Women at Escape to THRIVE conference

Rene Bowditch, Sherri Romanoski & Mary Beth Gibson at the THRIVE 2022 conference

I like memes. They often dispense concise gems of wisdom like the one I’ve seen that says something to the effect of, “Create a life you don’t have to escape from.” It’s great in theory, but sometimes life presents us with things we cannot control and that we do need to escape from, like cancer. That is when it becomes essential that we have somewhere to escape to, not just so we can cope but so we can thrive.

There is no better place for a cancer advocate to learn, connect, grow, brainstorm, heal, collaborate, and laugh while embracing nature, health, and new friends. There is no better place to Escape to THRIVE.

I went to my first Escape to THRIVE back in 2013 and returned in 2022 for the alumni reunion. After experiencing one THRIVE, there was no question that I needed to return. I considered a variety of ways to share my thoughts about Escape to THRIVE in this blog and settled on a top 10 reasons to gift yourself with this transformative opportunity.



Reason #1 – The staff and volunteers

Sherri Romanski created the vision and made it reality, and Mindy Griffith has stepped in to lead an exceptional team of staff and volunteers. Everyone is committed to making the THRIVE experience as personally and professional rewarding, meaningful, and insightful as possible. They foster a culture of growth, love, acceptance, and healing and you can feel it the entire time you are there.

Reason #2 – The sponsors

THRIVE depends on sponsors to offset the cost, but they are also able to contribute beyond just a financial donation. They are invited to participate throughout the conference and even lead a discussion on a relevant topic. The various perspectives heard enable us to learn from each other and determine ways to create synergy.

Reason #3 – The other THRIVERS

Be prepared to make lifelong friends at THRIVE. Imagine being surrounded by a bunch of very different people from all over the country who have this one thing in common – a passion for making this world a better place for people affected by cancer – a passion so strong, they are committing their lives to it. Imagine the conversations that take place, the connections, the sharing, the revelations, and yes, the friendships. I made instant connections with some of my fellow THRIVERS and will maintain those connections because they are strong and real. The diversity combined with the common passion is powerful, and it is the magic of THRIVE.

Reason #4 – The format

THRIVE has developed a conference format that balances the personal growth and healing with the professional growth and learning. The workshops have timely, relevant topics and are led by advocates with valuable information gleaned from personal experience. They are interactive so that we can all learn from each other. After each session, we are able to work on our personal action plans for how we will apply the information we learned and connections we have made. The format also builds in plenty of time to take advantage of the many amenities offered by Miraval, hang out with fellow THRIVERS, or just be.Thriving, Growing, Winning street sign

Reason #5 – The advocacy

We are stronger together than we are individually, and one of the goals of THRIVE is to exponentially expand our outreach by establishing connections and opportunities to collaborate. The energy in the room is palpable when we all start talking about our work. That generates ideas for how to join efforts and help each other. We all know the work we do is valuable, and THRIVE affirms that and allows us to grow it.

Reason #6 – The venue

Miraval is special and it enhances and intensifies the power of THRIVE. The resort is said to be over a huge energy vortex. I don’t know about all that, but this I do know for sure – this oasis in the middle of the desert provides a beautiful sanctuary for introspection, reflection, nurturing of self, solitude, and healing for anyone who is seeking that. Walking the labyrinth with my bare feet touching the earth was just one extraordinary moment of many in a place where you are surrounded by nature and immersed in quiet peace. And, every employee you encounter is dedicated to making the experience as meaningful for you as you are willing to make it for yourself.

Reason #  7 – The food

What can I say? Good food is important to good health and the food at Miraval is exceptional. The food is healthy, and all dietary preferences are accommodated. And the best part is that it is all prepared for you. You just show up! Oh, and the smoothie bar is life-changing.

Reason # 8 – The activities

Miraval has a host of classes and activities that are mostly free or that you can use your resort credit for, including a spectacular spa. The activities are designed as everything at Miraval is – for health, relaxation, healing, growth, learning, self-care. Try out one of the challenge courses with your THRIVERS to confront your own fears or enjoy a yoga class under the stars. Do an off-resort activity as I did by hiking in the nearby Catalina mountains, or learn about beekeeping. There is something for everyone – either in your comfort zone or way outside of it.

Reason #9 – The healing and growth

Mary Beth Gibson with her horse

Mary Beth healing with Dr. Arrows

I know I keep saying those words over and over again, but it’s so important. The THRIVE team understands that for us to be effective advocates, we need to take care of ourselves, and they are providing the environment for us to do that. Healing is a lifelong process, and we cannot heal our bodies without healing our minds. One particularly healing moment for me at the last THRIVE was thanks to Dr. Arrows. He isn’t actually a doctor, he is a horse, and he and his trainer were my “therapists” during an equine experience, Unbound. As a result of that encounter, I realized that I, unbeknownst to me but very apparent to Dr. Arrows, was harboring a lot of anger. Just that revelation allowed me to delve deeper and explore what I should do with that anger. That helps me understand myself better and be more available to help others as a result.


Reason #10 – You deserve it!

You do totally deserve it, and don’t let yourself think otherwise for even a second. Do you care about people? Yes! Do you work hard taking care of other people? Yes! Do you find yourself putting other people’s needs ahead of your own? Yes! Do you throw yourself into your work to the point you don’t have time for yourself? Yes! I know you do all those things, and for that reason and many more, you deserve this experience for YOU. And at the end of the day, you will thank yourself for loving yourself enough to Escape to THRIVE.


Learn More About Escape to THRIVE 2023