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December 2000 Volume 4, Issue 2:
Solvang Retreat: A Breath Of Fresh Air
By Romi Brozeit

Multiple myeloma patients, their families and friends joined together at a retreat in Solvang, California for an opportunity to experience a weekend of joy, sharing and hope for the future. With the expressed desire for the Northern counties of Los Angeles ?to experience the value of our support groups?, IMFers Mary Lou and Clyde Porter extended an invitation to the members of the Los Angeles Support Group and the multiple myeloma communities of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties to join them at their home in Solvang.

The invitation was well received. Over 50 individuals whose lives have been touched by myeloma gathered together at the Porters? ranch on the weekend of September 23. ?It meant a great deal to share the lift and joy we get of the area, leaving the city for the charm of a little town and the relaxation of a different pace,? commented Mary Lou.

The objective for the retreat was to provide a welcoming venue for patients, caregivers and friends to enhance their quality of life. The simple pleasure of taking in the beauty of nature or a walk in the country are often neglected as we focus our attention on battling myeloma. The majority of our time is spent trying to understand what we have been diagnosed with, what treatment to pursue, and the list goes on. Mary Lou and Clyde Porter recognized the importance of finding a balance between coping with myeloma and experiencing the every day joys of life to our overall well being.

The Solvang Retreat provided the participants an opportunity to focus on their quality of life. The retreat began Saturday morning with an open house at the Porter ranch. A variety of activities followed: many took part in sightseeing windmills, wine tours, bicycling, country walking, and visiting missions and museums of this picturesque region.

Those guests who weren?t busy taking in the sights of Solvang were given a tour of the Porter ranch by Clyde that included a visit to his daughter?s veterinary clinic. The day concluded with everyone joining together for dinner followed by a performance of the play ?Radio Hour? at the Solvang Theaterfest.

The weekend retreat continued into Sunday with another open house hosted by the Porters. One myeloma patient from Lompoc joined the retreat, never having met another myeloma patient or caregiver before. She was welcomed with open arms. Her anxiety about being diagnosed with myeloma was eased by fellow patients taking the time to share their knowledge and experiences. She was comforted knowing that she was not alone, and that she now has access to the support and resources available to help her every step of the way.

Mike and Regina Conti enjoyed visiting with friends and sharing experiences. ?To be at the Solvang Retreat was a time to experience the people you see at the monthly support group meetings in a more relaxed way. It was a time to see people in a different light, and enjoy them more as friends than in a meeting atmosphere,? shared Mike.

The Solvang Retreat concluded with stronger bonds having been established amongst the local myeloma community, having shared the experience of tranquility. With a renewed appreciation of the importance of maintaining quality of life, the participants of this retreat can return to their respective myeloma communities better able to lend a hand to newly diagnosed patients and their caregivers.

Los Angeles Support Group Leader Janet Johnson stated, ?There is a lot of life to live, and quality of life is an important part of dealing with this disease. While we have to focus our energies on battling myeloma, it is important not to lose sight of other essential elements of life. Each of us needs to work on improving our quality of our life. This retreat was an opportunity to think about what?s really important in life and what?s not. Educational support group meetings are valuable. But events such as this retreat are just as vital for patients and caregivers.?

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