A bladder cancer awareness ribbon rises in the sky over a forest landscape.

It's a Wrap! The 2021 North Carolina Bladder Cancer Retreat

This retreat originally started in 2008 as a picnic to bring people with bladder cancer together. Showing others they are not alone, asking questions in an open forum where nothing is off-limits, and being able to continue to reach out to any and all of us through the good times and the ones that challenge them the most is our purpose.

Over the years it evolved from an afternoon picnic into a 4-day retreat in a gorgeous setting.

Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Sign reads: 12th Annual North Carolina Bladder Cancer Retreat. Maggie Valley, NC. Sept 23-26, 2021

The weather was cold in Maggie Valley, North Carolina - high 40's. As the church where we were to hold our Saturday main event was no longer allowing anyone inside, we held the day at the pavilion at the Meadowlark motel. Warm jackets and a roaring fire kept 60 people fairly warm.

To be honest, there was not a negative word about the weather as everyone was focused on meeting others, seeing old friends, hearing speakers, taking literature, handouts, asking questions, grabbing great swag.

Bringing together all people with bladder cancer

It sometimes amazes me that people come from far and wide to join Nancy and me. We had people from 14 states and DC - Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Montana, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, New York this year. They come farther each year!

More men were the caregivers as more women attendees were the survivors which go against the traditional norm we hear about in those affected by bladder cancer. There were many "newbies" this year as usual and also those who return every year to this great get-together.

Elk, food, and great friends

We saw elk up close and personal. We rose to amazing sunrises, ate great food, shared personal stories, made suggestions, gave hugs and support, and laughed - all because bladder cancer was in our lives.

Group photo with elk nearby

 

Catching up with previous years attendees

We saw many positive changes from those who attended the last retreat. Three people who attended in 2019 and were having an exceptionally difficult time were like new people this year.

'A' arrived in 2019 accompanied by a family member, did not talk much, and stated that she rarely left home following her diagnosis and surgery. Wow - this year she was the belle of the ball! Lively, happy, and back to living her best life this year.

'B' and 'C' were scheduled for upcoming radical cystectomies in 2019. They were frightened, emotional, and introverted but were in a much better place before the end of that retreat. Upon arriving back this year we were thrilled to learn they were both thriving.

It was wonderful to hear that all 3 credited our retreat with giving them an entirely new perspective on their diagnosis and of course many, many new friends who knew exactly what they were experiencing.

Our amazing keynote speaker

Brittney Tellekamp, @nobladderdontmatter, was our main speaker and she did a fabulous job. Lemons to lemonade and make your mess your message type of person. Our theme was, "It's a matter of perspective" and Brittney is certainly the poster child for having an amazing perspective on life.

She wowed us all. I had read enough of her articles so I was not surprised at how riveted people were by her while she spoke. I was also but honestly - I at times, could not take my eyes off the gorgeous bright pink suede high heels she wore also and remembered the days when I could rock some heels also... Oh well.

Brittney Tellekamp speaking into a microphone

An inspiring weekend

All in all, it was another great retreat in the books. Food was plentiful, the motel was perfect as were the staff who welcomed us warmly and helped out continually, regardless of our request. The scenery was beautiful.

The stories told were both heartwarming and heartbreaking but in the end, we all knew we were so happy to have come together for another inspiring few days to give hugs, support, laughs, inspiration, friendship, and warmth to those who needed just that.

The bladder cancer retreat will be back next fall!

I have only co-chaired this event with Nancy for the past 5 years but will continue to do so. I see how very important this type of support is for those with bladder cancer.

Thank you to all of the amazing companies who generously support our efforts with their products, information, and swag. And thank you to those who joined us from all over the country for this year's bladder cancer retreat.

I hope to see you all as well as many new faces next September!

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