By Sarah Chacko

Killeen Daily Herald

Nearly 30 area cancer survivors spent the weekend sharing their darkest moments and celebrating their strength.

The group, primarily adults, wrapped up the second semi-annual Surviving and Thriving Retreat, hosted by Scott & White Hospitals Center for Cancer Prevention and Care, Sunday at Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children.

Center Program Coordinator Rene Owen said the retreat was intended to teach survivors how to exercise the body, educate the mind, encourage the spirit and minister to the community.

Were trying to teach these ladies and gentlemen that there is something they can do in their survivorship, she said.

Herself a cancer survivor of 14 years, Owen said there are some people in the community who are afraid to talk about their disease.

Our people need to be strong enough to help them overcome their fears and live a fuller life, she said.

Owen said according to the American Cancer Society, there are 8,000 cancer survivors in Bell County alone.

We want to make sure that they know were here here to support them, she said.

Jill Horner, a teacher at Belton Middle School, spoke to the group about the people who have share the journey to recovery with survivors

A lot of times people who are sick and have sicknesses to deal with feel like a burden, she said.

But it is important that survivors realize that they give as much to their supporters as their supporters give to them, she said.

Patti Rodgers of Killeen, who has been a breast cancer survivor for three years, performed a skit during one night of the retreat on the isolation that people overcoming cancer feel.

Your friends and family are there to support you during treatments and buy wigs for you, she said. But in the dead of night, youre always by yourself.

Healing is the first step, but helping others heal is part of the process, survivors said.

After first being diagnosed, people think things will never be the same, Rodgers said. But after undergoing chemotherapy or surgery, and realizing that they can still crack jokes, survivors become healers, she said.

If you help others and you share whats happened, you heal real fast, she said.

Cancer used to be a scary word, said Margo Coster, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. But the fear can be diminished with the help of knowledgeable doctors and even more knowledgeable survivors.

You have to keep a positive outlook, she said. Because I have too much to live for.

Now an American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery volunteer, Coster provides support to people who are facing the same battle.

According to the ACS, the Reach to Recovery program has helped people cope with their breast cancer experience for more than 30 years.

When people first find out they have breast cancer, they may feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, and alone, the ACS Web site states. Talking with a specially trained Reach to Recovery volunteer at this time can give a measure of comfort and an opportunity for emotional grounding and informed decision-making.

Volunteers are breast cancer survivors who give patients and family members an opportunity to talk about concerns and ask questions.

The ACS acknowledges that volunteers can offer understanding, support, and hope because they themselves have survived breast cancer and gone on to live normal, productive lives.

Were all survivors, Coster said. We all have a story.

Contact Sarah Chacko at

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