For many people, going to a retreat with a bunch of strangers would be the last thing in the world they would want to do. But not for Ostomysecrets’ Sarah Biggart! In October 2014, Sarah made the trip from her home state of California to Texas for a “Girls With Guts” retreat. Not only did the event bring some new friends to Sarah, it solidified her belief that we are all in this ostomy/digestive disease experience together, and that our experience is what we make of it. Read bits and pieces from Sarah’s journal as she recounts her retreat adventure:
I’ve over-packed my big pink suitcase. But I’m from southern California and I’m not really sure what I need to take to Texas! I’m nervous and excited about my trip. Should I bounce in and greet everyone with a “Hello, y’all!” or just quietly get to know some of the other women? Over the past few weeks, anticipation has been mounting on the “Girls with Guts” Facebook page with notes from attendees who are excited to connect with other women who “get it.” All attendees are affected by bowel disease and many have had ostomy surgery. I’m ready to go; excited about what lies ahead!
Who knew that I’d be bumped from my 6:15am flight? After a long day of airports, shuttle buses and quick meals, I’m finally at camp—at 9pm! My cabin mates at “Kickapoo” are awesome, and after a quick shower, I’m settled down and ready for bed. I’m exhausted, but ready for the adventure!
Rise and shine, it’s 7am! When I left the beauty of San Diego, I was looking forward to seeing the hill country of Texas. This morning, I open the cabin door to a huge Texas thunderstorm! Lightening bolting down from the sky and deafening thunder! Much like missing my plane, it’s not what I expected, but I’ve learned to adjust to whatever is in my path.
A quick breakfast, then forward to the program. There were two breakout sessions—one on patient issues related to Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the other where we broke into pre- and post-op groups. And that’s where the magic began. As we talked, we started to realize that no matter where we are in the disease/ostomy journey, we struggle with many of the same feelings, concerns, frustrations and heartaches. We realize we’re not alone.
Some women had stories very similar to mine while others were completely different. But that didn’t matter; we listened to each other and shared our hearts.
Afterward, we were treated to a wonderful presentation by a medical anthropologist who then encouraged us to enjoy a great dinner and a campfire, Texas style!
As we sat around the campfire, I marveled at these awesome women—my new friends—who are in the same boat as I. For once, I wasn’t the only one with an ostomy or a bowel disease; I was just one of many!
The campfire died down, our resident cowboy song leader sang one last song, and we headed back to our cabins. It was a good day to be in Texas.
Sunday morning, 6am wake up. After journaling, I took a short walk through the morning fog and reflected on the retreat. I kept going back to the connections being made and to the “I understand how you feel” comments. These friendships—although made in a short time—are solid because of a shared experience. There’s so much power in shared experience.
Two more excellent breakout sessions, then the promise of a trail ride! The first session was on intimacy. The second one covered parenting and how women with health issues can feel worry and guilt because sometimes it’s really hard to take care of ourselves. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house! I felt so loved and uplifted by this precious sisterhood of women and mothers.
As promised, the retreat wouldn’t be complete without a Texas trail ride! I’m not going to lie; I was REALLY nervous, but my roommates wouldn’t let me back out. I climbed up on Goliath—a big, beautiful, black horse who was sturdy and calm. Goliath carried me safely around the trails and through the hill country. I was nervous at first, but he calmed and comforted me. And I had the best time! I’m so glad I didn’t skip the ride.
Soon it was time to start packing. So many emotions were running through my brain. I was exhausted from all the activity. I was encouraged by the sessions. I was challenged by a trail ride but came away confident and empowered. I made new friends, sister friends, who touched my heart. As I rode off, my heart and soul overflowed in a dance of gratitude, thankful for this fantastic weekend.
To learn more about Girls with Guts, please visit - http://www.girlswithguts.org/