What is believed to be the first retreat of its kind for Maine women who have ovarian cancer is being offered by the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center of Ellsworth.
The free, two-day Turning Tide Ovarian Cancer Retreat begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, and ends at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Schoodic Education and Research Center in Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor.
Facilitated by Mary-Carol Griffin, the retreat is open to 15 women who will have the opportunity to fulfill the retreat’s objective by becoming empowered ovarian cancer survivors who have acquired information, networking opportunities and had fun in a nurturing and spiritual environment.
There still are openings and registrations would be preferred by Thursday, Sept. 16. Complete details, including registration information, can be obtained by contacting the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center at 3 High St., P.O. Box 322, Ellsworth 04605, calling 664-0339 or visiting bethwrightcancercenter.org.
Griffin is the bereavement services coordinator for Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County.
She completed hospice training in 1993 and served as a patient-care volunteer until appointed to the hospice staff in 2000.
She has facilitated other retreats for more than 15 years, and is also an Episcopal Church deacon, presently serving at the Church of Our Father in Hulls Cove.
The retreat will feature talks, music and discussions, as well as physical activities, including reflexology, Reiki, full-body massage, jazzercize, jewelry-making and other activities.
The SERC campus not only offers access to the coastal and forest environment of Acadia National Park, but also provides a comfortable setting for learning and shared lodging that features small apartments with a living room, kitchenette and two bedrooms.
I contacted Griffin and asked her what she hoped would be gained by those attending the retreat.
“The object of the retreat is to clear one’s calendar for two days for the soul purpose and necessity of self-care while living with cancer,” explained Griffin.
“It’s also an opportunity to connect with other women, giving each other permission to openly talk about their lives with this disease, experience the richness of being listened to and gain insights in how to talk to their loved ones about their needs for quality of life.
“It’s an opportunity to support one another, network, learn some ways to take care of themselves by experiencing Reiki, reflexology, Yoga, body and hand massage, journaling, music and a hike in the park.
“My hope is that the retreat will be physically, emotionally and spiritually an empowering and uplifting experience for all who attend.”
According to information provided by Wright Cancer Resource Center Executive Director Michael Reisman, the idea for the retreat was proposed by ovarian cancer survivor Robin Bray of Orland, who attends programs and is a volunteer at the Wright Center.
Bray attended the 2010 ovarian cancer retreat at Camp Mak-A-Dream in Gold Creek, Mont.
Camp-Mak-A-Dream is a camp for children with cancer that has also sponsored an ovarian cancer retreat for more than 10 years.
Although Bray arrived at the retreat not knowing what to expect but having heard it was a wonderful experience, Reisman explained, Bray left feeling empowered with shared knowledge and experiences she did not have before.
At that retreat, Bray met many women who had been kept alive by doctors through research and new combinations of treatment, and learned how she could talk, more openly, with her loved ones, about her disease.
Bray also discovered that sister survivors could be happy and full of life, and wanted to be able to share that experience with women in her home state, Reisman stated.
According to the Wright Center, ovarian cancer is diagnosed in less than 2 percent of the female population and, unlike other cancers of the reproductive organs, has a very low cure rate and the tumors usually spread to other organs before diagnosis.
With most treatment options based on treatments for other cancers, ovarian cancer patients seldom are cured, but must learn to live with cancer and ongoing treatment.
And, since this cancer population is small, money for ovarian cancer research is limited, according to the Center.
The Wright Center recognizes women with ovarian cancer are likely to spend more time in chemotherapy than out of it, and may not live many years following diagnosis.
This special retreat, it is hoped, will empower these particular women to assist their doctors and loved ones in decision-making, aided by the support and knowledge gleaned from other survivors who have shared their journey.