follow us: Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Join us on LinkedIn Bookmark and Share

<- Back to News & Events

Susan's Retreat in the Press:
Walk for Susan's Retreat
by Cynthia August (Ipswich Chronicle, 11 Sep 2008)

Ipswich - Life does not stop when cancer strikes. In fact, life continues on more intensely than ever. Everyday tasks can take on new significance and induce higher levels of stress. Work may become more essential to cover costs that even the best insurance won't absorb. Sandwiching treatments and chemotherapy in between the rest of life's demands can make the struggle unbearable, and victory seem impossible. How can one heal when there is no rest? How can the body become strong when the spirit is constantly being challenged?

Susan Nickerson, in her battle with breast cancer, understood this question asked by so many who suffer. Spending time on a comfortable deck chair in the warm Ipswich sun, she found a place of solace, a place to recharge her mind and body. In her passing, she left an answer in the form of a message. Come to us, the message reads. Spend some time in beauty and peace. Rest, reflect, heal and hope. Perhaps this will help.

Susan's Retreat was born. For two or three days, a selected breast cancer patient and a companion are sent to a resort for some essential peace and positive focus. Reservations, meals and massages are all booked and pre-paid by the organization. All efforts are made to create a healthful dose of solace with an eye toward healing the spirit.

Ipswich resident Toni Poltack, who was sent not to the usual nature-filled destination but to the hustle and bustle of Boston, says of Susan's Retreat, "This magnificent program was a godsend. It is something to take comfort in at a time when you take comfort in very little. Fighting cancer is a physical and emotional challenge, but it is also a financial challenge for many people. Imagine being single, and having to continue to work so you can afford your treatment. When the social worker at Mass. General mentioned this to me, I was so thankful. For those days, I was treated like a queen in a way I never have been before - and probably never again." 

Maggie Steig, the executive director of he organization and a close friend of Nickerson, says, "Susan lived in Cambridge, but the time she spent in Ipswich was her time to sit and be quiet and think things through in a positive way. She told us about the value of this over and over, and so she created this fund at the end of her life to pass this experience on to others. 

Casey Nickerson, Susan's brother and a member of the Board of Directors, mentions the extreme value of taking a friend, spouse or caregiver along.

"The role of caregiver is a hard one," he says, "and having a retreat like this can make a big difference in the spirit of the person who is taking care of the patient's every need. Caregiver is not a role everyone can play. It requires tremendous effort to step up and be there and do what you can to stay positive and focused."

Nickerson also suggests that the trip can have beneficial effects on the behavior of spouses and family members having trouble coping.

"In the exit interviews," he says, "we've seen cases of family members better understanding the needs of the situation and becoming more responsive - even going so far as to stop damaging behaviors in order to create a more healing atmosphere."

In the short time the organization has been up and running, it has brought a weekend of relief to 15 New England breast cancer patients and their companions. Next year the organization hopes to grow exponentially by increasing the number of retreats and exploring the concept of additional Susan's Retreat branches in other cities.

"By 2025, we'd like to have provided over 10,000 retreats to women all over," says Nickerson, "and see a picture of Susan on the cover of Newsweek."

Toni Poltack would like to see that happen too. She will be sitting at the registration table

"I can't walk, but I can sit at that table and help," she says. "Really, I'd do anything to be able to repay what they have done for me. I hope people come out and support this wonderful organization the way it has supported me."

Walk for Susan's Retreat: In the Spirit of Hope
Saturday, Sept. 13, 10:30 a.m.
Begin at the parking lot at Pavilion Beach, Great Neck
Walk is 3.4 miles
For information, visit

copyright 2007-2010 Susan's Retreat, Inc |