Healing Escapes

CURE, Summer 2008, Volume 7, Issue 2

Healing experiences for survivors

Healing opportunities that involve nature and outdoor experiences range from relaxing weekend retreats to excursions that might be better described as “extreme healing.” Survivors can fly-fish, snowshoe, kayak, hike, bike, ski, camp, climb and even motorcycle.

Ready. . .

Offered by cancer centers, nonprofits, foundations and retreat facilities, cancer survivor retreats and events vary greatly in design and cost. From retreats that focus on a specific cancer to those for women, young adults or families, finding the right one takes research and planning.

Start with www.survivorsretreat.com, where breast cancer survivor Carrie Wells has compiled an extensive list of retreats with selection criteria that will help you narrow your choices. A synopsis of each gives cost and overview.

. . .Set. . .

Before deciding to attend a particular retreat, use the following questions to think about your emotional and spiritual needs — and your physical capabilities — to find the best experience.

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What do you want to gain from a retreat? If it’s peace and quiet you want, a large group experience with sharing activities may not be the best choice. Ask specific questions — and ask to speak to former participants.

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What is the most important aspect of the retreat? Do you want to meet other survivors — or do some difficult soul searching? Choose a retreat based on what you want to take home with you.

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What would keep you from going? The issues you can’t overcome either emotionally or physically (group sleeping arrangements or no hot water) may not be evident in retreat descriptions. Ask.

. . . Go!

For extreme healers who want risky activities, some events provide a personal challenge as well as a chance to raise funds for their cause. To take part, participants typically raise a set amount. For example:

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LIVESTRONG challenges involve running and biking, but the big event is the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGRAI), a seven-day, 470-mile ride. The LIVESTRONG team has around 200 riders, with each raising $1,500 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Questions may be sent to fundraising@laf.org.

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Amazon Heart Adventures for young breast cancer survivors include one-week treks across New Zealand, a trip to India to build an orphanage, and motorcycle rides in the U.S. and Australia. Harley-Davidson provides new motorcycles for each rider’s use as well as a jacket for the rider to keep. Riders commit to raising $1,500 and must be breast cancer survivors. All riding levels are welcomed. Go to www.amazonheart.org for more information.

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The Climb to Fight Breast Cancer offers mountains to climb for every skill level. Climbers can honor a loved one or celebrate their own victory over breast cancer by conquering peaks in the U.S., Mexico, Russia or Tanzania while raising money for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Each peak has its own fundraising level that the participant must reach. Go to www.fhcrc.org/climb.