News & Press
Adolescent and Young Adult Wilderness Retreat Reflection
Hear from our Director of Education and Patient Engagement, Miriam Kadosh, as she highlights her experience at our inaugural Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Retreat in late September.
Connection, Isolation, Togetherness, Genuine, Spiritual.
These are just some words that come to mind when I think back to the long weekend spent with the first ever True North Treks and Melanoma Research Foundation young adult wilderness retreat. Set on the beautiful landscape of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this was the perfect space for true connection. When 7 strangers from across North America arrived to the Sawyer International Airport, they did not know what would be in store. But each, came with their individual experiences, vulnerabilities, and willingness to share and care for themselves and for others. After just one short bus ride to the retreat center at the Walden Institute, this group was no longer strangers. With some help from a few ice breakers, the group began building connections. From there on out there was never a moment of silence or awkwardness, the days were filled with laughter, deep meaningful intentional conversations, teary eyed moments, story telling, joke telling, life sharing and much more. Each participant allowed themselves to experience and feel, enjoy the outdoors, push themselves to learn new mindfulness practices including yoga and body scans, and hike over 12 miles on the scenic Pictured Rocks view.
What was evident, was that this experience was new for everyone. As young adults with a cancer diagnosis they often find themselves the youngest ones in the waiting rooms and often have trouble connecting with their peers over this experience. First the first time, the MRF and True North Treks created a sacred space for young adult melanoma survivors to come together. Although everyone’s experience was varied, they were able to connect over what it is like to be young and going through melanoma. There was much to discuss around dating, wanting children or not, fertility struggles, how to talk to their workplaces and with colleagues, peer to peer support and more. This beautiful escape of a location gave space for those to share the realness they have been experiencing. The topics and conversations came organically and were heartfelt.
By the end of the weekend, we ended our time in silence, this was the first silence heard all weekend. It was an exercise to help each person take in their surroundings one more time and see what they notice.
Reflecting on the experience, each member of the group shared what they hope to bring home with them. Some examples included: a new sense of community, calmness, new mindfulness practices they could try at home, and the feeling of togetherness.
We hope to continue to provide a space for our young adult melanoma community to find resources, education, and support. Please reach out to me if you are a young adult and would like to be connected to our community and to our resources.
For more information about the AYA Retreat and other patient programming, please contact [email protected].