I AM HOPE survivors retreat

Cecily Elmas
4 min readJun 27, 2023
@shayswarriorslifeaftercancer @photosbylani

I started this retreat with a warning ⚠️ “You’ll either love me or hate me”. I’m happy to report I was loved. 🥰

I recently led the 2nd annual Cancer Survivor Reset Retreat for 40 courageous humans in La Quinta, Palm Desert.

We stepped over the line, which was a choice to show up in the present moment, not operating from the past or skipping to the future, to being here now. We chose to step into our unique power with self acceptance, courage and vulnerability. We experienced spontaneous dance parties, hugs, deep revelations and lots of life changing moments. This was a movement that was transformational in every sense of the word.

“Vulnerability is our most accurate way to measure courage” — Brene Brown

This quote resonates here, as they all had the courage to show up, to share and to be extremely vulnerable with a group that they would soon call sisters.

The first full day of content is what I’ll call Day 1. We focused on the question of “who am I?”. A big question to ask: who are we really beyond the front we put up, the ego, the labels and over identification with our titles? Once that is all shed…who are we now? Shout out to Deepak Chopra for introducing “Soul Questions” to the world. We know who we have been and what has been limiting us; we know who we have had to be perhaps. Who are we declaring to be in this moment — free from the past, free from looking good to the world or any of the pressure. I heard comments like “we should have bought more kleenex” and “I don’t know who I am”, which is the beginning of the process we dove into together. Let me say that again: “I don’t know who I am”, my response, “You are in the right place”.

That is the magic! When you don’t know who you are and declare it — you can start building who you are from nothing. And from nothing, everything is possible. When you begin to witness the pain, the healing can begin.

Day 2 is centered on Self Care. We explored how to bring energy into our lives that fuels us and gives us energy — from food, to sleep, to drinks, breath to movement. What is the life force we want more of and how do we design that into our habits every day? With that, it started with what we eat, however transformed into mourning, guilt and shame. How does one process these big emotions?! Honouring the past and moving into the present. One more time, honouring the past, moving into the present. We did it. We have a choice everyday to feel good, to wake up and choose richness that will elevate our minds, body and souls. We remembered that self care is our birthright and there is truly no need to ‘fight’ for what we need, it’s up to us to give us what we need and to come off of autopilot to truly step into choice. This was POWERFUL! Transformation continues…

Day 3, thank goodness for the deep dive into Joy and Gratitude!

Now I realize I don’t need to tell Cancer Survivors to feel grateful. They were pouring with gratitude and thankfulness however, some needed more to awaken within themselves. Meaning, to truly care for ourselves, and to create a new declarative I AM statement, we must pressure wash out the unworthiness and let JOY and Gratitude enter our lives in order to become a part of us. This is the joy that lives daily. The gratitude that is intoxicating. Finding joy and gratitude exists everywhere — you get to make your list, you get to cultivate it even when it may be extremely challenging.

We started with I need and I want and ended with I AM. Everyone left with the beginning of a new commitment through creating powerful I AM statements. If they didn’t, I would (gently) stop them and we would figure it out together.

They left listening to themselves, caring deeply about the group of sister-survivors, knowing what feels good. No explanation necessary. We swore! We screamed! We danced, we cried, we laughed and we shared stories. This experience is one that I wish everyone could experience. Shay is truly creating legacy with these programs and giving a space for people to transform.

I am clear that I want people to live their most expressed lives free from constraint. I am the one to open what was once closed, to challenge beliefs and to clap my hands and say stop it! or wake up!, in a calm yet vivacious way.

With love + transformation,


The Corker Collective



Cecily Elmas

Cecily is the COO of The Corker Collective, a bold facilitator and a heart-centered leader. She has recently published a Journal called Journey Inward.