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A Day Away by Jennifer Wiens

Never Alone has been a bright light during the past year dealing with my third cancer journey.

They helped with unexpected costs, provided emotional support and advocated on my behalf with other support services.

For awhile I have been longing for a day in nature to nurture my heart and soul and forget about treatments and cancer. An opportunity finally arose in March 2020. I was able to attend an Art Therapy retreat called ‘Finding Joy’ at a wonderful spot on the Whitemouth River, The MoonGate Guest House.

The Retreat was organized by Joye Platford, an art therapist and cancer survivor from Pinawa, MB. Never Alone and Joye worked together to make this happen for me. Through both of their generosity, I had a chance to get out of the city in nature and focus on healing my heart and soul from the stress and trauma of a second mastectomy and chemotherapy and radiation treatments during 2019.  I had my first mastectomy, chemo and radiation in 2005 and a lumpectomy in 2017.

Joye even came to Winnipeg to pick me up as I don’t have a car. We had already developed a bond through contacting online and the serendipitous way everything came together for me to attend this Retreat. I had told her several times I couldn’t make it work financially but with Never Alone’s help it became a reality.

I had previously stayed at the Moon Gate Guest House back in 2011 and enjoyed the serene setting, relaxing and cozy decor and the warm and welcoming hosts, Jenny and Michele Dupuis.

We arrived Friday evening and were enthusiastically welcomed by Jenny. Each of us had the luxury of choosing our room for the weekend and enjoyed a light supper before starting the Art Therapy with some readings and artwork Joye shared to start us on our creative process. It was an intimate group of myself and 3 other women and Joye as our guide.  It was so therapeutic to be with other women who had a desire to look inward to work through our unique challenges and how to ‘find joy’ to sustain us.

Saturday, the whole day was dedicated to using different forms of art to help us access things that steal our joy and what could foster it. We each made a collage with cut out magazine pictures that represented this. We then did painting to explore this further. Lastly, we made what’s called a ‘touchstone’ – a small wooden hanging – we decorated with words, pictures or symbols to remind us how to choose joy during times it might not be easy to do.

We ended the day with wood-fired pizza made in the Guest House outdoor brick oven.  A lovely treat with light hearted music and conversation.

Sunday, we enjoyed breakfast together before saying our goodbyes and heading back to our homes to practice finding joy.

The retreat ended on March 15th just before the Provincial Covid-19 lock-down. The experience of self-care, and time away, strengthened me for the challenging times ahead.

This retreat soothed my soul in many ways: The joy of good company, sitting around a table sharing a meal and the quiet, serene power of nature.  I found that the use of art therapy can reach and heal those painful places that the cancer experience can create, that can potentially steal our joy. The retreat reminded me that with the love and support of others I am truly ‘never alone’ and I can find joy in even the most difficult of life’s circumstances.

~ Jennifer Wiens

About Joye Platford www.joyezart.com

“Making art has always helped me make sense of life events.   Now as an art therapist I work with people of all ages and stages in their lives.  The art you make with an art therapist does not need to be a masterpiece, (most often it is not!) What the art making does is help you process your emotions and life events.  I listen to people find out where they are at, and give them prompts to create an expression.  It can be freeing to express what we sometimes can not say.  I work with children, adults, and seniors.  Right now it is not possible to meet in person, and we don’t know when it will be entirely safe.  However, I do work online, I took training to adapt to these times.  All one would need would be paper, pencils or markers and a willingness share one’s heart across the screen. It was great to meet Jen and to learn about Never Alone.  I would like to offer a 50% discount to those who are friends of Never Alone.($45/hr)  You may be on your cancer journey now, or you may be supporting someone or you may be grieving a change or you may want to make cheerful pictures.  I have been blessed on my journey and look forward to helping others.  I am comfortable working with children or adults.  Joye Platford www.joyezart.com. “