I do my best reflecting while I am driving. As I left the Bluebird Cancer Retreat in Holland, Michigan my head was swimming with so many thoughts. The biggest reflection I was mulling over was all the women I met living bravely with cancer. I found out that our retreat was a little unique as it happened to be all women. The Bluebird retreats can actually be a mix of men and women. For some reason this spring retreat happened to have only women sign up. SO that already changed the dynamics of the group. I think it allowed us to be more open to sharing and to make great connections. I picked going on a Bluebird retreat because I wanted to do something just for me. I had participated in Little Pink Houses of Hope as a family. That retreat was all about connecting with my family, creating memories with my family and meeting other families living with breast cancer. I just felt like it was my time to spend a weekend with myself and figure out how I wanted to move forward.
I came to the retreat with an open heart and no expectations. I put it in God's hands that I would get the roommate that I needed and the experience that was meant just for me in that moment. That I would have the conversations that I needed to have and I was going to speak my truth. I am finding the more I speak my truth, the more it ingrains into my soul and I can believe it. Because sometimes as much as I talk about choosing joy and being hopeful..... I'm not...... I get scared, afraid, and hung up on the statistics. But as I shared my story with others and just being around other women dealing with the same issues it made me realize that most of the decisions I have been making and the activities that I have been doing are very healthy and now I know I am on the right path. The interesting part for me is that I learned more from these women than they probably learned from me. Some of these ladies have lost their husbands, some of these ladies do not have a support system, some ladies were like me, stage four and questioning their mortality. We laughed together and we cried together. During the wrap up we shared what we took away from our weekend together.
There were so many words of POWER shared. We were BREATHING intention into each others' lives. Words of courage and bravery. Words of self worth and confidence. Recognizing that we need to be more selfish to take care of ourselves and being okay with taking the space to heal and allow others to help.
I am glad that I took this opportunity to go on this retreat and spend time with other women dealing with cancer and not just breast cancer. This Bluebird retreat afforded us an opportunity to take time for self-care. Self-care through therapies such as massage, manicures and henna. It was a nice balance of therapies that would cost money if they were not a part of a retreat but then they also provided examples of ways to complete self-care on our own that does not cost money.
It was not lost on me that many of the self-care techniques I am already completing. Blogging as a form of journaling, watercolor painting as an emotional release and reading for self-help. I felt good that I was already utilizing healthy coping mechanisms and I hope the strategies shared allowed the other women to find connection and meaning within themselves.
We had some wonderful story tellers share their cancer journey. We had a music therapist come and we created our own "fight song." We even built a bird house. I am so handy. There was much laughter, music and staying up late chit chatting like we were at summer camp. It was a great weekend stuffed with self-care.
As I drove away from the weekend, I saw on the hillside a sign that said JOY. That is what I took away from this weekend, Joy. Joy in sharing my story, joy in meeting new women and my best joy was seeing other women changed by this weekend. At the final circle the women were more brave, they had more confidence, you could see that they believed in their self-worth. Isn't that what we want we all want. To know that we are loved. To know that we are worthy. That is why I continue my mantras of choosing joy and having faith not fear. I try to live by being terminally hopeful, reminding myself that I am worthy. I am filled with joy for all the women that God places in my life as I build my tribe of sisters living with, surviving and thriving with cancer.