Rural Michigan breast cancer survivor finds healing in nature

(WLNS) – They say nature can heal, and one local breast cancer survivor says the outdoors can cure the soul.

“You can’t keep an old farmer down,” Patricia Johannes said.

A simple life outside of city limits was all Patricia Johannes wanted out of life. But one telephone call changed her concept of what she needed in life.

“Has anyone called you to tell you the results of the biopsy? And I said no, and she said, well ti came back positive, you have breast cancer,” Johannes said.

The Doctors visits and radiation treatments followed. Patricia wasn’t interested in maintaining her symptoms, she was looking for a way to keep control of her life.

“Having cancer felt like…terrible and furious and upsetting and wanting to be loved and cared for”

Patricia found that love and care at Grass Lake Sanctuary, just east of Jackson, where they cater to women in rural communities.

“They’re do-it-youselfers, so they don’t necessarily want to hook into a system that tells them how to get better,” Grass Lake Sanctuary Program Director Christine Morgan said.

Thanks to a grant from Susan G. Komen, Grass Lake offers a fully-funded retreat for local breast cancer survivors and fighters. Women are only allowed to go once and Patricia says it was a weekend she’ll never forget.

“The whole weekend was a weekend of love and caring, I just can’t say enough,” Johannes said.

That’s what Grass Lake aims to do, bring together women who understand the same confusing journey.

“They call themselves a sisterhood, because they have just been initiated into a club they didn’t choose,” Morgan said.

Women spend the weekend being pampered, fed and connecting with women fighting the same fight, and surrounded by nature, which Patricia is lucky enough to have in her backyard.

“I have found great solace going out and being outside, walking barefooted, being with nature and that has been very rejuvenating, and I would not be able to do that in town or in the city,” Johannes said.

Since women are only allowed to visit the retreat once, Patricia sends gifts each summer to the women, all looking for that same treatment; the kind that doesn’t come from a hospital.

“Komen gives us something other than just the surgery, other than the research, they are helping the women afterward,” Johannes said.

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