InnCourage is a collaboration with VCMRF, the Oncology Departments at local hospitals, and Kathy Hartley to provide two Survivorship Retreats a year for Women with Cancer at the Lavender Inn in Ojai, California.
This program is a unique model to respond to patients during cancer treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life issues. It facilitates much needed communication and support services in the current health care system and provides tools to empower low-income, vulnerable women undergoing cancer treatment through a respite retreats and self-care. Over eight years ago, the Ventura County Medical Resource Foundation and the program’s founder, Kathy Hartley, created the goals for this program called InnCourage. VCMRF has raised the money and some donated services to support the program and develop relationships with local hospitals, which refer patients to this program. Kathy generously donates the Inn which provides a tranquil environment for the women, as well as facilitating the survivorship wellness retreats during their 3 day/2 night stay.
VCMRF linked the program with Oncology physicians and nurses at the Ventura County Medical Center, Dignity Health/St. John’s/Pleasant Valley Hospitals, and Community Memorial Health System/Ojai Hospital (Cancer Resource Center) to identify women undergoing cancer treatment who are physically able to attend the survivorship wellness retreats. VCMRF reached out to the community through grants, appeal letters, and our website to educate them about InnCourage. The patients referred to the Oncology Survivorship program are provided (1) A support network with other women going through treatment; (2) Information about how to communicate with their physicians and nurses about their illness; (3) Information and cooking lessons from a nutritionist on how to prepare healthy meals; (4) Meetings with a psychologist to learn how to talk about their illness and express their needs and concerns with family, and friends; (5) Wigs and makeup and instructions on how to apply them; (6) Pampering by volunteers who provide facials, massages, and manicures; (7) Engagements in walks and yoga and other forms of exercise and relaxation; (8) Music therapy as an intervention tool to improve well-being and quality of life; (9) Information about how to navigate the health care system, and (10) Needed services at any of the ambulatory clinic locations or network service partners by linking patients to contacts at these facilities.
This program has transformed the lives of over 200 women and their families and friends – who have gone through the program and have bonded with other women on the same journey. Three hospitals refer patients to this program because they believe that it makes a difference in their quality of life.
“First of all, what a gracious opportunity to experience. The care and grace put into this experience is palpable. Each person involved has been loving and caring. I loved being here in a place of beauty and peace. I loved the opportunity to meet these wonderful women and to share in their journeys. I loved the trust and safety of this place which allowed me to receive the gifts given. Words cannot express my gratitude for being able to receive the many gifts and blessings InnCourage has to offer. Your peaceful and beautiful environment, nurtured by you all, allowed myself and the other women to receive healing graced and share journeys, and support in a deeply, rich, loving way. I will always keep you all in a special place in my heart. It has made my experience at the hospital seem less isolating. I now have a group of women whom I can relate to and continue to share journeys with. I am blessed to have been included in this event. I am filled with gratitude to have been here and to have met the women and all of the staff.”
“My visit at the Lavender Inn with the InnCourage program was one of the most memorable experiences I have had since my journey began as a cancer patient. I am a wife and mother of three with a full time career. Carving timeout of my schedule for myself is a challenge I am not always up to meeting. The retreat allowed me to slow down and examine my priorities. Spending time with others who are living with cancer was very enlightening. Being able to share thoughts that can only be understood by others in similar situations had a healing effect I did not expect. I am constantly amazed at the generosity of our community and feel blessed to have been included in this program.”
“This experience was exactly what I needed since diagnosis. I had yet to join a support group or reach out to anyone going through a similar experience out of fear. Meeting all the wonderful women made it comfortable, inspiring and encouraging. I learned a lot from all the women. I am so thankful for this opportunity. Thank you!”