancer. Some have cried, and some have tried to be strong for their husbands, children and extended families. But most women who have been diagnosed with cancer will tell you that they found their strength by continuing life and work responsibilities, and by continuing to set goals for the future.

Women often tell the staff at the Blount Memorial Cancer Center, “Cancer has made me stronger and more determined to be who I am and to do what I want to do.” It is because of attitudes like this, and early detection, that survival rates continue to increase.

To help women find the support they need, whether they have just been diagnosed, are in treatment, or are a survivor of any type of cancer, the Blount Memorial Cancer Center organizes a weekend retreat for women to find support from other women who truly understand a cancer diagnosis. The retreat’s environment offers a time for camaraderie, validation and an opportunity for personal growth. The spirit among women at the retreat is genuine and encouraging - there’s no dwelling on the bad things.

There is life beyond cancer. The Celebrate Spring: A Mountain Retreat for Women with Cancer, is sponsored by the Blount Memorial Cancer Center, and is a special time for self-discovery, personal growth and guidance through and after a diagnosis of cancer. “The retreat was a blessing. We were able to be together, laugh and enjoy ourselves even though it is a difficult time. Having others there who had faced or were facing the same challenges made it more comfortable for all of us,.” a participant expressed after attending a previous year’s retreat.

Another important reason for the retreat is that people who do not have cancer cannot truly understand what a person with cancer is feeling. A diagnosis of cancer can bring fear, uncertainty, stress, sadness and an abundance of emotions.

This is the fifth year of the retreat. Women leave with a positive attitude, and they no longer feel the need to whisper the word cancer. They are given the support they need to stand up and say, “I have cancer, and I am alive.” Retreat attendees also participate in educational programming and group activities.

Over the past four years, women ranging in age from 24-85 with all forms of cancer have participated. Women who have recently been diagnosed, are in treatment or are survivors can bring their female support person who has helped them through their experience. The 2010 retreat will be Friday-Sunday, March 19-21, at the Country Inn and Suites in Pigeon Forge. Accommodations are double occupancy, and a $75 registration fee per person covers the whole weekend - dinner and lodging Friday night, three meals, snacks and lodging on Saturday; breakfast Sunday morning, entertainment, educational materials, door prizes and much more. The deadline to register is Friday, Feb. 26. Contact me at 865-980-4922 for more information.

Carmen McCloud is the director of the Blount Memorial Cancer Center.

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