Friday, October 25, 2013

Embracing Life...


“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” - Denis Waitley

If I had to summarize my experience Wednesday at the first annual Edith Sanford Embracing Life- Breast Cancer Survivor's Retreat, I would use those three words- it was a day filled with love, grace, and gratitude.  

We had an amazing day!

Rustic Oaks was such a beautifully charming, and serene setting for the event.  It was very cool and cloudy when I arrived early in the day.





The outdoor fire pit was roaring when we arrived, yet it just didn't warm up enough for us to enjoy time outside of the barn, and it was mere cinders by early afternoon when I finally got outside.


This is what greeted us at our tables.  A cute burlap bag filled with river rocks that we were instructed to write on throughout the day.  The first rock, fear, was done for each of us.


I was assigned to the technology table to host a roundtable chat session.  


Here was the stage!  A point somewhere near the screen for us to stand in front of the 100 or so women survivors in attendance.  It was a full house barn!


Rustic and quaint and charming all come to mind when you see the layout of the building.  What a great place for a retreat!


The only struggle I truly had- was trying to take photos with the lack of strong lighting and a cloudy day.  I also wanted to be present and not too distracted so I could take it all in.  

Shortly after I shot the above photo- the room filled and we were under way.  We had an opening speaker and a welcoming presentation from Dr. Shelby Terstriep.  I was seated at a side table for speakers, and was being miked at the time.  I was amazingly calm.  I just wanted to take it all in.

Then a photo of me flashed up on the screen and I got a wonderful introduction from Shelby.  

The next 10 minutes flew by.  I could feel myself being intently listened too. I saw rapt attention on the faces of the other women.  What really enveloped me, was a raw understanding, that I was in the midst of women who spoke the same language as me.  Who were unequivocally, living in my cancer world, just like me.  

And so when I was done speaking?  The most profoundly amazing thing happened... they all stood up. Applause thundered throughout the room.  It vibrated my port!  And touched me to the core of my being.  It was profoundly moving.  Throughout the day- ALL of the presenters were given that same rousing round of applause and standing ovation- over and over again- because- we were clearly a sisterhood of survivors.  Of women warriors.  Of people, bonded by something far bigger than us. 

As soon as my 10 minutes were up, I got the privilege and honor to introduce Dr. Panwalkar.  Since he was closer to where I was sitting, I managed a couple of photos. 

Dr. P surprised me with saying some kind words about me, and then spent the next 30 minutes or so presenting on Breast Cancer Management- a brief history of where it's been and where its headed.

He was a dynamic and engaging speaker.  I love seeing the "teacher" come out in him. 

He was also very well received by the audience and when he finished, one of the women half-ways stood up and thanked him directly.  She was clearly in the midst of her cancer battle, using a cane to help stand up, with a scarf secured over her head.  But she told him as a stage iv survivor, she was thrilled by how hope-filled his message was and how positive he sounded.

Pretty sure I was beaming.  That's the Dr. P I've grown to know and admire so much. 



I even managed a short clip of his presentation, below.  




And then, while in the midst of our next speaker who was doing some meditation with us... Dr. Panwalkar quietly left the retreat.

I was so bummed I didn't get a chance to say anything to him.  When I spoke of my gratitude journal earlier in my presentation, what I didn't say is that the one thing that has consistently shown up page- after page- is his name.  All the little, all the big- all the ways he has seen me through.  


The rest of the afternoon was filled with breakout sessions.  They were on a variety of topics and so engaging and filled with helpful information.  Its occurred to me, that along with a cancer diagnosis, comes a crash course in all things related to having cancer.  It instantly makes us students.  And what was so evident to me, is how much knowledge and wisdom these women have gained throughout their journeys.

Breast cancer has clearly transformed how so many of us have chosen to live life.  The other thing that struck me was how none of us stage iv survivors/speakers, had ever met before.  But our speeches were interlaced with the words, gratitude, love, grace and living fully in the present moments.  We may each have had our own take, our own story, but they were so similar in those common elements and it was really a moving discovery.






The sun came out for a few short minutes, but quickly disappeared under the clouds again.


This is my friend Kristin, who just completed treatment and celebrated one year since diagnosis!  She is a beautiful woman-inside and out, and I have loved getting to know her. Kristin was asked to participate in the creation of this beautiful glass sculpture piece.  


Kristin added the logo of our Breast Friends Cancer Support Group. So neat to see the artwork!  It will be auctioned off with funds going to support breast cancer survivors here in our local community.



I tried so hard to garner a photo of Shelby Terstriep.  But she was one busy and engaged woman and this is not my photo.  I was just honored to get to meet her finally Wednesday.  Her patients all speak so lovingly of her, and its clear after our day with her- why they do. 


Our final speaker, was a stage iv breast cancer patient of Shelby's.  And she brought us all to tears.  She  says Shelby is the type of doctor who celebrates your victories with you, and sheds tears of sadness with you when the news is less than desirable.  She teaches you, brings research to you, and makes you feel like you matter.  


Clearly- Shelby was all of that yesterday, and so much more.  Her and her team did an outstanding job at the retreat.  Her vision for the future of breast cancer treatment and it's survivors seems truly to be her life's mission.  


That bag of rocks we all wrote out words on?  Went home with us.  The one with the word fear written on it?  Thrown in the river bed by the side of the barn at the end of the day. Clearly, not needed by any of us, with all the tools we were armed with that day, to put fear in its place.


I left the retreat  inspired, moved, and touched.











33 comments:

  1. That red barn with green trim just made me smile - what a happy looking building!

    I've been hoping you were just busy since you've been quiet online. Glad to hear that the event went so well!

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    1. The red barn- both inside and out was truly inviting and charming- the whole property was! I was preparing the couple days before and totally wiped out the day after the event- just getting back on my feet :)

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  2. WOW, Vicky what a beautiful and inspiring retreat. Your photographs are showing exactly how it was and most of all your words are taking me along. You are a hero and are teaching of all of us to be strong.

    I hugs you tight sending you love. Praying for you always and thanking you for being such vibrant light in this world. xoxoxo

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    1. It was Anyes- the feeling of it hasn't left me! Thank you for your gracious words Anyes- they've truly touched me today! Love to you~

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  3. Wow, a beautiful recap, Vicky. Thank you so much. Since I was praying for you that day it's neat for me to see where my prayers went! And I loved seeing Dr. P!

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    1. I felt so peaceful and calm and I think all the prayers being said by everyone helped so much- as always. So thank you for investing your precious time! Truly so many of us there were deeply grateful for the blessings and prayers we've received- lots of believers present it seemed :)

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  4. Wonderful recap! You warrior woman, you!! I am so pleased that it went well. I think we should all take a lesson from you survivors and throw our fears in the "river" too :-)

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    1. Yes Susan- we kept talking about that fear rock and what it meant and when it would be talked about. It was all very fitting- so many creative ideas and metaphorical messages delivered that will undoubtedly leave lasting impressions with us.

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  5. yay, yay, wonderful yay! i am so excited that this inaugural event went so well.

    any chance we could read your speech?

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    1. Thanks Jenn- I have had several requests-Its longggg- so I am considering it and a way to do it as well :)

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  6. and i leave this comment with tears rolling down my face and will walk through my day humbled,touched and honored to call you friend and walk this journey with you. Every time you share Vicky I learn and grow from your journey and from the person you are - please believe that! Thank you for letting me into your life -

    love you!
    xo

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    1. Oh Tiffany- I couldn't help but think of you and your sis too :) During our meditation so- so many of you came to my mind and my grateful heart. Its mutual honey- please know I feel the same about you :) Love you honey- xxoo

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  7. Vicky, it's hard right now to see my own words because of my tear-filled eyes. You and the others are such brave warriors! I do include you in my daily prayers. I hate how many friends, including former students of mine, are battling this horrendous disease.
    BTW, what a cheerful, lovely header!
    I like the writing on rocks idea. I especially like writing fear on one and then tossing it into our river. Blessed be.

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    1. Thank you so much Norma! I have to say I felt surrounded by people who have been prayed over and seen how much it has gotten them through. It stinks, on the other hand, to see how many of us there are- so true. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement- blessings and love to you!

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  8. Glad to hear it went well and... what a wonderfully inspiring place to have the gathering. Beautiful, beautiful!

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    1. It truly was a great location and I certainly felt relaxed even despite the grey and gloomy weather.

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  9. As always..I love your Quote! and NEEDED to hear it! Thank you Vicky! what a beautiful place, but more so, what beautiful strong women, in such a beautiful place. i think I would of enjoyed just being there surrounded by 'your kind of women'...and listening and feeding into such strength, such beauty, such love, and such grace! just beautiful!!!!

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    1. Peggy- I keep a collection of quotes and they speak to me so much- some days I sit and just read through them for a good dose of perspective. Truly- I do think most people would have been inspired- I was- more than I can express. Blessings to you friend!

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  10. My heart is full after reading this post. I would have loved being a part of this group. Fifteen years down the road, I still get very emotional reading about others who have had breast cancer. I am so thankful that the doctors are so caring and capable in treating their patients. Tears were falling while reading your entry.

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    1. Francis- no doubt you would have loved being in attendance- and others would have equally loved you! I'm glad it touched you in the way it did me as well. Hugs friend!

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  11. Wow! That sounds wonderful. So good to have retreats like this where people can reach out and touch one another, and fill the air with hope and challenge and a cry to battle onward.
    Mind over matter. Something to be said about this too.
    You know the story of Rasputin who was able to stop the Princes' bleeding with his mind or thru hypnosis rather, using the mind of the boy to will it to happen. We have capabilities we don't even know we have.

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    1. Vic- it was all of those things- so true. I think we all walked away with more than we could possibly articulate in so many aspects! xxoo

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  12. Dearest Vicky,
    Oh my goodness...I am giving you a rousing, standing ovation from here in Spokane. I have been praying for weeks that you would be JOY-FILLED, calm, have a sense of serenity, know His presence, and have all the words you needed (with a clear brain so words would come easily). That last part was a fear you mentioned in a blog post reply to me.
    I am SO thrilled for all you gave and all you learned.

    And speaking of your quotations, I gave a 1/2 day retreat today about What Really Matters. Guess what was on the agenda? Your last quotation by Jack Kornfield. "That things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are moments when we touch one another, when we are there in the most attentive and caring way. This simple and profound intimacy is the love we all long for."

    And that's how you were for those fabulously brave women and they were for you.
    It just doesn't get any better than that kind of support.

    I am beaming from ear-to-ear and sending hugs and loves your way.
    Blessings always!
    Linda

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    1. Linda- oh my goodness- I just marvel at hearing how precisely your prayers for me were answered! Thank you for blanketing me with those special prayers- I truly felt covered!

      So great that something I shared and spoke to me- spoke to you as well. Those students are lucky to have someone give such a powerful life session to them- one that will inform and shape their lives for years to come. What a blessings you are Linda! So proud of you friend! I am beaming right back at you! Love and blessings to you- your words have filled me with joy!

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  13. I love the FEAR being left behind, in the river bed. What a great time to be armed with more/ fresh tools in your toolbox of life to cope with the gray winter coming. So glad you are filled to overflowing with the good stuff in life. Now, rest for a few days, would ya?

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    1. So true Marcy and yes- resting has been all I've done the past couple of days!

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  14. Dear Vicky...Another quick comment...
    I LOVED hearing Dr. Panwalkar's soft, reassuring and knowledgeable voice in the clip you gave of his talk, and knowing that this is the same voice you listen to when you have an appointment with him. What a treat!!!
    Love Linda

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    1. Linda- people often ask me about him and I just thought this was a good way for everyone to experience him briefly, for themselves. Glad it did just that for you! xxoo

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  15. Wow, what a great retreat....just what you needed Vicky. Nice to see and hear Dr. P after all this time! Great post.

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  16. Thanks Lisa- I thought some of you might enjoy seeing Dr. P and hearing him as well. I can't wait to hear about your weekend!

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  17. Vicky,
    As always, you bring me to tears. But today they are tears of joy, thankfulness, peace, grace....

    As I sit here at work feeling stressed...your words and pictures summing of the retreat bring me a sense of peace and relaxation...and remembering what is important in life. It was a wonderful day! I am so blessed to have met you and gotten to know you as well. You have touched the lives of so many women like myself and given us strength and inspiration in our toughest moments. You are simply amazing!

    Luv and Hugs,
    Kristin

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  18. Sitting here picturing the day, reading about your experience, your encouragement (both given and received) and it just brought me to tears. What a beautiful place this is and all the bravery, challenges, struggle, and yet joy was overwhelming.

    It was a surprise and a joy to get to see Dr. P. NOT what I was expecting! I thought he'd be 30 years older! His info was good, too. What a great piece of information to pass on, Vicky. I have considered having the thermography instead of my mammo this year and now I won't.

    Thank you for taking us there with you.

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  19. What a touching experience. I'm so glad you were able to participate as fully as you did. I know you helped yourself but also all the women who were there with you.
    I am a 15-year breast cancer survivor and I know it can return any time now. So I too live every day to its fullest, being grateful for all God's blessings. I found so many positive moments in the months of my treatment and know that fighting my cancer has made me a better person.
    I pray we find the cure for everyone, for all kinds of cancer. In the meantime, may God bless and strengthen, guide and support all who have cancer and their families. God bless you and grant success with this wonderful blog. I shall pass it along to some young women I know who are cancer warriors.

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I welcome what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to grace me with your thoughts and words!

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