Amy Colver, LCSW
Melody Griffith, MSW, LMSW, OSW-C
AOSW Communications Director
Jeanice Hansen, LCSW, OSW-C
To submit a story or information for inclusion in a future issue of AOSW Newsletter, contact Amy Colver or Melody Griffith on the list above.
Resources: Survivors Retreat – Life After Cancer
What now? This is the question many survivors ask when they reach the end of their treatment. In 2013 we realized we needed to assist patients in answering this question. Often they finish their treatment and are unsure what the next steps are after cancer and survivorship. We began searching for a way to assist our patients in moving forward with their lives after treatment was finished. Based on this, an idea was born.
One of our oncologists, Dr. Vamsi Vasireddy, noticed other cancer centers and organizations around the country were offering their survivors the opportunity to attend a Survivors Retreat. After investigating other Survivors Retreats around the country, we formed a committee to develop our own. Our core committee consists of Dr. Maria Grosse-Perdekamp, Dr. Patricia Johnson, Mary VanCleave, RN, BSN, OCN; and Kimberly Harden, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C. Having a multidisciplinary team allows us to address many facets of survivorship.
Although we have space on campus to host a retreat, we decided to host our Survivors Retreat at nearby Allerton Park. Allerton Park offers a wonderful opportunity for our survivors to experience the day in a relaxed setting rather than on campus, which is often associated with memories from their cancer journey. It is located approximately 20 miles from the Carle Cancer Center, making the distance manageable for most patients.
The retreat is open to survivors regardless of where they received treatment. Thanks to generous support from our philanthropy department, the retreat is free of cost. Each survivor is able to bring one guest to experience the day with them. The retreat is offered on a Saturday each May. When they arrive at Allerton Park, each one is greeted by volunteers and given a welcome packet. Guests are then directed to breakfast before the morning keynote speaker. After the speaker, the survivors and guests choose one of three breakout sessions to attend. Topics vary depending on feedback from survivors.
Lunch is provided, giving survivors another opportunity to meet and interact with other survivors. We then move into our afternoon breakout sessions where survivors and guests are again asked to choose one of three possible breakout sessions (afternoon sessions are different from the morning sessions).
The afternoon keynote speaker concludes the retreat. Throughout the day there are opportunities to not only interact with other survivors and guests but also with our staff who are volunteering at the event.
Past sessions have included art therapy, yoga, Nordic walking, sex and cancer, pet therapy and genetics. The keynote speakers focus on promoting life after cancer and have included topics such as nutrition, spirituality and survivorship (is it in your genes?). We want our Survivors Retreat to be an opportunity for survivors and their guests to experience different topics regarding life after cancer.
Our annual Survivors Retreat has been held for the past two years and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Survivors and their guests have responded favorably to the retreat and the opportunity to explore topics related to life after cancer.
- “Excellent in every way! Excellent facilities!"
- “Thank you for this retreat. I was here last year and plan to return next year. This is a great retreat.”
- “All the offered breakout sessions sounded wonderful. It was hard to make a choice. THANK YOU for having the retreat!”
While our patients have benefited greatly from this program, it is only the beginning of providing patients with a comprehensive experience. We would like to reach even more survivors and assist them on their journey toward life after cancer. Our retreat is still young; we have held this annual event only twice. We continue to gather information from our patients on how we can assist them in their life after cancer.