Happy Cancer Girl

A Happy Girls Journey with Cancer

YACC Retreat Yourself 2014

Owen and I went to the Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) Retreat in Coburg, Ontario on the weekend. It was an amazing weekend, and I am going to try my hardest to share what the weekend was all about.

We flew to Toronto really early on Thursday morning. The best part about the flight was running into my cousin who was on his way back out west to work. Other than that it was your usual early morning Air Canada flight. After landing in Toronto, we grabed a cab downtown and went to The Croissant Tree for breakfast. Ummm, this place was insanely good and the prices were amazing. If you are ever in Toronto I would consider this a must go!

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We met up with some of the other YACC retreaters at Wellspring, which is a cancer support centre. A guy from The Second City came and did some Improv activities with us. At first I was unsure about getting there in time to take part, but I’m so glad I didn’t miss out. It was a great space to start opening up to the people I was going to be spending the next 4 days with.

At 2:00 in the afternoon we boarded a bus to take us to Coburg. We took a school bus, I kid you not. It was AMAZING! I haven’t been on a school bus since Safe Grad ’98. Our final destination was Northumberland Heights. We were assigned our rooms, had time to unpack, freshen up, check out the building (that has the most amazing yoga room) and get ready for dinner.

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This is where things get real. We are a long ways from Toronto without a vehicle. We are stuck there with no way to escape. For me, this was probably the thing that I really needed. No way to leave, because I sometimes like to run when things get tough. We all met in a big room with the chairs set up in a big circle with tissue boxes on the floor around the circle. We introduced ourselves which was easy enough. NOT easy to remember everyone’s names, thankfully we were all wearing name tags! Then we shared our stories and from that moment I will never be the same again. The raw emotion was gut wrenching, everyone was so open and so honest with their diagnosis and their lives and where they are at now. I don’t remember a thing I said that night, I know I said it through tears. I don’t know if I talked for one minute or five or if what I said even made sense. Owen’s turn to share his story was before mine, and he said he didn’t want to over shadow me because it was my story. I was so worried that Owen was going to get in the way of himself. My story isn’t just my story, it’s his story also. He may not have had cancer, nor did he have to go through treatments, but he lost just as much as I did and I really wanted him to go to the retreat and talk with someone.

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The next two days were filled with small group discussions, big group discussions, music therapy, art therapy, food and free time. Owen and I weren’t in any of the small group discussions together, which I was very thankful for. I was sure he would share more without me being with him. During one of my small group discussions there was another husband who was there with his wife. When he talked about his experience and everything they had been through it opened up this whole new way of seeing Owen for me. We talked about relationships, emotional well being and our fear of recurrence. We talked and we talked and we talked some more. We talked to people who wanted to listen, we talked and understood each other, we talked without a filter. We connected on a level that we couldn’t connect with other people.

Saturday night was game’s night, but before the games began we all said one word to describe how we were feeling. My word was “buzz”, because it felt like there were bee’s in my head, a whole lot of white noise. I had talked so much and let so much stuff out on the table for everyone to see. I heard stories of terminal illness, survival, loss, heart ache and although I was feeling ok I think I was having a hard time processing everything. I was so overwhelmed and confused that my head hurt (seriously I had a migraine almost everyday we were there). But, something happened on Saturday night…all of that emotion, the frustration I’ve kept to myself, all of the pain…it came busting out of me in the best way possible, by laughing. A game called Scribblish brought me back to myself. I haven’t laughed so hard and for so long in years. It was so freeing, and a little insane because once that hole opened, the emotion came out in laughter for the whole next day also…it was crazy (seriously by Sunday night my throat hurt from laughing so much..that’s not normal).

Sunday night there was a talent show, which was simply amazing. Owen did a water glass music thing with a couple other retreaters, they called themselves “Talent in Progress”, it was fantastic! There was some really great musical talent and it reminded me of my list for living and how I want to learn to play the piano, there is no time like the present!

Unfortunately we had to leave the bubble we were in. During the last day there someone said “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a YACC Village where we all lived”, and in the moment it was so true. What I would give to be close to the people I had just met. Thankfully we live in the digital age where we can connect very easily. Hopefully I will get to see those beautiful faces again, if not in this life I will for sure in the next.

YACC, thank you so much for this incredible opportunity. I am going to try my hardest to give back over the years, because your support means the world to me. To my YACC retreat family, I love you and I miss you already. When I said I don’t like hugs, it really is true, but I will hug you every single time I see you because you are all very special to me.

I am going to leave this post with a song by U2 – Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of. This was preformed at the talent show and it was truly blissful moment!

 

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