The Gazette is partnering with title sponsor Penrose-St. Francis Breast Care Center and ribbon sponsor Peak Vista Community Health Centers to bring you inspiring stories of local breast cancer survivors and a behind-the-scenes look at the care process from physicians, surgeons, nurses and volunteers throughout October.

After the diagnosis, after the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation, the loss, the grief, the exhaustion of battling cancer, comes the healing.

“I try to treat the whole person, I don’t see someone as just a cancer diagnosis” said Elly Peters, RN, a Breast Care Nurse Navigator at Penrose Cancer Center. “Part of that means getting them back to wellness of mind, body, spirit, with fitness, nutrition, stress management – whatever they need.”

Penrose Cancer Center is part of the Centura Health Cancer Network, delivering advanced, integrated cancer care across Colorado and western Kansas. “I think we are so blessed to have Penrose Cancer Center in our community,” Peters said. “We are fully supported to meet people at their diagnosis and say ‘Tell us what you need,’ and then we’re given the time and resources to get behind what we say. I am here for a purpose, and I’m able to fulfill the purpose because of the Cancer Center.”

This fall, Peters, along with fellow nurse navigators, social workers, and staff, organized Penrose Cancer Center’s first overnight retreat for female cancer survivors and patients in Deckers, Colo. “There’s something about getting out of town, going up into the mountains in October - you can’t beat that,” Peters said.

Twenty-four patients and caregivers, spanning four decades in age, participated in activities like archery, canoeing and tie-dying T-shirts at the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region’s Camp Shady Brook facility. “We focused on three Cs: connecting, creating and celebrating, trying to take the focus off the ‘Big C,’ cancer,” Peters said. “We slept in bunk beds, ate meals together, talked and hiked – it really allowed everyone to reach a deeper level of connection.”

Peters and her team help facilitate two other day retreats for cancer patients each year – including an art retreat at the Franciscan Retreat Center, 7740 Deer Hill Grove, and a spirituality retreat at the Penrose House Conference Center, 1661 Mesa Avenue.

“Connecting is the biggest thing,” Peters said. “When you meet someone who has gone through something similar, you realize you’re not the only one and it’s immediately therapeutic. From what I’ve witnessed, these connections often give purpose to patients’ experiences and allow them to make something good out of their cancer journey.”

Pikes Peak Newspapers, Editor

Hannah Blick has lived in the Pikes Peak region for six years. She studied journalism at Kansas State University and enjoys biking, skiing and hiking in the Rockies.

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