Mending in the mountains


Taking a moment to check in from Montana. Colleen and I are both huffing and puffing up here in the rarified air of Big Sky, but we both feel energized by the natural magnificence of the place, the amazing generosity of our hosts (the Wellness Community), and the vibrant, wide-open hearts and minds of the women who came here for "Mending in the Mountains."

This extraordinary event brings sixty women cancer survivors together for a weekend at the stunning Lone Mountain Ranch near Big Sky, Montana. There's a harpist playing during the healthy breakfast, local massage therapists and cosmetologists and others have donated services for "spa time", guided spirited walks teach us to cherish every breath. Every detail of the weekend has been orchestrated to nurture, comfort, and shelter the participants.

What's different about this event from every other even I've ever spoke for is the focus on wellness instead of cancer. Usually, I'm the opening act for a bunch of oncologists who deliver a lot of hard information about statistics, treatment options, and clinical trials. Those events are about survival. This one is about survivorship.

The best metaphor I can muster to explain the difference: A friend of mine came home from school one day in the early 1950s to find a backhoe digging a huge hole in the back yard. He was thrilled to flinders. "Hot dog! We're getting a swimming pool!" No such luck. His parents were installing a bomb shelter, which -- as it turns out -- was a really lousy investment.

Survival is about not dying. Survivorship is about living.

Events like this one reaffirm my desire to accept the fact of cancer in my life without bitterness. To cherish every breath. To make my life a swimming pool and not a bomb shelter.

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