We just wrapped our 9th annual winter Chasing Sunshine retreat for breast cancer survivors in Aspen, Colorado—a weekend full of positivity, wellness and healing. We are honored to have be able to fund scholarships for eight breast cancer survivors to attend this retreat, hosted by pro snowboarder and breast cancer survivor Megan Pischke, to connect these women with a nature-based wellness and sustainability experience that enhance their path of healing and long-term survivorship. Megan was diagnosed with breast cancer in the Fall of 2012, ironically after hosting a B4BC surf and wellness retreat for breast cancer survivors. Thanks to our partners at The North Face, a documentary film following Megan’s journey through treatment was completed in 2015, and is now available via digital download on iTunes.
The B4BC Retreats were re-named Chasing Sunshine Retreats after Megan’s film, and are tailored specifically towards young breast cancer patients and survivors, by Megan and her team of facilitators with expertise in massage therapy, yoga, nutritional medicine, life skills coaching, acupuncture, and more. To date, B4BC has provided grants to over 80 survivors to attend B4BC clinics and affiliate retreats rooted in mountain and ocean activities. Experiences have included surfing, snowboarding, skiing, yoga, meditation, life-skills coaching and nutrition classes, as well as modes of complementary care.
In her own words, Megan describes the weekend below:
I have always found it helpful to learn something while I am being challenged. But that’s just me. And what these experiences have now taught me, is being present, and surrendering (when I can pull it), can be really good medicine.
These Chasing Sunshine retreat weekends were born out of my desire to learn more about myself on a prevention level, and share that with others. After my own diagnosis, and journey with cancer, I feel that these retreats are essential to not only our well-being on a day-to-day basis, but our own personal paths of healing. It’s “soul” work really, being able to open ourselves up again after such traumatic heart-wrenching experiences. I would never tell anyone “This is what you need to do to heal yourself,” but what I do like to offer is, “Here are some interesting ideas to consider.” I want people to be able to step away from their diagnosis with cancer, and to work on their mind, body, and spirit; really focusing on what truly makes us happy and loving ourselves.
Each retreat we bring in some really special people, including Chinese Medicine with Dr. Kendra Starr, DCM. Kendra is a dear friend with whom I have always looked-up to. To start, with her huge-ass airs on a snowboard, and for her wisdom she brings in the deep field of Chinese medicine. Kendra speaks as a mother, as someone who has healed herself with Chinese medicine, and from all of her experiences and clinical work in 20 years of practicing TCM. Her calm and quiet presence holds a really special educational and peaceful space for all the women to experience. Over the past few years Kendra has attended three B4BC retreats and has been witnessing a pattern of “stagnation” and “heartbreak” amongst the participants.
Kendra says, “As a health practitioner I get a lot of benefit from seeing so many women who have struggled with the same challenge. This allows me to see similarities and to develop treatment protocols that may help a broad range of women with breast cancer.
I think the combination of health and wellness talks, free time to communicate with peers, treatments, and snowboarding is really great. Especially the time spent on the mountain. One of the similarities I have recognized with these women is the propensity to overthink and worry about things. The on-mountain time gets us all out of our heads, into nature and in the moment.”
This retreat we were also honored to be working with Ondalu’s, Emily Hightower. This bright, empowering, strong woman stepped right up with her own story of loss and grief, and how she had overcome so much with yoga and meditation, and now was bringing this knowledge to us with love and kindness and food. We discussed the challenges of scar tissue, emotions, and prescription drug side affects, and she was able to tailor the yoga and dietary needs to fit exactly what we were all needing. Our meals were primarily based off of a plant based-whole foods diet, along with super foods, and some local organic chicken broth. Chakra pizza anyone?! Rainbow of colorful foods for toppings options. She also works with Wounded Warriors and really understands the importance of breath work and meditation. Emily taught us all a few different breathing techniques to help calm and actually “over-ride” the nervous system to help us deal with anxieties, depression, and over thinking. All of this, of course, then translates to how to truly listen to our bodies, even when they have seemingly “dis-functioned.” She brought the right energy to approach such a dynamic group of warrior women, quite the beautiful combo.
The yoga took place in two different locations. We started out at Aspen Meadows for a rejuvenating yoga practice and ended up doing our following classes right in the living room of our host home at Little Woody Creek Ranch. In front of the fireplace, with views of the spectacular Rocky Mountains, a crystal energy bowl, and hot tea, seemed the best way to start, and end each day.
Aspen had a huge storm of fresh pow delivered the day before everyone arrived, gotta love that kind of timing. So our days were filled with sipping in the fresh mountain air, flying and falling down those beautiful Colorado mountains. Being outdoors connects us with nature, and gets us in touch with our playful Self. So much fun with this crew of snowboarders, and Liz our token ski chick! Snowmass ended up being our favorite hill to hit, and we had awesome instructors from Aspen Ski Co. to help guide us. Bravo to our two Erin’s and Colette for trying something new and snowboarding for the first time! Being a pro snowboarder for so long has been such a gift and I understand the importance of getting outside to clear my head, create space in my heart, and ultimately connect me to where I’ve come from, and where someday I will go.
The mountain retreat home that we were all staying in was nothing short of spectacular. The lovely family who offered their beautiful home to us, welcomed us with open arms into their incredible 100-acre ranch. This was their home, and you could feel it, love and family everywhere. There was plenty of space for yoga, group meals, relaxing with an incredible view, hot tubs in the snow, acupuncture treatments, journaling, and laughing with new friends.
Thank you Trey and Martha Miller Family and to Norma for taking good care of us–We love you and are forever grateful for your support!
I always say “this was the best retreat weekend ever,” and this time I have to say it again, “BEST RETREAT WEEKEND EVER!” We’re so grateful for every single one of these women who showed up, and opened up. That is so inspiring to me, and why I do this work. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Special shout out and thank you to The North Face, Steve Pischke (thanks for the usage of your truck, dad J), Lululemon, Mizu, Jungle Mama Naturals, Paperblanks, Kind Bars, Aspen Ski Co, and The Miller Family. This retreat would not have been possible without your support!
Lots of love,
Megs & B4BC
About our facilitators:
Kendra Starr, DrTCM is an accomplished doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. A professional snowboarder for 10 years, excelling in freestyle and the backcountry, Kendra has coached several camps internationally. Kendra always has fun in the snow and strives to bring that to her teaching. Learn more about Kendra and her work at www.kootenaystarracupuncture.com / https://www.facebook.com/KootenayStarrAcupuncture/
Emily Hightower, Lead Guide, Ondalu – Emily is a holistic wellness guide who ignites healing from within. She’s a certified Nutritionist and Master Yoga Teacher with an avid outdoor guiding background. Emily uses nutrition, yoga, and outdoor adventure as a practical mechanism for tapping into the ancient healing wisdom of our bodies. Learn more about Emily & Ondalu here, http://www.ondalu.com