Knight’s Cabin Banff Retreat for Cancer Survivors and Caregivers

The Cause

Cancer survivors and caregivers face physical, emotional and financial challenges as a result of a cancer diagnosis, and when medical treatment ceases, so does care. Our mission is to empower survivors and caregivers to take action and make lasting positive health behaviour changes that will improve their quality of life and decrease the likelihood of cancer recurrence.

Our weekend retreats include educational sessions facilitated by experts on exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress management. We also do yoga, hike, and meditate. We integrate facilitation by past participants to help communicate the lasting, positive impact these health behaviours can have on quality of life. We also use behavioural change research to improve participants’ chance of long-term success. Each retreat offers a safe and supportive space for survivors and caregivers to come together and connect with one another and reflect on their shared experiences. For survivors, adding a social component to these proposed changes increases the chance of continuing the positive behaviours. This is why we encourage caregivers to participate.

We are proposing a retreat in Banff in Spring 2021. We believe that finances should not be a barrier to attending a retreat and we do our best to make them accessible to anyone regardless of their financial situation. In order to operate sustainably we provide the option to pay for participants who are able to do so. We offer financial assistance to anyone who requires more support. We've seen approximately 75% of applicants ask for financial support. Each retreat costs $20,000 on average and can host 15-25 cancer survivors and their caregivers. With financial support from the Field Law Community Fund Program, we will be able to offer financial assistance to all that apply.

At this retreat, we plan to launch our new ambassador-led program called Walk It Out. This program is meant to integrate a social component into the newly formed exercise habits of participants to aid in their long-term success when returning to their home communities. It will bring other survivors and caregivers in those communities together in a non-traditional support group model with the added component of physical activity. This is what will create the pay it forward effect. If we are able to offer financial assistance to all those that apply, we can host a greater number of survivors and caregivers that will become future ambassadors in their home communities.

Who Will it Benefit?

This retreat will empower cancer survivors and their caregivers, and through them, their families, to create lasting, positive changes to their physical and mental health habits. The term survivor applies to anyone with a cancer diagnosis, whether they are currently in treatment or have been in remission for years but are still dealing with the lasting physical and emotional effects of their cancer. Also, survivors living in rural areas often note a lack of resources and feelings of isolation. Our retreats offer an escape from this isolation and day-to-day life and a chance to connect with other survivors close to nature. One past participant noted: “Coming from a rural community and being given this life-changing chance at the retreat has really helped me to not feel alone in my cancer journey.”

The end goal of our educational sessions is to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, support better sleep and assist survivors with how to effectively deal with the stress and anxiety of living with cancer. Our hope is that by integrating behaviour change research into how we teach survivors, they will see a lasting increase in their quality of life and decrease their chance of cancer recurrence, keeping them out of the hospital. We measure the success of our programming on two things: physical activity minutes and quality of life.

To improve our programming, we want to provide more ongoing support post-retreat to assist the survivors in maintaining their new health habits long-term. As mentioned, many of the survivors and caregivers that attend our retreats do not live in large cities with access to facilities or programming offered by Wellspring, for example. Online events or educational sessions can be helpful, but may not help with feelings of isolation so commonly felt by survivors and caregivers. Upon following up with many of the past retreat attendees, we’ve found that around 50% reported struggling to keep up with the demands of their daily lives and continue to exercise daily. This is what sparked the idea for Walk It Out.