Meditation Retreats

It’s not just doctors and nurses working hard to support people with cancer

Living with cancer doesn’t start once you enter the hospital and stop when you leave.

From prosthetics to meditation retreats, there’s a multitude of people in New Zealand working tirelessly to make sure cancer patients feel appreciated and supported.

We talked to three Kiwis about how their work helps make the lives of people living with cancer a little easier.

* What to do when someone tells you they have cancer
* How life changes when your child has cancer
* The real-life story behind that Cancer Society ad which probably made you cry


Fay Cobbett with partner Tim Carr of myReflection.


Fay Cobbett with partner Tim Carr of myReflection.

The origin of prosthesis company myReflection is simple – co-founder Tim Carr wanted to help his partner Fay Cobbett heal from her mastectomy.

“There were times Fay didn’t want to go out in public. She didn’t feel like herself – like a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle where the last piece had been lost and could never be replaced,” Carr says.

Carr says Cobbett’s pain was “one of the most heartbreaking things to witness,” so together with expert Jason Barnett, he used his experience with 3D printing to figure out a way to make a customizable and, most importantly, humanising prostheses.

They ended up with a technology that scans the chest wall and other breast of a client to create a prosthetic that is specifically tailored instead of a simple A, B, or C cup size.

Tim Carr and Fay Cobbett.


Tim Carr and Fay Cobbett.

From there, my reflection was born, giving not only Cobbett a chance to feel whole again, but other women across Aotearoa too.

“We had an email from a lady one day who said ‘for the first time in 16 years I’ve gone out wearing a dress with a V cut-neck, and I feel like myself for the first time again’,” Carr says .

“She named her prosthetic – we got maybe two or three emails from her saying ‘today I took her [the prosthetic] out on the ferry, and we went over to Devonport. It’s the most brilliant feeling to feel like myself with everyone else around me and no one knew what I’d been through’.

“Those stories were tear-inducing in a way that reflected on the trauma that each of these ladies had gone through but had been able to draw positivity out of it, and I think that’s something really empowering.”

retreat programmes

Aratika Cancer Trust retreat.


Aratika Cancer Trust retreat.

Based in Rotorua, Aratika Cancer Trust was created with the vision of providing people with cancer holistic care alongside modern medicine.

The Trust hosts five-day retreats for all people impacted by cancer, running in conjunction with the idea of ​​integrative cancer care, which looks to offer support through informational sessions (with classes focusing things like the nervous system, nutrition and grief) art therapy, meditation and support groups.

Aratika Cancer Trust program director Tove Jensen is a cancer survivor herself, and was brought to the Trust three years ago to provide her expertise in meditation.

“Having the guidance to sit and be still and learn about yourself and feel that stillness within yourself, it’s a way of touching into who you really are inside,” Jensen says.

“For me, it’s really helpful in being able to step away from that ‘I’ve got cancer, this is my diagnosis’ … it does totally take over your life and having that support and that space to learn how to tap into and feel at peace with yourself regardless of what’s happening to your body is powerful.”

These retreats have been running for almost 11 years, and with the arrival of Covid in 2020 the retreats are also offered online.

Aratika Cancer Trust provide clients with sessions on nutritional information.


Aratika Cancer Trust provide clients with sessions on nutritional information.

Jensen says social support within a community of understanding people is one of the most important factors in keeping well while living with cancer, and these retreats provide cancer patients and survivors the opportunity to heal together.

“We’re holding this space and people are learning from each other – we’re providing some amount of structure and information, but it’s amazing when you get people together in a supportive atmosphere – the support they can afford each other is really strong. ”

“After the retreat we found that a lot of those connections that people made, they keep them up, and that is really crucial.”


The Cancer Society of New Zealand

Daffodil Day TV advert.

Across New Zealand, 1300 people donate their free time volunteering for Cancer Society’s transport to treatment service.

These drivers take some stress off of people and families living with cancer by providing a service that goes a long way.

Des Davies is one of these drivers – with a background in mental health, he knows how to lend an empathetic ear to passengers living through some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives.

Davies also has first-hand experience with cancer, with a number of his family members having lived with the disease and his own bowl cancer diagnosis several years ago.

Cancer Society volunteer driver Des Davies.


Cancer Society volunteer driver Des Davies.

“I can relate to people and what the families go through because my friends went through hell for me and I went through hell for quite a few of my family members,” Davies says.

He says without the service, a lot of patients wouldn’t be able to make it to their appointments.

“The feedback is absolutely awesome, it’s like ‘we are just so pleased and so happy that we’ve got someone we can depend on to come pick us up and get us into hospital, take us home, and have a chat to and feel comfortable around’.”

However, Davies’ support doesn’t end when the patients leave his car.

“You start a sort of friendship with them that really lasts … Even after the treatment I have a chat with them, or I go over for a cup of tea and try and support them a bit, offer some help around the house, Davies says.

“I like to think I go the extra mile.”

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