Penny Brohn Approach course

The Living Well course that I attended in December was really wonderful. I can recall driving to it (from Tish’s funeral) in quite a state but driving back home after the course feeling ready to take on the world, start a new chapter and with many positive actions to implement… sadly these were crushed when I discovered that I’d been burgled.

I wanted to capitalise on the benefits of the Living Well retreat. I was aware that despite my best efforts I’d not truly been able to implement all the actions I’d intended since I was still shocked and ‘disturbed’ from the burglary. I booked up a 4 day retreat, The Approach, in Bristol and hoped that this would recharge my soul and spirit again.

As always, I went alone. Penny Brohn do allow you to take a partner, companion or friend with you. In some instances I’m sure it is pivotal to the best results for you. Sometimes we’re all very good at putting on a brave face or ‘coping’ and perhaps don’t say what we’re really thinking for fear of upsetting someone close. Certainly over the 4 days I was to see some changes in individuals and their partners but also importantly in their relationships and understanding. I have always been acutely aware that a cancer diagnosis affects many more than just the person diagnosed. Often in places and people you wouldn’t expect. How does a colleague feel about sitting opposite an empty desk whilst your in treatment or away for hospital visits? Perhaps a neighbour who doesn’t know what’s going on or wants to help but doesn’t know how. Your parents, children, siblings etc with whom often you bravely say ‘I’m fine’ when really you’re neither fine nor are they ‘allowed’ to show their own emotions and concerns. It truly is a much more complex picture than we given credit to.

I was anxious when I arrived at the Centre. Unsure what the week really held for me. What emotions and feelings would arise. Would I be able to open up when needed – I know I’m often a closed book to my own emotions and tend to hide my real feelings behind humour. Who were the other people on the course?  Would we get on?

I really needn’t have been anxious at all.

OK it was tough at times but hey, isn’t life tough sometimes?
OK so there were places in my head that I didn’t want to go or recall but don’t we do that anyway when we’re brave enough?

For many reasons, not least the confidentiality of the other people at the retreat, I won’t go into the detail. However I’d like to give you an outline of the week.

The days were broken into many different aspects. We did some exercise; imagery; relaxation; meditation; group work whereby we were encouraged to talk about our experiences, concerns and worries; nutrition lessons; one-2-one sessions with a GP; one-2-one session with a nutritionalist; one-2-one session with a healer; went for walks; small group sessions so that ‘partners/friends’ were given the opportunity to speak freely about their concerns away from their partner/friend.

The programme is busy but varied thereby allowing time to reflect on earlier sessions.

In the evenings we were exhausted. I sleep so well in my Penny Brohn hotel… it truly is luxurious too. But on a couple of evenings there were optional things to do. One was to have a short meeting/chat with Pat Pilkington, one of the founders of the centre. She told us her story. She spoke of her meeting Penny Brohn and their friendship. She spoke of her husband who has passed away but clearly she adored, loved and was/is utterly devoted to. An incredible lady who despite being of a ‘certain age’ was keen to let us know that we could contact her at any time by email and she would respond within 3 days to each and everyone of us. Such a generous lady… of her time, her love and her experiences.

Another evening there was a Biodanza class organised for us. No ordinary dance class and we needed to keep any inhibitions at the door! Not my kind of thing but I tried to enter into the spirit. Lots of people did. Some stayed firmly seated on the sofas. But for a short while we were all up and dancing. I think the teacher wanted us to be mindful i.e. quiet and reflective… however because of the wonderful sense of humour and vivacity in the group there were bursts of laughter through the lesson 😉

Healthy eating meals together at breakfast, lunch and dinner. During which time we all had plenty of opportunity to talk and get to know one another. What an amazing group of people with so many life experiences before cancer diagnosis, experiences due to a cancer diagnosis and an incredible amount of positive aspirations and dreams for a future. By the end of the week I felt blessed to have some new firm friends in my life.

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