Betty paid it forward so other women battling breast cancer could benefit from her personal recipe for living a fully engaged, joyful life after her breast cancer diagnosis. Perfectly content to paddle a gentle river or hike a trail alone, Betty found strength and community when surrounded by other women who faced breast cancer and all that comes with it.
Betty died in 2001, six years after establishing Adventure Weekend. The program still thrives as do its sister retreats held one weekend each winter, spring and fall.
Three women-- all of whom participated in early Adventure Weekends were tapped by Betty to return and help other women on the journey. They’re still helping. Here are their stories which we hope will inspire you to volunteer and become one of Betty’s Angels.
Cynthia Cote was 42 years old when she heard, “You have breast cancer.” It was advanced and the prognosis was not good. “My daughter was 11. I set a goal of seeing her finish junior high school." ...
After a mastectomy, Cynthia received high doses of radiation and chemotherapy. She’d just come out of isolation after a stem cell transplant and begged her oncologist to let her attend Adventure Weekend.
“My healing was all about getting out into nature. I needed this weekend.” Cynthia kayaked in near-hurricane rain and winds at the very first Adventure Weekend in 1995. “I’d been through so much, what was a little weather? And you know, paddling with all those women in that horrible weather made me see I could do anything. I felt so strong.”
“I hadn’t done any support groups and really didn’t want to. But Adventure Weekend taught me about support. We were all in different places-- some of us still in treatment, some just diagnosed and others who had been cured for five to 10 years. Different places, but we all understood each other.”
Shortly after that weekend, Betty asked Cynthia to come back and help with future Adventure Weekends. “Betty was getting weaker and didn’t know how much longer she could help. She was training us up.”
Cynthia did see her daughter finish junior high. And she and her husband celebrated their daughter’s high school and college graduations, then the birth of their grandson.
Clara Camuso-Reed was 35 years old when she was diagnosed in 1993. During and after treatment, Clara was encouraged to exercise. She drove from her home in Epping through an ice storm to attend the very first winter Adventure Weekend. Clara did go back and has been to every Adventure Weekend since. And she’s added a kayak to her pile of toys.
“I was never outdoorsy. Never went to camp, but when I came home from Adventure Weekend, I had more energy than I’d had in the past two years. I felt so great. I told my husband I had to have snowshoes and cross-country skis."
“Betty was pretty sick that weekend. She asked if I’d come back for the summer Adventure Weekend and help out. I told her I would if I lived through all this.”
“Adventure Weekend gave me hope and courage. I never want to tell my story in a circle with a box of tissues again. I left that weekend knowing I had cancer but that it didn’t have me. I’m thrilled to keep this going for Betty, because she kept all of us going.”
Rose Love was only 36 when she learned she had breast cancer. Having barely finished her treatment, Rose was then diagnosed with a different kind of cancer in the same breast. It was shortly after her mastectomy and reconstructive surgery that her friend who also had breast cancer signed them up for Adventure Weekend.
The 36-year-old mother was driven through an ice storm to the 1998 Adventure Weekend. Rose’s friend said it was a cross-country skiing get away. Rose had no idea it was a “breast cancer thing. I was so angry when I found out what it was.”
Having never chosen to go to a support group before, she had no intention of talking to anyone. She sat apart from the circle; mute and teeming with anger. One woman worried she wouldn’t live to see her grandchildren married. Rose had a three-year-old daughter at home, and three other children-- the oldest only 11. And this woman was talking about grandchildren. “Oh, I was just so angry.”
No one pushed Rose to talk, and she recalls how Betty “gave me my space.” When Rose began to talk, “The whole group was there for her and that’s what I needed. I hadn’t realized what a fragile state I was in. I was a mess and didn’t even know it.”
Rose recalls that when she left her house for Sargent Center that Friday afternoon, she hadn’t the energy to fold laundry. By Sunday afternoon, surrounded by new friends, she worked her way through the ropes course. When she pushed off from the platform and soared down the zipline, ice splintered from the ropes and she felt on top of the world. “The women made me strong.”
“When I arrived, it was about me and all my loss and anger. When I left, it was about us.
Rose learned her fears were the same as the grandmother and the women without children. Because of the transformation Betty saw in Rose, she asked her to come back as a facilitator. For the past dozen years, Rose has guided women through their own anger and fears. “I tell them, ‘I’ve been there.’”
Like Betty, Rose is supportive and patient. “We don’t push and we’ll never desert you. We’re all in this together.”
Ellen Moran and Christine Landry are Betty's other angels. Although they've never had breast cancer, these women have stayed committed to Betty's dream since the early days.
Ellen got her wings before Adventure Weekend was even born. Betty had the vision but needed help putting it all together. She chose the exact right partner to help design and launch this adventure support group. Ellen has paddled rivers and lakes all over the world. She enjoys easy hikes, but has also hiked Mt. Washington, and Mt. Denali in Alaska. An accomplished rock climber, skier and scuba diver, she knows how great it feels to get outdoors, breath fresh air and enjoy the views.
Since the very first Adventure Weekend in 1995, Ellen has helped over 400 women discover or rediscover this feeling, by guiding them in kayaking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing outings. She said she feels honored to work with the women, and is amazed each year by their strength and determination. "You can't help but be wowed, and gain some perspective."
Christine has never met a stranger. Her enthusiasm and energy are contagious and she knows just how to channel these. The lead facilitator for the weekend workshops and ropes courses, Christine honors all our guests, encouraging each woman to participate at the level and pace she chooses. A natural teacher, mentor and friend, Christine is also a life-long student; she brings her sense of wonder and discovery to every Betty J. Borry Breast Cancer Retreat and Adventure Weekend. She is the maestro, encouraging each woman to play her own tune. She gently teases a little more out of each participant so in the end it all comes together-- the group strong and connected because each woman has found the right note, found her power, her beauty and wholeness.
Please e-mail us if you’d like to lend your heart and talents to support women at Adventure Weekend and our Retreats .