Surviving breast cancer: Gorge retreat offers soul searching, healing

Surviving breast cancer: Gorge retreat offers soul searching, healing
Photo courtesy Menucha Retreat & Conference Center.

CORBETT, Ore. - Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and the sheer life-altering diagnosis of breast cancer - it takes a huge toll on a woman.

"I literally fell off a cliff," said survivor Jori Walker. "I had so much anxiety over what I had been through."

Once you are diagnosed, the circle of people around you grows to include the oncologists, nurses and other healthcare workers who take care of you and help lead you to recovery.  But what happens once it's all over? What happens when all of that is gone and you have to resume your life?

Then comes the second part of your recovery - getting your mind back in the right state so you can move on.

"I don't think I could have put any of this in perspective," said Walker. "I was so blown away by this diagnosis. By the time I was diagnosed, I was Stage 3. It was a pretty huge shock and I didn't know how to cope."

So Walker started looking for help with what she was going through and found a group called Pink Lemonade, which was putting on a retreat in the Columbia River Gorge for breast cancer survivors.

Just a few days in a natural setting surrounded by other survivors and guided by specialists helped set her on the right path.

"It helped me make leaps and bounds in my cancer recovery and really helped me figure out how I move forward in the next years," she said. "It was a lot of self discovery and a lot of accepting the journey."

This is the third year of the Pink Lemonade retreat program, which is held at the Menucha Retreat & Conference Center in Corbett, Ore., and those who have attended say it really helped them.

"It's very therapeutic in your healing because this is a disease I will live with for the rest of my life and deal with for the rest of my life," said Walker. "Once you get through active treatment, then it's like 'now what.' "

"If I had not gone to that retreat and not done that soul searching about what was causing the issues in my life... it was a game changer - a huge turning point in my life," she added. "I wish every survivor would attend."

If You Are Interested

Four retreats are planned this year and organizers are hoping to get more survivors (or 'thrivers' as they prefer to say) to participate. The next retreat is coming up March 1-3 and registration ends on Friday, Feb. 15.

This particular retreat is for breast cancer survivors and their partners. Space is limited to 10 couples, but there are still several spots available.

The retreat runs $550 per couple, which includes two nights in a private room and six meals prepared from recipes in the cookbook The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen.

Organizers don't want the cost to keep folks from doing this - there are sliding scale scholarships available for discounts of 25 to 75 percent and those in particularly difficult financial circumstances may qualify for a $25 rate (per person).

"Even if you think you are doing pretty well, this is an opportunity to get out of the business of everyday life and really think about what you want to do with your life now," said Lauren Deming with Menucha Retreat & Conference Center.

About the Menucha Retreat & Conference Center

In the late 1920s, Julius Meier, the founder of the Meier & Frank chain (now known as Macy's), built a summer home on 100 acres in the Columbia River Gorge.

Today, the home (not far from the historic Vista House) is managed as a non-profit by the First Presbyterian Church and used for retreats and conferences.

Hiking trails, gardens and a view of the Columbia River below provide a peaceful sanctuary for folks.

Photo courtesy Menucha Retreat & Conference Center.