We Care Weekend gives cancer patients, families a welcomed retreat

We Care Weekend gives cancer patients, families a welcomed retreat

October 24th, 2017 by Elizabeth Fite in Local Regional News

Everyone wants to get away from routine sometimes, but for cancer patients and their families, escaping the day-to-day of care and treatment isn't always possible.

"Cancer's a funny thing — it kind of overwhelms your life for awhile, until it becomes your new normal, which isn't a normal that anyone wants," said Gary Engelhardt, a Chattanooga resident who was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer about a year and a half ago.

Since then, he's undergone several surgeries, radiation and is currently taking an oral chemotherapy drug, but this weekend he got a reprieve during We Care Weekend – a retreat for cancer patients and their families hosted by the Rees Skillern Cancer Institute at CHI Memorial.

The event, which was being held for the 26th consecutive year, offers attendees a care-free weekend at the Cohutta Springs Conference Center in Crandall, Ga.

"It's a time to get away to an area with beautiful surroundings, and also a time just to relax, have fun and not focus so much on the cancer while being among other families that are going through the similar situation," said Kim Shank, oncology clinical services director and a coordinator for the event.

"The staff and volunteers that put on this weekend spend a lot of time planning every detail and thinking of anything that can make it nice," she said.

Private donations keep the event cost low — $50 per family of four — and fund meals, overnight accommodations and activities like boat rides, music, massages, facials, manicures and games.

Engelhardt, who also attended the retreat last year, said that he particularly enjoyed participating in the drum circle and the laid-back atmosphere of the event, which doesn't overwhelm but encourages individuals to take part in whatever activities they want and are able to do.

"I would recommend it to anyone that's able to participate – it's a good diversion," he said. "They have small group meetings where you can share your experience and talk about issues, and it's a time to rejuvenate and be distracted by something else."

More information about various CHI Memorial cancer support services is available by calling 423-495-7778.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.