League of Extraordinary Caregivers

I spent last week on a retreat in Canada. The experience was quite empowering and profound.

The retreat was given by the Callanish Society: http://www.callanish.org/

It is run by a group of women who have no limits to their compassion and tenderness. Throughout the week, they involved the participants in a number of different techniques which helped us cope with our individual situations, including yoga, music, art, group therapy, food, relaxation, Qi Gong and so, so much more. The staff are all working professionals and highly respected in their fields,  yet they take at least 4 weeks out of the year to run these retreats and basically donate their time.

Honestly, I don’t even have the words to describe how incredibly uplifting and powerful the Callanish experience was for me.

The team of caregivers were the warmest, most caring, loving and supportive group of individuals I have ever met in my life. They break down the barrier between doctors, therapists and patients. They embrace life – all the joy and all the pain – and they demonstrate through their own actions how anyone can lead a rich, rewarding life…even when facing some of the toughest challenges any human being has to endure.

Just to be touched in a caring way by another person is a jolt to the system to someone who is used to being poked, prodded and poisoned. To be listened to, instead of having a doctor come running in and out of the examination room. And also to listen, to fully understand that you are not alone in your experience. That we all share the same hopes, dreams, concerns and fears. To reflect on one’s life even while you are reflecting on your death. To be open and honest. Self-reflective yet open to others.

My experience at Callanish will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Also, I was honored to be the first American to attend the retreat. Usually, they reserve the retreats for Canadians, and for good reason. If word gets out about Callanish, then the whole world will be beating a path to their door. They made an exception for me based on the timing of my situation (preparing me physically, mentally and spiritually for my stem cell transplant in October). Also, they were deeply touched by Jen’s emails and discussions. Once again, Jen has shown new depths to her level of caring.

Whether at the beginning of one’s cancer journey or at the end, in remission or without a cure, male or female – the coping techniques taught by Callanish provide strength and support for those who suffer with this terrible disease.

I’m searching for ways to incorporate some of the lessons into my home life, and I’ve found a great resource in Los Angeles in the Cancer Support Community on the Westside: http://www.cancersupportcommunitybenjamincenter.org/

The CSC provides free yoga, Qi Gong, group therapy and other classes for cancer patients. An incredible resource in my own community.

Lastly, I must make special mention of one component of Callanish – the food.

They provided 3 of the most delicious, nutritious and wonderful meals for us every day. The cooking staff was just as much a part of the experience as the doctor, yoga teacher and world-renowned musician. From the cooks whose day jobs is analyzing how nutritional choices affect the blood to the dishwasher, an architect with a deep love of poetry to the sous chef, who attended a Callanish retreat many years ago when dealing with her own cancer experience and she never left. Although there was no direct connection, the Callanish menu mirrors the advice of David Servan-Schreiber in his book Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life. Jen and I have embraced this book in our attempt to live a healthier, cancer-fighting lifestyle and it was incredible to taste such delicious food, prepared with so much love, that I could feel making my body stronger and healthier. Eating at Callandish was a humbling experience as I really understood for the first time the power and influence of the food we eat.

Oh, and the location wasn’t too bad either: http://thebrewcreekcentre.com/

The setting, the food, the people, the experience. This what health care should be like. Callanish is more powerful than chemotherapy, radiation or any kind of medicine.

Even after 700 words trying to tell you about my week – I have no words.

Callanish – Thank you.

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