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Special retreat at King's house...
Connecting women surviving cancer

By Ed DuBois

A "resilient survivor" theme is being featured at the 15th Annual Connect Retreat for women cancer survivors and those who have been touched by cancer.  But you don't have to be tough and hardy to take part in the event.  In fact, the retreat is set up to help participants relax, enjoy themselves and maybe even let themselves be pampered for a while.

The 2015 Connect Retreat is taking place Wednesday to Friday, April 8-10 at the Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo.

"I hope women know and understand the retreat is a safe and healing place to come.  We think it can be a hard place to come for the first time.  You don't know what to expect," said Karla Heeter, one of the original organizers of the event.  "You can be alone if you want, or you can connect as much as you want."

Each year, a handful of new participants come to the retreat.  A few of the returning participants have been to every one of the retreats since they began in 2000.


Come with others

Organizers say the retreat is not threatening in any way.  You can take as much of it in as you want, or as little as you like.

Joyce Paumen, another of the original organizers, said friends and loved ones are welcome to come along.  Sometimes it helps to come with one or more people you know.  Siblings, moms, daughters, friends, and caregivers are all welcome.

"You can come if cancer touched you in some way," she said.

Cancer doesn't just touch the person who has it; everyone who knows and loves the patient is affected, she explained.


Power of connecting

The Connect Retreat is all about "the power of connecting."  Research shows cancer survivors have healthier lives and live longer when they connect with others.  Connecting can happen in many ways.  It can be spiritual.  It can involve information gathering, resources and tools and techniques for survival.  It can be a simple as making a new friend or connecting with yourself.

Any of this, or all of this, or just a bit of this can happen.  Whatever you take from it is entirely up to you.


Welcome to the King's House

A welcome reception is planned from 4-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8.  Light hors d'oeuvres and wine are being served.

In addition to the welcome reception, participants will enjoy breakfasts on Thursday and Friday mornings, buffet lunches on Thursday and Friday, and a scrumptious dinner Thursday evening.

Plans for Thursday, April 9 include Laughter Yoga from 1-1:45 p.m.  Learn about the practice of laughing for the sake of laughing while decreasing physical and emotional stress in the mind and body.

A few other Thursday activities for connecting with your inner artist and spirit include (from 2-5:45 p.m.): creating a mosaic, seated chair massage, manicures, and guided imagery.

New this year, a musical group called Sister will provide positive energy, laughter and motivating messages from 7-8 p.m. Thursday.

The ancient practice of Qigong will be featured on Friday from 7-8 a.m.  Qigong promotes holistic healing through balancing and clearing energy fields.  It is simple and effectively reduces stress.


Guest speakers coming

Guest speakers at the retreat include Heeter, a cancer survivor who has a zest for life.  She is uplifting and inspires with stories and laughter.

Christy Secor is presenting "Resiliency: Steps Toward Healing."  She says resiliency is not so much a place where we arrive, but a path we continually walk.  She could help you make new discoveries about yourself.

Julie Saffrin, an author, helps us reflect and thank the people who significantly helped shape our lives.  Her topic is "Our Gratitude Journey."

Dr. Annie Heiderscheit, a favorite at the retreat, returns to offer her music for healing and well-being.

Those who have attended past retreats say it is a place to relax and enjoy meeting many wonderful women who have all been down similar paths.  A newcomer said she was nervous about attending, but during the retreat she felt very welcome and accepted from the moment she arrived.  She made many new friends.

For some who attend, a Friday morning memorial service is very special as those who passed away during the previous year are remembered.  (All are welcome, regardless of their religious beliefs.)

The retreat is full of opportunities to connect or treasure a memory as being very meaningful.


Help with cost available

Some people might not be able to afford the retreat, especially due to the medical costs of cancer survival.

"Survivors should treat themselves to this, and we can help with the cost," Heeter said.

The two-night single cost is $199.  The two-night double cost is $169 per person.

Call the Buffalo Hospital, 763-682-1221, for more information.


Survivors are resilient

Joy Klein, who is going through chemotherapy a fourth time, said her cousin kept asking her to come to the retreat.  She is now going to her sixth retreat.

Jeanne Fobbe, another original organizer of the retreat, said the setting for the event, the King's House, is perfect.

"This place is great!" she exclaimed.

Heeter said this year's "resiliency" theme could be life changing.

"Survivors are resilient because they have to be, and the retreat provides resiliency tools," she commented.

A past participant said she needed to get away "to get my head in the right place.  The King's House brings peace to my soul."


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