Friday, October 3, 2014

Embracing Life Breast Cancer Survivors Retreat

Shannon Adler " Carve your name on hearts, not on tombstones.  A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.

What an incredible retreat we had yesterday! 

This was actually a photo we took at the end of our day, with a few of the remaining women.

We missed some of our "sista's" in this photo- but these are some of the lovely women of the FM Breast Friends group.  

But this is what welcomed me as I watched for my friend Steph to come and pick me up yesterday, early morning.  I knew we were in for a spectacular day!  

We walked in to such a fresh and pretty setting inside the Plains Art Museum.  

There were 3 levels to the building and then this main gathering space we used for the main presentations. 

There is something about seeing your doctors outside of the clinic setting, in a more casual atmosphere that really promotes an easy- going format in which to communicate. I went to the "After Breast Cancer Surgery Experience," for my first break out session.  Dr. Bouton, on the left performed my mastectomy and then a second repair surgery.  But when I still didn't heal, he referred me over to Dr. Antoniuk's very capable hands.  It was great seeing them collaborate, and also defer to each other with our questions.  They're both smart, compassionate and well-versed in surgery and reconstruction of the breast.  

In between our breakout sessions we had some great inspiring stories shared!  Deb, in the purple jacket, rallied everyone to "rock out" along with her very effectively showing how music and singing and playing can be a wonderful part of your recovery and journey.

The first activity we worked on together at our tables, was a tree.  We worked through a meditation using the imagery of the tree.  I have to say at the beginning- I could see the tree next to a river.  I heard water rushing, birds chirping and singing, I could smell the damp, ripe earth.  And then by the end of the meditation- I felt like I had somehow become the tree.  The tree wasn't off in the distance- somehow the tree and I were the same.  It was a powerful experience.

Notice the words we used to decorate our tree- sisterhood, acceptance, laughter, faith, compassion, family, love, etc.  We were building our connections, creating a story- together. 

We had a delicious lunch, topped off with this yummy spice cake.

 Then, before I knew it, I was being called up to the front for my presentation.  I have to say I was both nervous,  but also excited.  I had truly poured into my pages everything I could muster.  Now if I could just share my heart.  My hope is always, that maybe one small thing will resonate with someone and help them, in ways I have been helped by others.

Whew I made it...

And this is where I am biting the insides of my cheeks, trying not to flood with tears.  I see it in their eyes.  I see it in the other survivor's expressions.  In the tears being wiped and then that subtle shift from sitting to everyone standing and clapping.  Oh how I am blessed.  

I spoke of how I want to live a life based on connection- and what I felt?  Was heart connected.  I'm holding my heart feeling the "oneness," with so many.  

Spitfire- gets it.   This is the Sanford therapy dog.  He literally laid his head on my knee under a table I was sitting at for a long time,  and then eventually laid at my feet.  

These are two of the rockstar women who make this retreat, this experience, this journey- embraceable.  
Dr. Shelby Terstreip- Medical Oncologist, and Dr. Chery Hysjulien, Oncology Psychologist.  I'm so honored to literally have one on each side of me, walking this breast cancer journey with me.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention an entire staff of women, present, who directed our way when we were confused.  Who set up shuttle rides when they knew parking would be difficult. Who helped those in wheelchairs, or some on crutches who needed a little extra guidance.  They have literally been planning this event, from the day after the last event finished.  Clearly a teamwork of people who support survivors with all that they do, and so often are behind the scenes.  But their care and compassion shone through all the well thought out and executed details.  

This would be Momma Duck… Pam is a co-founder of the FM Breast Friends group and wrapped up our event yesterday by sharing her awe-inspiring story.  I have no doubt she has touched more lives through her endless work on behalf of so many breast cancer survivors like myself.

This is my friend Jane.  I admire her more than words can say.  I am so glad we got a chance to snap a quick photo.  

With more time I would have taken more pics with friends- I'm sorry to the ones I missed!! 

(Steph, we need a re-do!)  

Our day ended with a gift!  Look at the beautiful bracelet made for us.  It has "embrace," stamped on the outside of it and has a tree charm strung onto it.  Each year, we hope to add a charm to the bracelet.  

In other news...

I'm in complete awe of all the kindness and generosity happening on the fundraising blog… Vicky Fighting Breast Cancer. 

How would you pick amongst all of those thank you gifts?  A handmade quilt?  Beautiful cottage pillows?  The horse pillows?  The baskets filled with hundreds of dollars of fall goodness- from books to read, (some of my favorites) to Starbucks gift cards, to fall colors in napkins and plates, etc.  

I love, that just 10 dollars, buys you a chance at one of these items.   Linda and Peggy Sue have poured their hearts into making this a spectacular event.  

I will be back with an MRI update, as soon as I have one.

Blessings on your weekend!


  1. The power in that room must have been overwhelming because it bleeds from the page to me, a reader of your blog and a pray-er for you and others for whom I pray daily. May blessings pour down to you and your friends.

  2. I feel like I was there experiencing it all with you. You are a good reporter (of the heart).

  3. Oooh, I'm so proud of you dear Vicky. You looked fabulous and what a light-filled room in every way! And I was excited to see Jane. I don't know her, but see her all the time at church, and we pray for her all the time too, and her life is a living witness for sure, just on what little I know from the outside. So, neat for me to see you two that close and loving each other through the journey. I am hoping to see you soon. Next weekend if it works? Hoping, praying... :)

  4. Awww... Vicky I had tears in my eyes when I finished your post today. Knew you would hit it out of the park with your speech. Have a restful weekend.

  5. Oh my dear friend,
    Bravo, sweet Vicky! I feel so delighted to look at each of these pictures as on that day I was praying and praying for you. Praying for your comfort and peace and clarity and a sense of knowing that He was there with you.

    Just to see this beautiful setting, the amazing and courageous women surrounding you there, the tree you all made with words on it, Spitfire, who was at your feet and put his head on your lap, and you standing surrounded by their clapping and tears and smiles.....well it brings a cascade of tears to my cheeks.

    You, my friend, do have a living legacy that is carved into hearts as we, who love you, tell your story. We talk of your courage, and grace and attitude and humbleness and your ability to turn it all over to Him. Your story is interlaced with the story of the One who made you and your trust in His goodness.

    You could never know how many hearts you have changed, but this morning I want you to know one thing for sure...knowing you has changed my heart and how I live every day. I have always been a very positive and grateful person, but I am more kind and more generous and more compassionate because of knowing you. I am always praying to know and trust in my hearts of hearts that all shall be well!

    I talk about you and share your story with my new students. And November 5th I am addressing a conference as well. The theme is Loving Your Life: Recapturing Gratitude and Positive Attitude. Who will I be talking about- YOU, your story which inspires me so! My prayer is that they too will know more about embracing life than ever before. Your story will be carved into those hearts too.

    Love you to the moon and back, friend! Sending you loves and hugs and prayers, always prayers!

  6. And I'm moved to tears just reading about it! I know it was amazing!!!

    You. Look. Gorgeous.


  7. I just now saw this post... how you sparkle and shine...all you ladies that perhaps because you all know what is truly important!!!??? so beautiful!

  8. What an incredible event. Vicky, with women anyone would be privileged to know. Thank you for taking us with you and I only wish I could have heard you speak. Might there be a YouTube video of the event posted? What beautiful faces and spirits that shone through them.


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