My wife and I attended Dear Jack Foundation’s Breathe Now Couples Retreat this year and left feeling truly transformed by the experience. When planning for the trip, we were hopeful about meeting other young adult couples that shared similar experiences to our own around having managed or continuing to manage a cancer diagnosis within a partnership. We wondered if people would be able to relate to the challenges we have navigated together since my brain cancer diagnosis in 2013. Would they share the same fears around uncertainty, confusion about identity, and frustrations with navigating changes in life responsibilities?
The answer to our question was uncovered over a thoughtfully planned and beautifully executed series of activities that spanned across the 4 days in Laguna Beach, California. We had themes each day ranging from identity, strength, and balance that were integrated into the activities and group sessions we participated in. Through these experiences, we explored restructuring our sense of identity, finding strength through our stories, and defining balance for ourselves in line with our personal values. The incredible Breathe Now facilitators and the gracious Pearl Laguna hosts created an experience of a lifetime that focused on reconnecting us to our mind, body, spirit and community.
The tools we were provided with during group work to help us as individuals and couples gave us a stronger language to process our shared experiences. They also gave us methods for translating our feelings into actionable intentions and sources of empowerment. In between the tough yet transformative group work, we had time to practice being in the moment and casually getting to know each other during hikes, yoga, massages, meals and free time. We treasured the time we spent getting to know the other couples and gaining a stronger sense of the fact that we were absolutely not alone on our cancer journey. Despite coming from different states and time zones, we all shared so much in common, especially when it came to reacting to our cancer. The stories we all shared resonated so vividly that it was almost as if you could physically feel the connection in the room.
When it was time to say our goodbyes to everyone at the retreat, I felt confident that we were walking away with more than memories. We had unquestionably gained lifelong friendships and a truly deeper sense of clarity about our cancer experiences. This retreat was like hitting the jackpot on positive life-changing adventures and was nothing short of magical.
My biggest take away was that while we may not always be at a beautiful retreat center, we have the strength and power within ourselves to make a serene place in our lives that provides comfort, balance, and refuge from the chaos that is cancer.
Thank you to everyone who made this incredible experience possible. The light within me sincerely salutes the light within you all.
Tara (Breathe Now couples retreat participant and AYA cancer warrior)