The Commonweal Cancer Help Program (CCHP) is an intensive week-long residential retreat for people with cancer and their significant others. Our intention is to help you discover how to live as well as possible for as long  as possible. If and when the time comes to die, we hope to help you face death as you would most wish to.

During the retreat, we explore the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of living with cancer. We engage in discovery-learning because we believe you have within you what you need for your own deepest healing. We offer six retreats per year. Each is limited to eight participants because it is the ideal size for small-group learning.

We offer a balanced exploration of choices in healing, including choices in conventional therapies, integrative therapies, pain and suffering, and death and dying. The primary focus of the retreat is on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of deep, intentional healing.

Retreats offer:

  • Six group support sessions with a gifted psychotherapist
  • Three-hour long massage sessions
  • Daily yoga or qi gong, meditation, and deep relaxation
  • Sandtray (an experience in symbolic learning)
  • Healing arts, music, and poetry
  • Exploration of the healing power of sacred space
  • Gourmet, primarily vegetarian meals

Examples of evening sessions include:

  • Monday: Why we are here
  • Tuesday: Choices in healing, in conventional therapies, and in integrative therapies
  • Wednesday: Choices in pain and suffering as well as in death and dying
  • Thursday: Making music with a gifted musician
  • Friday: The healing power of creating sacred space in your home
  • Saturday: What we are taking home with us

Commonweal has hosted more than 200 Cancer Help Program retreats. Most participants report a deeply powerful experience, many calling it transformative. The retreat often has profound effects on anxiety, fear, loneliness, helplessness, anger, and other distressing emotions that may accompany cancer

The Cancer Help Program is a learning experience, not a medical treatment. We don’t recommend therapies. All participants must be under the care of a qualified physician or other health professional.

Widely considered the premier residential retreat of its kind in the United States, the CCHP draws participants from across the US, Canada, Europe, and around the world.

Commonweal has more than twenty programs in health and healing, education and the arts, and environment and justice. Four of these programs may be of special interest you:

Personal Experiences

I came to the Cancer Help Program, tense with worry about the future. It was a transformational week that touched my mind, body, and spirit. I savor the experience and think about it every day. I felt the magic of the group, stimulated and guided by a brilliant and caring staff. I now know deeply that I am not alone. I’m inspired by the many people who are living rich and profound lives, informed by the experience of cancer. I left with hope and faith that I can face the future without fear and that the best of life is yet to come. My passion for living is renewed.

Commonweal was the site of a very deep spiritual awakening for me as a consequence of the love and healing I experienced. During one of the most traumatic times in my life, joy and gratitude flooded into my heart and soul for every moment that I had been able to spend with my beloved. It helped prepare me for his death and the grief that followed. For my beloved soulmate, it brought the joy and sparkle back into his eyes for a while. Those pictures of him are some of my greatest treasures. I also know the healing he experienced during the Cancer Help Program retreat helped him live a little longer.

I had my first episode of cancer in 2006. Years later, I discovered Commonweal. With my first visit, I realized it was a sanctuary, a safe haven in the eye of the storm. It was a place to breathe, to relax, receive, and let my guard down. I went on to discover that it’s a non-judgmental community. That absence of judgment allowed me to feel safer in speaking my truth and to discover and reveal my deepest fears. I was and am not alone.

The Cancer Help Program helped me begin to heal that enormous part of me that was humiliated, terrified, extremely angry, and untrusting of all since cancer had entered my body and my life. I began the long road of opening up my heart that had been so incredibly closed.

At Commonweal, not only are we allowed to take in wisdom from the very finest minds and spirits, but we are allowed and encouraged to dwell in the spaces in between. For some of us, this is called meditation or prayer or consciousness or breath practice. We are “inspired” (which comes from “to breathe life into”) from all we hear and see, as well as that which is beyond ordinary sight and hearing.

Commonweal has been such a vital influence on my 25 years with breast cancer. Both the people and the place live within me – my soul-spirit me, but also my body memories of your faces, gestures, writing, laughs, hugs, cries, concerns and kindness. My entire being feels both embraced and allowed to be. And the land, sky, and sea, they nourish me. We can never be apart. All is gain. Nothing valuable is lost.
My life gesture is to link…I feel complete.

We have all had our disease progressions and our lives may be very different . . . but the one constant is each other. This is the power of this circle, of Commonweal, of the friendships and closeness that arise out of a shared sense of the tenuousness of life when you have, or have had, cancer.