If you are a member of this club of thrivers and survivors, you are bound to have heard about retreats and the profound results they produce. Like a cancer diagnosis each person’s journey is their own and anyone lucky enough to attend a retreat seems to have their own personal takeaway on the impact on them personally after attending such an event. My conversation with Carina inspired me to encourage those with the chance to participate in a retreat to do just that.

Carina had her own story to tell about her participation in the first Pink Lemonade Project Retreat post Pandemic.  Having been diagnosed in September of 2021 her interaction with Pink Lemonade Project had been 100% virtually based until she had the chance to sign up and attend the retreat held in March 2023.  There she joined 10 other women for 3 days of sisterhood in the beauty of The Gorge.  Up until the retreat, Carina’s cancer journey had been one spent in isolation: going to appointments solo (supporters were not able to join her), not being around people in general (to avoid getting sick), a journey where unfortunately she lost her job 5 months into treatment and the stress of everything was really consuming.

As she elaborates about these meaningful days at the retreat, she talked about that just a few hours into the retreat and hearing other people’s stories she felt that she was not with strangers but with people “who got me.”  They all had shared a traumatic experience and she was surprised that they seemed to bond so quickly. She reflected that as much as her friends were supportive and meant well, she relayed “that unless you are going through cancer, no one truly understands.”

Carina raved about the retreat’s leadership team and how they carefully and thoughtfully guided the attendees through discussions and activities.  There was journaling and collaging and that seemed to be the place where everyone felt most comfortable in laying it all out there. She relayed that the discussion topics weren’t all about cancer but yet more about survivorship. Carina describes them as the “where do we go from here” discussions.  Carina appreciated that the focus on the discussions did not look backwards.  As she puts it, forward thinking helped her a great deal in her desire to live “in the moment.”  For her personally, the whole act of journaling made her focus on the challenges she had faced beyond cancer. In her words the retreat helped her “recenter” herself on her life’s path. She felt she gained an understanding of where she was AFTER cancer to help her shift gears in her personal life. She left the retreat with a new found purpose in terms of what she wanted to do with her career talents and has shifted her energy to those organizations and causes that align with her passions.

The Pink Lemonade Project retreat, according to Carina, was “life changing.” “I didn’t realize the value and the impact of what connecting with these people who had this shared life experience would do to me personally. It gave myself permission to not have to be the person I was before cancer. After all, I had gone through so many changes physically, mentally and emotionally. The retreat cleared my runway and I left with a new path to navigate and excited to truly begin a new chapter.”

Right Place.
Right People
Right time.
Retreats are good for the soul.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of coming together.

Story as told to Annette Johnson.

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