"Elsipogtog Strength of Caring”








Women living with Cancer

Report on EHWC ‘s First (1st) Annual Retreat


A first  Annual Retreat for Women who are living with Cancer was held at the Elsipogtog Health & Wellness Centre in Elsipogtog First Nation on November 30, 2015.  The day started off with a smudging and a beautiful prayer from our elder Josie Augustine.  The smell of medicines by smudge and the prayer done in Migmag brought comfort, peace and relaxation in the room; the smoke of the smudge signifying our prayers going up to our Nisgam (creator).


The session was attended by a number of women and professionals working at the EHWC, who were ready to be part of sharing, caring and providing strength.  We were very happy that the women chose to come and join us for a day filled with fun, information, tears, hugs and lots of strength.  We have chosen “Strength of Caring” for this year’s theme, as this is to remind us, acknowledge and congratulate the strength of women as they care for themselves on this, at times, difficult journey.  And, we were not going to forget these ladies’ families and friends and to honour them for the strength they provide and shared with you.

The ladies were reminded that today is about adding to their inner and outer strength and that the community of carers were there as family and friends. And above all to let them know that we are all here together to help each other and that “no one battles anything alone, we are here as Elsipogtog”. 

The events that were on the agenda for the day were all provided by the professionals at the Elsipogtog Health & Wellness Centre with pride and caring.  The session began with Yoga and an explanation about the benefits associated of Yoga, and how each movement was helping with the healing process.  The activity provided women a chance to be connecting with their bodies in the atmosphere of quiet and serene way.  Then here it was the most important information that we all need as a reminder - nutrition and knowing the healthy and the healing benefits of Nutrition and of course the result of unhealthy eating.   And of course our lunch for the day was a healthy lunch (Salmon, vegetables and potatoes)  This was well appreciated by the women. 

Then off they went to make their own Medicine Wheels, Elder Josie provided them with the explanation and the teaching around your Medicine wheel (better understanding of the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental aspects of our being); the medicine wheel is the secret to living your true potential on this mother earth. It teaches you balance in all areas of your being, because if you do not take care of all parts of your being then there is no balance  Each was thrilled for the knowledge but more happy to have their own personal Medicine wheels.

Then of course, we heard laughter, the best medicine of all.  The room was full of laughter as we watched funny videos on You Tube especially our very own Mark Augustine and Louise Cormier who provided a good belly laugh and good feeling inside.   Then a meditation session was done to get the women in space to wind down, to relax and connect to inner feelings, meditation designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force etc.   and nurture compassion,  love, patience, generosity and forgiveness.  This was followed by a talking circle where a feather was passed around and everyone had an opportunity to express their feelings, emotions, thoughts and reactions for what they have heard that day.  Words that were expressed was so touching, so beautiful and so sincere. 

During the opening remarks the women were reminded that:  “traditionally, our people have often called upon the women to help support those in need (e.g crises etc.) . And often this may be in many forms - prayers, food, cleaning house, taking care of children, financial support, etc.   Migmag women are strong and we need to continue holding hands with each other to maintain that strength for each one of us.”    As an example of true strength in caring,   a very dear and loving member of our community, Susie Ann Sock (passed away four years ago that day) was remembered. Susie Ann was a caring and powerful person. She had great strength through her love, her prayers, her comfort and caring and through her visits to the people.  She truly is a good example of the strength of women and what a community can do. But there are others out there that are ready to be that support and again as a reminder we have people out there that we need to reach out to (traditionally and otherwise).

The hope of learning new things, be reminded of things known, have fun, and share laughter was accomplished from comments made; and that whatever is shared with the women will help them as they continue their journey of life. (In this journey of life, there will always be obstacles and challenges which must be dealt with.) It is through love, prayers, friends, families and each other that we find strengths to continue our journey.

This was indeed a wonderful and exciting event and a few people need to be acknowledged who made this retreat possible:  Carol Ann Levi, Lee Ann Sock,  along with our elders Josie Augustine and Glenda Wysote-Labelloi, as well as Claire LeBlanc from the New Brunswick Breast and Women's Cancer . The planning group wishes to express their heartfelt gratitude and acknowledge the wonderful presentations that were done by the EHWC staff namely Wendy Matthews, Carman VonBergna , Patricia Murphy and Josie Augustine -  all sessions were  well done.  We had some outside guests that need to be acknowledged as they play a very important role in women’s lives as they deal with cancer and they are Claire LeBlanc, Linda Saulnier, President of the  NB Breast Cancer Network and May Gionet, Survivor & Volunteer.  The organizations that they volunteer in are  wonderful asset to the community who are wanting to ensure the best care for our women.

The staff at the Elsipogtog Health & Wellness Centre are looking forward to planning another Retreat Day  “2016 Strength of Caring II”.