Breast cancer survivors ‘are not alone’
July 31, 2009
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes for breast cancer survivors to bond. Although they come to Park City as strangers, laughter and conversation comes quickly.
the end of their retreats, courtesy of the local nonprofit Image Reborn, most leave with renewed purpose, information, and plenty of new phone numbers.
Since it began 10 years ago, Image Reborn has brought women with breast cancer to Park City for weekend seminars with doctors, nutritionists and other experts. Perhaps the most important company, though, is each other. Breast cancer can be isolating for women, especially young ones, according to survivors and clinicians.
With separate retreats for young women, most in their 20s and 30s, as well as retreats for Latinas and patients in the advanced stages of the disease, one of the ultimate goals during retreats is to foster lasting connections.
Participants range from those who are newly diagnosed, in treatment and in remission.
Laughter is strong medicine, but so is chatting.
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"A lot of people think that when you come to a retreat, you sit around and cry," Donna Creighton, executive director of Image Reborn, said. "That’s not the case. We laugh and have fun."
About 10 survivors come to Park City for each retreat, held three times a year. Some participants are locals, while others come from across the country. The women stay at private homes, usually donated for the weekend or offered at reduced rates, and enjoy the auspices of a private chef.
Image Reborn pays for transportation, food and lodging.
From the beginning, survivors are given top-shelf treatment. They receive massages and facials, lessons in yoga and meditation. They write in journals.
"All we do is provide the framework," Creighton demurred. The so-called sister survivors provide the magic. "They keep in touch and have reunions."
Creighton speaks from the pulpit of firsthand experience. In 1990, when she was 40 years old, doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer. It became important, cathartic even, to turn to volunteer work to enhance her network of support, Creighton remembered.
She has headed volunteer and race efforts for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a national organization dedicated to research and support for breast cancer survivors. She soon emerged as one of the leading organizers in the state in the battle against cancer. "The disease is isolating," she confessed. "You think you’re the only one going through it."
Although husbands, partners and significant others are a vital source of support, there is nothing quite like talking to someone who understands the complex emotional and physical toll of fighting cancer, Creighton said.
Image Reborn depends on private donations, many of them tax deductible, as well as homeowners willing to provide lodging for retreats.
Image Reborn’s annual golf tournament, Playing for Life is Aug. 13 and 14 at Park City Golf Club.
To make donations, or for more information on the organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 658-1715.