I was honored to have been asked to give a speech on behalf of the recipients of A Time For Me...an volunteer organization that organizes spa retreat weekends for cancer patients. Here, I've attached my speech as written and a small clip from that evening.
If I were to turn the clock back to a warm Monday evening in May of 2007, I would remember a phone call I got at 8 pm from my breast surgeon. I was 38 years old and for the first time ever I heard the words, "You have cancer.”
I really hadn’t begun to comprehend what I was about to endure. Once foreign words such as tumor markers, chemotherapy, and radiation were now quickly becoming part of my daily vocabulary. My friends and family, while extremely supportive, couldn’t offer any first hand insight.
Cancer, by nature is a lonely disease, made even lonelier if you, like me, fall outside the common statistics. Treatments came and went, as did my hair, my blood counts and my energy. I had first heard of A Time For Me from my dear friend Roni whom I had met in a support group about a year after my first diagnosis, but like most women I had trouble prioritizing myself. My boys, my husband, my dog and my job were all lined up before me. I barreled through my treatments thinking I needed little more than my smile, a good playlist on my iPod, and a tube of lip gloss to get me through to survivorship, and though a bit battered, I got there…
…until 10 am on a cool Tuesday morning in October of 2012 when I would once again hear those words.
After my second diagnosis, I connected with group of local women online all of whom insisted I sign up for the three day retreat as well. Several of them had just returned and found it to be pure bliss amongst the chaos of treatment.
As someone who had only ever gone away with friends and family members this was for foreign to me and way out of my comfort zone; taking at trip on my own, for myself. But this trip turned my life around at a time when I was stuck in the vicious cycle of survivor's guilt, post-traumatic stress and loneliness. Because no matter how amazing your support system is, as mine was. YOU are still the one that is left wondering when your eyelashes will come back. YOU are still the one trying to fit the shattered pieces of your old life into your new normal. YOU are still the one that is forever changed.
My spa weekend at Mohonk Mountain was restorative, peaceful, and life affirming. It was the first time I had ever met so many women that truly understood what I had been through because they too had been through it as well. I made friends for life there, in those mountains, on that beautiful weekend. The massages, facials, and treatments relaxed me in a way I hadn't felt since before cancer had barged into my life. The weekend allowed us to be as energetic or as relaxed as we wished.
Canoeing on the crystal clear lake? Yes please!
Taking a hike up the mountain? Meh - I'll pass.
Meals were filled with the sound of laughter and the clinking of glasses as we toasted ourselves and our hosts. We continually remarked that we couldn't believe how lucky we were to be there because of the generosity of others in the form of donations, fundraisers such as this, benefactors and trusts. Yes, roughly 20 cancer patients and survivors who felt lucky! How often do you hear that? We rarely, if ever, consider ourselves lucky, but there, in that beautiful dining room we felt blessed. We were treated like royalty; we were given a gift of beauty, friendship, support, and understanding.
On behalf of all the women that have experienced this trip in past years and all the ones yet to follow I say Thank you! Thank you for creating a place where we can experience peace and hope and joy. Thank you for healing our minds and our bodies. Thank you for graciously understanding our unique needs and thank you for taking the time to put us first. A Time For Me is really a time for us.