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Image Reborn retreats help women heal

Amanda Tust Of the Record staff

Four years ago, at age 36, Nina Arlook was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time. This time the disease was in stage four and had spread to her lung. She felt devastated and lost, but tried to remain strong. Soon after the diagnosis, her husband found out about a breast cancer retreat in Park City called Image Reborn. Arlook decided to attend. She arrived at the retreat somewhat reserved. She did not know what to expect and had been used to dealing with her emotions privately. On the second day, the 10 Image Reborn participants engaged in a Nia, a yoga, tai chi and dance-inspired stretching routine. At the end of the cleansing stretches, the women all joined hands. Everyone cried. Arlook said that moment was a turning point for her. She realized she was not alone and she did not have to go through breast cancer all by herself. "I never had sisters growing up, but I felt like they were my sisters and we cried for each other," she said. Arlook said the retreat helped her relate to other women and to establish personal goals for her life. As part of a journaling exercise at the retreat, Arlook wrote down 10 things she would like to accomplish in her life. So far, she has checked two off the list: to give a motivational speech, which she did at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event in Heber, and to be a role model to her niece who is now 16. Image Reborn, a Park City-based healing program for women with breast cancer, holds bi-monthly weekend retreats. The women learn relaxation techniques and participate in meditation circles, journaling and storytelling exercises and hiking or snowshoeing excursions. They receive massages and facials and soak in hot tubs. All meals are catered. Image Reborn retreats are held at a private Park City residence loaned to the program. The event is free for participants and is funded through individual sponsors and a yearly Image Reborn fundraiser. Donna Creighton, executive director of the Image Reborn Foundation, said this year’s live and silent auction in October raised over $110,000 for the retreats. Creighton, a two-time breast cancer survivor, found out about the retreats from her doctor, Renato Saltz, co-founder of Image Reborn. Creighton attended a retreat in 2002 and developed a strong support system with women from Park City. "At the end all the women trade names, addresses and emails and there are lasting friendships that are formed," she said. Creighton said most Image Reborn participants are from Utah, but there have been women from Wyoming, Montana and Colorado who attend. In August, Image Reborn held its first Hispanic retreat, where all healing exercises where conducted in Spanish. Sylvia Rickard, who led the Hispanic retreat, had attended a retreat earlier in the year after her mother passed away from breast cancer. Rickard, a two-time breast cancer survivor had her last bout with the disease three years ago. She said the pampering and the relaxation exercises helped her and the other women heal. She said the eight women in the Hispanic retreat arrived from throughout the Wasatch area. "The majority of them said they had never had a weekend that was completely dedicated to them," Rickard said. Creighton said Image Reborn has served 500 women in the past six years and the organization plans to increase the number of retreats next year. Two years ago, Creighton became executive director of Image Reborn as a chance to give back to a program that helped her in her own healing process. "It is probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done," she said. "I really feel like we are making a difference in women’s lives who need us." Arlook also stays involved with Image Reborn. She drops in to various retreats for a day and takes photographs. She said she would attend additional retreats, but does not want to take the place of women who would be experiencing the retreat for the first time. "There are so many women who need to go through this," she said. Creighton said the next Image Reborn retreat will be held Feb. 3-5 in Park City. For more information visit http://www.imagerebornfoundation.org or call the Image Reborn Foundation at 658-1715.


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