Back in May 2011, Laura Milstead, a woman I got to knew during my time as editor Walnut Creek Patch, heard some pretty devastating news.
A mammogram revealed two small lumps in her right breast, signaling she had Stage 1 cancer. “I've never known such fear,” said the wife, mother and elementary school teacher. “I found it a living hell for awhile, with periods of optimism, followed by crushing fear.”
After surgery to remove the lumps and four lymph nodes, she underwent four rounds of chemotherapy, then radiation and will continue to take medication for the next five years. The news now is positive: “I’m now in excellent health and am happy!”
Understanding the shock, sadness and terror that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis, Milstead has created a weekend retreat in Yosemite May 17–19 for women like her who are recovering from breast cancer treatment. “There is nothing like being with others that have suffered as you have,” she says. “There is a serious lack of mental help for cancer patients—especially post-treatment.”
The retreat will take place over three days and in the powerful and majestic surroundings of Yosemite, a setting that can inspire an appreciation of health, wellness, physical exercise and a desire to let go of fears and the past and start fresh. “If you don’t find inspiration in the great outdoors, you aren’t alive!” Milstead said.
The retreat, organized through the nonprofit, Boarding For Breast Cancer (B4BC), will feature yoga, hikes around Yosemite, including Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, sunset walks and the companionship of other women. Accommodations will be at Evergreen Lodge, an historic hotel nestled in the woods bordering Yosemite National Park.
Given that not all women with cancer can afford such a wellness getaway, Milstead is raising funds to grant 14 breast cancer survivors the chance to attend. She’s halfway to raising the $7000 needed.
“The outdoors just promotes movement and exercise,” she says. “It just makes you want to move! I don’t think true healing happens without the comfort of nature. That’s whant happened to me. I can’t wait to share it!”
For more information at the retreat or to donate so that other breast cancer survivors can attend, visit the Board for Breast Cancer website.