In 2003, at the age of 20, I was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma (a bone related cancer). I underwent treatment in my home town of Chicago and was cancer free. But in the summer of 2012, I was diagnosed with a relapse of Ewing’s sarcoma in the L4 vertebrae of my spine. I needed a high-risk surgery that no surgeon wanted to touch, but I eventually found a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore that agreed to take my case.
After 4 marathon surgeries on my spine and lots of chemo, I am alive and well with no L4 vertebrae. By the time November 2013 rolled around, I was cancer free again, beginning my road to recovery. Every three months I must take a 2-hour plane ride from Chicago to Baltimore for scans, tests, and physicals. During these trips I cannot help but be very neurotic and paranoid. I convince myself that the doctors will find something, and I immediately start planning my own funeral. It’s a roller coaster trip of highs and lows. All I want is a clean bill of health so that I can return home to Chicago and continue to raise my two beautiful daughters, ages 3 and 6.
In October of 2014, I decided to attended a Wind River Cancer Wellness Retreat. This experience truly changed my life in several ways. I learned to connect with nature. I learned the importance of living in the moment. I learned of the power of healing touch. I took advantage of the healthy eating recipes and modified exercises. But the experience that I will cherish the most is the relationships that I have formed and have kept for the last two years. The nine people in our retreat group are the nine strongest people that I have ever met. I’ve never been in a room with a more courageous group of individuals. Unfortunately since that wonderful fall of 2014, our retreat group has lost three of our original nine members due to cancer. I will always miss them and love them, and I will never forget them. Wind River has provided me with three guardian angels.
One experience at Wind River that I will never forget is our fun with musical instruments. I’ve never played a musical instrument in my life, but I decided I would try the Cello. I decided that I would play it despite not having a clue of what to do. I took the bow and started gliding it across the strings and focused on producing the deep vibrations that are characteristic of that instrument. This sound seemed to have had an impact on the rest of the group because everyone else started grabbing instruments and playing. The retreat house thundered with various sounds that, despite being uncoordinated, ended up sounding good. It was energetic, powerful, and totally spontaneous. A deeply memorable experience for all of us!
More recently, during my 3-month checkup trip to Baltimore, I had a bad feeling like something was wrong inside my body and my anxiety level was VERY high. I finished my scans and tests, and I was waiting to see the doctor and hear the results. The wait in the waiting room seemed to take forever. I was convinced that my doctor had found something bad, and he was making preparations on how to break the news to me. I even started sweating because I was so nervous. I needed to calm down. It was then that I thought of my Wind River experience. I thought of the members of the retreat who had passed away, and I had asked them to help calm me down. No sooner had I asked them for help, I heard a deep vibration tone out in the waiting room. Though I know nothing about music, I knew immediately that it was the sound of a cello. A patient in the waiting room had pulled out a cello and started playing it to help calm down the other patients who were also waiting to see the doctor. It took no time at all for me to make the connection. I knew that my Wind River guardian angels were with me in the waiting room, and the vibrations of the cello were my “angels” trying to calm my nerves. The power and meaning of those vibrating strings sent goose bumps and chills all over my body. At that moment I could feel my “angels” telling me not to worry, and that everything would be okay. Finally, when I did see the doctor, the appointment was quick and painless, and I was able to fly back to Chicago to my beautiful wife and daughters with a clean bill of health, knowing that I've got angels with cellos looking after me. - Sam P.