June 3, 2015 by Lisa Esposito
Fly-fishing in the clear mountain waters at a Wyoming ranch. Hobnobbing in a posh restaurant to cap off an empowering weekend in the nation's capital. Chilling by the waterfall after a Tai Chi session in the North Carolina foothills.
For people recovering from cancer and treatment side effects, retreats like these offer much-needed breaks to refresh their spirits and connect with others who can relate to all they're going through, in an atmosphere that offers camaraderie and support. .....
Eight years ago, Shannon Carney and David Pschirer, co-founders of Wind River Cancer Wellness Retreats & Programs, began holding retreats on their property in the foothills of North Carolina. "We realized people needed more time in nature," says Carney, a 12-year cancer survivor. "They needed to be able, quite frankly, to get a break from treatment in the hospital and have a space to reconnect with their best self."
This 15-foot waterfall is part of the view for people attending Wind River retreats.
Rather than focusing on a specific type of cancer, the no-cost retreats welcome people with diverse diagnoses. Most are adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s, Carney says, and many are dealing with a more advanced stage 3 or stage 4 cancer, or a recurrence.
"What we've designed and created here is really a kind of sanctuary." Carney says. "We have a beautiful creek with boulders and trees and a lovely waterfall. We've created soft, smooth trails so people can get down to the base of the waterfall, sit and relax in a hammock – really find time to let the physiology of nature calm their central nervous system. And just have time to have fun and relax."
All sorts of offerings – including Tai Chi, meditation, yoga, guided imagery, healing touch and painting sessions – provide a respite for men and women coping with busy lives complicated by cancer. Meals centered on plant-based foods are part of the wellness experience.
"People are looking for a fresh perspective and they're looking for newness," Carney says. "They're looking for purpose." The feedback she hears most often is: "I found my inner peace. I let go of things I didn't even know I was holding onto."
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