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For some breast cancer survivors, being declared cancer-free is just the beginning of the healing process.
Breast Cancer Recovery (BCR), a nonprofit organization in Madison, Wis., supported in part by Dean Health Plan, recognizes that the journey to recovery and healing involves the whole woman, mind and body. To assist in this healing process, BCR offers retreats to women at all stages of breast cancer, so they can begin to heal emotionally.
"Being together with a group of women who could relate to my feelings and experience with breast cancer was priceless," said Alice*, who participated in a retreat in 2016. "I learned something valuable from each lady and created memories and friendships I'll carry with me always! I was able to rediscover a part of myself I hadn't even realized I'd lost."
BCR was founded in 1997 by Ann Haney, who was vice president of development for Dean Health Plan at the time. Ann presented the idea to Dean Health Plan leaders, and Dean Health Plan became the founding sponsor and continues to support BCR, donating $20,000 annually.
BCR's specially-designed wellness retreats are known as Infinite Boundaries and serve between 65-80 participants each year. These four-day retreats are held multiple times a year throughout Wisconsin and feature programming designed and conducted by survivors and for survivors. Retreats are designed to help women find inner strength and experience the hope needed to live each day beyond the boundaries of breast cancer.
While breast cancer testing and medical treatments are widely available, BCR is the only nonprofit organization in Wisconsin and the first in the nation to focus on this kind of emotional healing.
Survivors have the opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding their breast cancer, gather information and experiences and enjoy the company of new-found "sisters" in healing environments.
"My heart feels lighter, my smile brighter and there is definitely a new bounce in my step. I am sleeping better as well," said Cora*, after completing a retreat earlier this year. "I think as women, we have a hard time taking time for ourselves without worrying about everyone else. It was nice to step away for some much needed me time. Thank you for doing what you do. What an amazing, life changing experience."
Additionally, BCR's Sharing the Knowledge program provides breast cancer survivors, spouses, family and friends with information on the latest advancements in medical care for breast cancer. This programming is also offered throughout Wisconsin at various times.
Because women living with breast cancer often face considerable medical expense during and after diagnosis, BCR places a strong emphasis on ensuring that all women can experience an Infinite Boundaries retreat, regardless of financial standing. The ongoing support of Dean Health Plan and other sponsors allows BCR to provide an $1,100 scholarship to all women who attend the retreat, reducing the out-of-pocket cost for participants to just $400, with additional need-based assistance available up to the full cost of the retreat.
BCR is just one of the many organizations and programs SSM Health supports in an effort to improve the health of our patients and our communities. In 2016, SSM Health invested more than $538 million in programs and services that have touched the lives of more than 1.8 million people. That's a community benefit equal to 12.8 percent of our system's total annual revenues.
For more information about SSM Health's commitment to community benefit, click here. For more information about this community partner, visit the Breast Cancer Recovery website.
*Names have been changed.
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