I am grateful for my body every day – that I have the ability to move and be alive. There was a time I feared that would not be the case.
Three years ago I was diagnosed with an aggressive triple negative breast cancer. I was barely 31, the producer of a party company, directing a nonprofit organization, and living with my boyfriend (whose mother was also fighting breast cancer; only she was in stage IV).
It was a major awakening. I seriously considered moving to the Eastern hemisphere to explore natural healing; but my tumor was off the charts aggressive and my docs were of course very against it. So, I decided it was probably best to approach healing with a combination of Eastern + Western methods.
I started taking a new kind of cocktail: 8 rounds of nasty chemo … but! I paired it with every resource in Atlanta that I could get my hands on: detox plans, Chinese herbs (so gross!), sound therapy, acupuncture 3x/week, Rev. David’s SOM classes (and his hugs), meditating, yoga, foot baths, essential oils, Tracey’s magical energy work, juicing, hypnotherapy (thank you Essy!), I cleaned out my food + beauty cabinets, changed my diet, swapped to safe cleaning products, Durga became my best friend…I tried everything.
Meanwhile, there were parties to be thrown. Like a 3,500 person St Patrick’s Day Festival.
And a few days after my first chemo treatment, I threw an art auction.
I tried to freeze my head to keep my hair, but reached my pain threshold and gave in. I knew my hair was going to fall out in the next week, so I got a mohawk. My besties got their mops chopped, too:
I threw a date auction fundraiser. We raised $7,000 for teen art programs that year.
Then I threw a 5K (that’s my husband Macarena-ing in the front row. I’m the one on the right, with the ‘hawk.)
And a gallery exhibition for the teens.
Then my hair fell out. You know when you have thought where you want to be a rebel & shave your head like Natalie Portman in “V for Vendetta“? That’s a good idea for about a day. It was actually gone. It has been three years now, and only recently reached a length where I feel like confident (or like a girl) again. I never knew how much that defined me until it was gone. Totally ridiculous. There was a part of me that felt like I earned a merit badge & that it was cleansing in some strange way.
My cat didn’t care that I was bald.
Erik and I went to Key West for a final adventure before I was stuck in bed watching Netflix for six weeks.
When we got back, I went in to have a double mastectomy and full reconstruction. Two major female parts that define a woman: my hair, and my lady parts…gone. The evening before surgery, I cried in front of the mirror. A lot.
When I got out of surgery – the doctors told me that they could not find my tumor. That the chemotherapy (eh hem, and other million zillion “weapons” I brought to the fight?!) had worked – literally destroyed it. My oncologist later told me that we went into that fight with a 20% chance chemo would have been effective. TWENTY. I was deemed to have “complete pathologic remission”. What have we learned here? Basically, doctors are like weathermen & 20% means nothing.
With the help of my army (see: Wigwam Fest Lineup), I slowly picked myself up off the ground. One night, I told Erik I was thinking about taking a dance class. He jumped online and put that thought into action. I went to Dance 101 the next day and fell in love with moving my body all over again. I’ll never forget the healing prisms of light reflecting off the beveled edge mirrors on to the floor. It is still a constant healing light for me & is reflected in the prismatic branding of Wigwam.
One month after my final surgery, Erik proposed.
We ran off to Bali with plans to get married at some point (but first made it legal with Munishwarji).
… then had our Bali ceremony …
Erik’s mother, a goddess healer herself, passed shortly after. (Love you Mama Ling.)
I decided to take my second chance seriously.
Wigwam Fest is a wellness series inspired by the resources I’ve had the honor of crossing paths with. I think I’m still here because I can be a resource for all of the seekers out there. I have a gift for presenting experiences in a fun way – the instructors (like Rev. David Ault, Munishwarji and 100+ other fascinating folks) are where the real magic comes alive for attendees. (SLCA folks will probably recognize other familiar names on the Lineup!)
What’s Wigwam Fest? It’s kind of like a music festival w/ 9 stages, but the “stages” are in nature: a pavilion, a rooftop deck, a garden, a pond, an outdoor classroom, a walking path, a theater, etc. and the “acts” are wellness related – anything from fitness (stand up paddle board, salsa dancing, yoga, barre, stretch, pilates, blast, etc.) to speakers (inspirational journeys and entrepreneurs like Souper Jenny and Ladypreneur) to Workshops (Ayurveda, vision mapping, sound therapy, an exercise in “Shine Theory”, meditation, chef demonstrations, juicing, how to read food/beauty labels and more).
Where is the Festival Held? It’s held in Roswell at Chattahoochee Nature Center, just 16 miles north of Buckhead (day retreat!). The event will be in 9 different venues over 127 acres. Click here to see a few photos of the venue.
When is Wigwam Fest? The festival dates are April 12, April 19, April 26 and May 3. You can purchase a single day or series pass. When you purchase your ticket, you sign up for (4) one hour experiences you’re interested in for that day. All fests are on Sundays from about 9-5.
What is a Typical Fest Day Like? Each Sunday starts with an opening ceremony for the group (every week is different), then attend your first 2 experiences of your choice, break for late lunch/market/exploration time for 1.5 hours, then have 2 more experiences.
I hope you will consider joining me one Sunday for an adventure that will inspire and excite.
by Jennifer Lingvall, Founder of Wigwam Fest