The Power of the Wild
Photographer: Claire Middlebrooks
Writer: Sarah Chase Guidry
Every deep breath of truly fresh air, every color in a changing morning sky; moments shared in accomplishment, private moments of reflection – it all awakens something in our spirits and builds us up in a way only the wild can.
Two organizations YETI proudly supports are founded on this principle of nature’s healing power. Boarding 4 Breast Cancer and Casting for Recovery offer women who are recovering from Breast Cancer opportunities to spend healing time in the outdoors with board sports and fly fishing, respectively. The retreat’s emphasis on recovery – life after breast cancer – addresses an experience that many survivors struggle with.
“Life doesn’t slow down when you have cancer. You just become less a part of it all.” Explains Danielle Strauss, breast cancer survivor and attendee of the retreat. “And as soon as you are deemed healthy enough to be human again, everything is dumped back on your lap as you are assumed to be 'back to normal'. But we will never be normal again. Our bodies, our hearts, our outlook, they are forever changed.”
The idea that “cancer is behind you” is an incorrect assumption many breast cancer survivors encounter. Recovery is very much a process, not a milestone checked off. And not having the understanding or support system that was there for treatment can feel isolating.
These retreats, provided free of charge for the attendees, create a community. But some are apprehensive at first. As attendee Ali Wald put it, “I was nervous that all we were going to talk about was breast cancer, but that was just a small part of it.” Instead, it was a feeling of being accepted and understood, and not needing to explain anything. It’s an unexpected weight lifted that helps open the door to fully diving in to what the retreat can offer.
It was a beautiful weekend in early August at 3 Spear Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming. With the Tetons as the backdrop, and the ranch’s own motley crew of spunky young goats, a kitten, a baby pig, and at one point a puppy (all of whom played together like something out of a viral video) delivering a healthy dose of pure joy, the retreat attendees settled in with ease.
A leisurely schedule had something new in store for everyone. Boarding 4 Breast Cancer lead an afternoon on the water on paddle boards – something many of the women had never tried. Eager to fully relish in the setting, everyone took to their boards and the water without hesitation. But the boards provided their intended challenge.
Lindsey Chaquette admits she wasn’t confident on the board because treatment had affected her balance and she felt a physical weakness overall. But, “even though I was not graceful, and was extremely shaky, I did it! I was proud that I challenged myself to try something new!”
Accomplishments were personal but had an impact that rippled well beyond their own boards. “My heart healed in so many ways by watching the strength of the girls I came to love and admire conquer everything set before them that weekend,” said Danielle.
Megs Pischke, a retreat leader from Boarding 4 Breast Cancer and a Stage 3 breast cancer survivor herself, lead restorative yoga and shared a reminder of the important role mindset plays in the recovery process. Yoga and meditation took place in a simple and beautifully situated cabin that had been restored by the ranch. Together with the wind, 3 Spear Ranch’s horses provided an amusing yet reassuring natural soundtrack to the practice.
The final day of the retreat brought the women – many for their first time – into a pair of waders with a fly rod in-hand. Susan Gaetz and Lise Lozelle from Casting for Recovery lead the day, helping the attendees get oriented and comfortable, and educating on the physical therapy that casting offers for increasing mobility in the arm and upper body. It’s an important aspect of their organization’s purpose, not to mention what a beautiful day spent casting will do for the soul.
Lindsey recalled that the day had “a soothing, calming quality to it, and for those few hours I could focus all my energy and attention on the activity of fishing.”
Since being diagnosed, I’ve doubted my abilities and question everything. It was wonderful to get on the water and make something happen. Those moments, even small ones, help remind me that I am capable.
- HANNAH CRUMP / BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR / RETREAT ATTENDEE
While these retreats last only a few days, their impact reaches deeply into the spirits of the women who attend. The healing and medicinal power of time in the wild is profound and immeasurable, and we at YETI feel privileged to be able to contribute to the missions of Boarding 4 Breast Cancer and Casting for Recovery.
About our Contribution:
In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, YETI is making a collective $100,000 donation to Boarding for Breast Cancer and Casting for Recovery.