To understand Anne’s journey leading her to Harmony Hill, you would have to understand her life before her cancer diagnosis. She had worked as a massage therapist and realized at one point she could no longer hold all of their emotions and stories she was hearing. Anne made the decision to attend seminary and pursue training as a chaplain. She has worked as a chaplain in both hospital settings and in hospice where has had the privilege of sitting with people who are dying, honoring the physical, emotional and spiritual implications of an illness and death.
Enter cancer. A year ago she knew something was wrong. During back surgery, the doctors found a tumor wrapped around her spine. The tumor had a name – Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “I didn’t know what to do or how to be, now that it was my own experience.” Anne went through chemo, radiation and hair loss, as well as discovering that many people didn’t know what to say or wanted to be around someone with cancer. Having taken care of so many, Anne now struggled to do this for herself. She felt very alone and isolated herself. In her loneliness, she asked herself, “What would I counsel others to do?” The answer was, “Find community.”
Reaching out on Facebook, someone suggested Harmony Hill. Rooted in her own isolation, she intentionally came on retreat alone, without a caregiver. At Harmony Hill, she found her name on her bedroom door, welcoming her to a community that understood what it meant to have cancer. “I needed to there. I knew it was where I was supposed to be at that time.”
In the course of the retreat, during a yoga session, Anne could not lift herself to stand. In a safe place finally, she recalls curling up into a fetal position right on that mat and for the first time since being diagnosed, cried. “Tears just fell as my group leader looked on, holding space for me. Suddenly I was in a safe space and it was OK allow the tears release.”
After her Harmony Hill experience, Anne felt stronger and has learned to trust her journey. “Something cracked open when I was there and I realized I was in this process.” A process that Anne now knows is not about the end product, but about mastering the art of being on that journey to healing.
Top: Anne with her daughter and mother, holding granddaughter Cora, born a few weeks after diagnosis.