Registration open for cancer retreat

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By Kirsten Laskey

Having cancer is similar to running in a race, Cancer Survivor Mendola Bakker of Los Alamos said. It’s a sprint to make decisions and find a path to a normal life.
Cancer Services of New Mexico offers guidance to get through this race through its Spring 2011 Family Cancer Retreat on May 20-22 at the Lifeway Glorieta Conference Center in Glorieta.
The free, three-day educational program will provide New Mexico’s adult cancer patients/survivors and their loved ones with the tools and information they need to manage the treatment and recovery process.  
More than 250 people from more than 100 New Mexican families coping with cancer are expected to participate, making this the largest general cancer education program in New Mexico and the largest program of its type in the U.S.
“I went there when I was diagnosed with cancer,” Bakker said. “For me it showed … I am not the only one (dealing with cancer). There are other families. For me, it was a wonderful way to get information, to get to know other people in a way you don’t get to know them during treatment.”
Cancer Survivor George Ortiz of Santa Fe said he went to the cancer retreat for the first time last year.
“(It’s) very worthwhile to go to,” he said, adding that participants can share what they are going through and get updates on things such as new medications and treatment.
This year, the program will combine discussions and lectures by many of New Mexico’s leading cancer specialists with fun activities that provide a break from the day-…to-day challenges of living with cancer.  
Planned educational sessions include everything from choosing the best treatment/clinical trail to talking to children about cancer.
Participants will also have the opportunity to spend time with each other in informal sessions, speaking with and learning from others who are coping with similar issues. Supervised childcare and recreational activities will be provided for children and teens during the educational sessions.  
Bakker encourages everyone who is dealing with cancer to attend the retreat.
“When you get diagnosed, you feel like you are running a race to keep up ahead of everything. You have to make a lot of decisions you never had to make before so you’re going to try to get all the help you can get.
“This is just a wonderful place where you can get into discussions with other people and see how they deal with it. The bigger the pool of information, the more you can decide.
For me, the Glorieta retreat really helped me to find … a way to a normal life. It helps you find a way to a new normal. Life doesn’t end with cancer (but) it does find a new (path to take),” Bakker said.
There is no charge to participate in the retreat – the entire program, including meals, lodging and all educational activities are provided at no cost to participants.
This program is made possible by grants and contributions from many supporters, including:  the New Mexico Department of Health, the Northern New Mexico Health Grant Group, United Way of Central New Mexico, Walmart Foundation, Pfizer, Amgen, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, Celgene Corporation, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, OSI Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi Aventis, ImClone Systems (a wholly owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company), Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Southwest Gynecologic Oncology Associates, Inc.,       X-Ray Associates of New Mexico, The Printer’s Press and Sprint.
Space is limited, so interested families are encouraged to apply as early as possible.  
For more information or to request an application packet, please contact Mike Capeless at 505-239-4239 or go to www.CancerServicesNM.org.