About six months after her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent multiple surgeries and treatments, Dana Floyd arrived home after a long day of work as Director of Giver Services at the National Christian Foundation (NCF).
She changed clothes and decided to tackle a simple plumbing issue in her bathroom, something she had done many times before. As she wrangled her way around behind the toilet, wrench in hand, suddenly it all became too much.
“I found myself on my bathroom floor having what felt like a complete meltdown,” Dana says. “I mean, a full-on rolling-around-on-the-floor, hysterical fit.” As the sobs wracked her body, Dana realized that there was another piece of her recovery that she was totally unprepared for, and it was suddenly crashing down all around her. She needed emotional healing.
“Throughout my journey, I had not had any trouble sharing the medical stuff with my family and friends, but I struggled when it came to the emotional side of things,” Dana explains. “Most of the time I just didn’t know what to say, because I couldn’t understand what was happening inside of me.”
“There is a perception that the other side of treatment is when life gets back to normal. And in some ways, it does. I had to go to work, pay bills, take out the trash out, even fix the toilet. But I still felt this black cloud hanging over me, and I couldn’t seem to get out from under it. No matter how hard I prayed, it was still there.”
It was at that moment that Dana reached out and found a counselor who began to help her address the emotional aspect of her recovery. She soon discovered that she was not alone. Through groups, personal connections, and online forums, she found women crying out with the same type of emotional pain, and all asking the same question: “Why am I not okay?”
“I found out that my story isn’t unlike so many,” says Dana. “Whether a woman’s path has led to a lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemo, radiation, or other cancer treatment drugs, it is hard. Whether their journey has been a week, several months or 10 years, it is hard. Whether they hear Stage 1 or Stage 4, it is hard. All across the board, it is hard.”
As Dana contemplated how to move beyond the pain and fear that had gripped her, she realized that the best way to move forward was through giving back. “As part of the NCF team for the last 14 years, I have had the privilege to work with the most generous people on earth. I know that generosity is like medicine. Even though I was feeling sick and scared, and not particularly generous, I knew the Lord was calling me to help survivors like me. So I took a step of faith.”
As Dana contemplated how to move beyond the pain and fear that had gripped her, she realized that the best way to move forward was through giving back.
Soon, Dana had a vision to create a safe space for breast cancer survivors to get emotional support in community with like-minded sisters. “I don’t think women should have to do this hard thing alone,” says Dana. That’s why she’s launched a nonprofit, PINK Retreats. The goal of these free retreats is to create a comfortable, inviting space for breast cancer survivors to be able to rest, refresh, and gain the support they need to recover from the emotional aspects of breast cancer.
Dana will be holding her first retreat this October, just in time for breast cancer awareness month. And even though she is still dealing with the side effects of medication and other physical challenges, she is grateful that God has renewed her spirit as she focuses on welcoming her guests. She says that, as the suffocating dark cloud is beginning to lift, her eyes are now focused on the beautiful vision that God has given her to help other women. Her goal is to host four retreats in 2020.
“Throughout this journey, I have found myself saying over and over again, ‘Just please let me have five minutes to breathe before you hit me with something else,’ ” Dana says. “With God’s help, I’m creating a place where breast cancer survivors will be able to do just that.”