Our Advocates / Inspiring Stories

Browse through a collection of inspiring stories and video testimonials from our past retreat participants…

New Pathways through Mindfulness, Karen Hansen
Autumn 2018, Living Well Magazine, read the full article here

“…I decided to sign myself up for Module 1 of the MBSM teacher training course at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. I decided to do the training because I wanted to understand the role of meditation for the mind in depth, and perhaps in helping myself, could help others like me in the future. The implementation of MBSM in my life has helped me incredibly. I meditate and use breathing techniques daily. I still have many challenging days, however, MBSM has given me a tool kit to cope. Along with slowing down the pace of my life, letting go of multi-tasking, eating healthily and getting plenty of rest and sleep, I feel hopeful and happy now.”

Ineke Kershaw, New Zealand
January 2018

I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma – bone marrow cancer – thirteen years ago, at 49 years of age. It is an incurable form of cancer, however many people have led normal happy lives (the longest I have heard of is 19 years and still going strong) thanks to maintenance drugs such as Thalidomide.

Unfortunately, the usual treatments and drugs didn’t work for me, so when my blood counts escalated I was offered a bone marrow transplant from a donor, which I accepted. Drug-therapy stopped and while the transplant was being organised, I was warily permitted to attend the wonderful cancer retreat at The Gawler Cancer Foundation course. Amazingly, following on from the retreat, my blood counts immediately improved. This trend continued and I was able to delay the transplant for 6 months, at which point my counts began to plateau. Major rejection (graft versus host disease) was expected afterward but this never happened and I have always wondered if this was due to the meditation and diet we practiced. The effect of the transplant was disappointing, but six months later I was on no medication and that’s how things remained for TEN YEARS. My counts gradually improved then stabilized at a low level – this is unheard of in our part of the world, and I believe it was totally due to our change in lifestyle.

After attending the cancer retreat program, I felt an internal shift and change in my attitudes. My wellbeing became a priority in my life. This, coupled with initially sticking to the diet and meditating 3 times a day, gave me a real sense of power and control over the cancer, which must have helped immensely. Our lifestyle changed to a more peaceful existence, we associated more with positive people, and my supportive husband grew a huge vegetable garden. Having David attend the course was essential and he still says it was one of the best holidays he has ever had!

Unfortunately, after a ‘storm’ of lifestyle-related stress, I have recently relapsed and now have bone lesions. For a brief period, I allowed myself to get far too busy and feel that it put my immune system under too much pressure. So, in November, we were privileged to attend Ian Gawler’s last Cancer & Beyond course before he retired. It was a very special time and I am sure the lessons re-learned are going to stand us in very good stead. After some treatments to control the pain, I am pleased to say I am once again medication free.

We will always remain deeply grateful to Ian for dedicating his life to helping thousands of people coping with cancer, to live longer and to live well. He is an amazing man.

 Danielle, Cancer Fundamentals Retreat
January 2018

“Thanks for making a retreat program specifically for people dealing with cancer! Cancer is a huge wake-up call and the retreat gave me what I needed to take control of my life again and the confidence to know that the steps I’m taking now are scientifically based and will give me the best opportunity for recovery.  After reading Ian’s book I came to the retreat hoping to learn how to meditate and be a healthy vegan. I got so much more.  I got the fundamental tools and the confidence I needed to take my recovery journey seriously. In my situation that could be the difference between life and death.  I’m very grateful to the TGCF Team for your dedication – thanks.”

Spirit of Place, Elizabeth Melican
Summer 2017/18, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“In October this year, I attended my ninth retreat program at the Yarra Valley Living Centre – the new Meditation Teacher Training, Module 3 immersion – and, as always, I felt my heart expand with gratitude as I entered the grounds. There is a special energy, or spirit, about the place – the land, the trees, the river, and the deep peace that has been found by so many people who have visited there – which is palpable to me even before I reach the centre itself.”

Awakening Around Roses, Michelle Endersby
Summer 2017/18, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Brian and I are both very grateful for the solid foundation of health that we have achieved through our long association with the Yarra Valley Living Centre and the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis program – for the profound nurturing experiences we’ve had there, and the tools and techniques we have learned to be able to tune in and nourish ourselves on such a deep healing level.”

Finding Peace, Suzanne Walsh
Spring 2017, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Prior to coming to The Gawler Cancer Foundation, each time I attended a medical appointment I was a bundle of nerves and invariably a flood of tears would appear. Both Robert and I keep on shaking our heads with amazement at the peace that seems to have enveloped us. Because of this ‘peace’ I almost crave my meditation time to ensure that the ‘peace’ continues. Our new diet regime is also working a treat – in part due to the amazing help I am getting from my brother, who is relishing giving his sister cooking lessons. Our week at the Cancer Fundamentals Retreat was life-changing and I will treasure the time spent with everyone. Thank you both for giving so much of your selves and helping us.”

The Sea of Hope, Katherine Meritakis 
Winter 2017, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Although I did not know much about the [Cancer Fundamentals Retreat] program itself, I knew that for several years prior to my diagnosis, my life had been complex and misaligned with my core values and fundamental personality. I had been living on the edge with extreme ‘busyness’, endless to-do lists, and high levels of stress. I knew that if I had any chance of recovery, and reclaiming my life, I somehow needed to visit The Gawler Cancer Foundation and learn about their philosophy and principles.”

“At the conclusion of the retreat I felt more peaceful, and empowered to be the driver of my own cancer journey. Our future is a mystery for all of us – that is the beauty of life! However, with the knowledge gained from The Gawler Cancer Foundation on lifestyle, diet, meditation and emotional healing, I feel more equipped to stride forward positively, rather than allowing gloomy statistics to dictate my future.”

Rosslyn Lam – In Five Short Days
Autumn 2017, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Information provided in the sessions on diet, exercise and meditation was evidence-based, comprehensive and compelling. It all made sense to me now, and I knew this was the framework that I needed to live my life in the best possible way going forward. I had tried meditation in the past, now I knew how it worked and why it matters. I believed in it for the first time, and I realised the impact it can have on the cancer cells in my bones. Practising it seemed so much easier with this foreknowledge; the meditation sessions were delightful.”

cancer retreat testimonial paul kraus

Paul Kraus, cancer survivor and author

“… You might be interested to know that next July it will be twenty years since Sue and I came to the first 10 day retreat. It was a time when I was given six to nine months to live. There has been no trace of mesothelioma left in my body for some years. The brain tumour was surgically removed three year years ago and, Praise God I stay well. There is no trace of the tumour recurring. The metastasised prostate cancer – well I am ageing and happen to be 72, so I am not stressed. I live well, still meditating twice a day, taking important herbs and vitamins and trying to live a well balanced life. I will always remain grateful for Ian and Ruth Gawler and the blessings I received from the Foundation. Thanks, Paul.”  February 2017

Paul Kraus has his own website and has authored a number of books that highlight Ian Gawler’s work. For more information, please visit paulkraus.com/works-list

Ben Kerslake – Paying it Forward
Summer 2016/17, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“… my time at The Gawler Cancer Foundation had such a positive impact on my life and my diagnosis. I believe what I learned at the retreat has played a huge role in my current state of health, and I really want to help other people who are facing a cancer diagnosis get to a retreat program. I’ve set up a bursary fund at the Foundation, where funds raised by us can be allocated to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to attend a cancer retreat.”

Dr Melissa Monkivitch – Exploring Intentions for the Future
Summer 2016/17, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“We were so impressed and enthused by our experience at the [Set Your Compass] retreat, that we returned the following year to immerse in the process again… time out, reflection, sharing, meditating, hoping and dreaming about all that is possible in this blessed life that we live.

My partner and I are now married and are a much stronger and healthier unit thanks to the time spent on this weekend. I cannot recommend it enough and plan to book in again in the not too distant future!”

Living with Gratitude – Brenda Scarlett
Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Since my diagnosis over six years ago my life has changed dramatically. It’s as though I had a life before cancer and another after cancer. Putting my health first became imperative, so I made the decision to return to Apsley – my beloved birthplace – to live in a way that brings me happiness, and maintains balance in my body, mind and soul. I now live my life with purpose, passion, gratitude and peace.”

My New Normal – Elizabeth Schefferle
Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“At my last Neurologist appointment I was told that things looked good, my symptoms have subsided and I am mostly not troubled by them at all. I know my efforts have been rewarded and will continue to be rewarded whilst I remain on the OMS program. So with spring in the air, bulbs and blossoms about to bloom, let’s reflect on the positive changes we can make whilst on the OMS program. As I have indeed experienced there are so many positive outcomes within reach for all of us with MS, if we commit fully to the OMS lifestyle.”

A Big Learning Curve – Deirdre Loveless
Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I don’t think it was any one single thing – the whole [Life and Living Cancer retreat] was a really big learning curve, and a truly valuable experience for me at that time in my life.
Everyone had an opinion about what I should have been doing following my diagnosis. My family, my friends, they all had strong opinions about what would be best for me, but my time at the retreat really empowered me to be proactive, and gave me to the tools to connect with my own internal knowing of what was right or wrong for me… rather than getting pushed along by what others were telling me. Ultimately we all know our own bodies better than anyone else.”

Going Well, Laurenz Gattermayr

Dear Mr. Wayne Nicholls,
After reading the article, ‘Choosing my own Path through Cancer’ by Rick Freeman, I can put my own name and experience to his story. I did attend a 10-day Life & Living Retreat in July 2012, after being diagnosed in November 2011 with inoperable and incurable Lung Cancer. After radical chemotherapy, radiation treatment and the prognosis of 12 months to live, my emotions were shattered. Luckily my GP in South Australia mentioned The Gawler Cancer Foundation to me four and a half years ago. I took everything that Siggy, Paul, Maia and the rest of the staff taught us onboard. My oncologist discharged me in August 2015 and my specialist discharged me in March 2016. I am still meditating and sticking to a vegetarian diet as strictly as I possibly can. Next year, if possible, I aim to attend the follow up retreat.
I am 79 years old and going well thanks to The Gawler Cancer Foundation; and advocating very strongly for your work. If you could please pass on this note to Siegfried or Paul. Thank you very much.
Best wishes and greetings.
Laurenz Gattermayr

Wellbeing Lifting Everyday, Ann Bidstrup

I am writing to thank you all for a wonderful ‘Weekend Meditation’ at your beautiful property.

I have been a financial member of the Foundation for a long while and I know you do lots of good work, however this is the first time I have participated in one of the retreat programs.

Right from my first phone call when I spoke to Sandy (and later on, Dianne) I felt the caring, nurturing quality of the staff at the Centre.

This weekend I was delighted to actually meet Maia and Paul Bedson, who I have long admired through their excellent articles in the Magazine. I found them to also be wonderful teachers who generously and patiently gave us kindness, understanding and unstintingly shared their wisdom all the time. I loved how they wove their energies throughout the sessions. Under them a diverse group of people linked together and friendship flowed.

I am a teacher and run workshops too, so I was particularly aware of how beautifully crafted Paul and Maia’s program is, to help everyone understand, feel, begin to integrate and become practised enough, to go home and continue with their mindfulness meditation.

During the course, and now at home, I am so grateful to have learned this kind of meditation, I can feel my wellbeing lifting each day – it is a real gift.

As well as the meditation, I also loved the delicious and ‘oh-so-healthy’ food, the Sanctuary, the quality of the property (inside and out), the abundance of nature, and the very special bonus – Michael Johnson and his harp music!

It all combined to create a wonderful experience that has been so good for me.

I know you do this kind of ‘good’ over and over again for many people – I am full of admiration and will be telling more people about you.

Thank you very much.

Ann Bidstrup

My Gawler Experience – Tim Baker
Winter 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“By week’s end I think most of us would agree the experience has more than met it’s three-point mission – to provide hope that we can influence our prognosis through our own actions, to empower us to make informed decisions about our treatment options, and to help us achieve inner peace whatever the future might hold for us.”

My Journey with Overcoming MS – Corinne Nijjer
Winter 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Once I committed to the diet and lifestyle recommendations I had been taught at the Overcoming MS Retreat, everything began to improve – I lost weight, I no longer felt depressed, I began a love affair with running, and literally everything in my life improved for the better. I went from feeling hopeless and defeated, to feeling empowered and in control of my body and health.”

Choosing my Own Path through Cancer – Rick Freeman
Winter 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I came away from my first retreat program with a much better understanding of my relationship to cancer, lifestyle and the life choices that we make. My diagnosis affected all of me, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Time at the Yarra Valley Living Centre gave me the opportunity to explore these areas of my life within the context of my cancer, and I began to develop the resources to set out on my cancer journey, with much less fear, and the ongoing support from the amazing staff.

The Gawler Cancer Foundation has given me the tools to recognise, understand and manage the psychological crisis and emotional anxieties caused by the diagnosis of cancer, and how best to try and achieve a cure!”

Rick Freeman further explains the impact 4 of our programs have had on his life in this video…

Vana – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, February 2016.

Reclaiming Life – Michael Bradley
Autumn 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Attending George Jelinek’s MS retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre in October, 2013, we thought we were going to eat boiled lettuce and braised air, but the food was exquisite. And what we learnt about MS and life was invaluable. We changed our diet the day we left the retreat.”

Matt Clear – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, December 2015.

The Ripple Effect – Jan Street
Summer 2015/16, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Returning home we were so excited about implementing everything we had learnt into our lives.  Unexpectedly we both lost a lot of weight and started to feel amazing… we were different, and people wanted to know what we were doing.
During the retreat, I purchased Forks Over Knives for my dad, and after reading it he too immediately adopted a plant-based wholefoods diet, and has since been able to come off his blood pressure tablets, cholesterol medication, and reduce his diabetes insulin from 4 to 1 injection per day.  Furthermore there has been no progression of his Lymphoma, so he has been able to avoid treatment so far. At 78 years of age he rides his pushbike 100kms a week and plays golf nearly every afternoon. He is amazing!”

Bouthaina and Barrie – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participants, December 2015.

Inspiring People – Jackie Woodroffe
Summer 2015/16, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

Jackie Woodroffe is one of The Gawler Cancer Foundation’s first cancer program participants. In 1983 Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer and after being told she between six months and five years to live, decided to attend The Gawler Cancer Foundation’s ‘Living with Cancer’ program.  On reflection, Jackie says that gaining an understanding of the cancer and how she could take control of it, and her life, has been instrumental in her recovery.
“I am very thankful to the Foundation and all the support from everyone throughout my life who encouraged me to stay with it.”

Wesley &  Frauke – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participants, October 2015.

Aleksandra – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, October 2015.

Governing Grave’s Disease – Hanna Pratt
Winter 2015, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I have so much gratitude for everyone there, for what I’ve learnt at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, and what I’ve learnt from various speakers over the years at the many conferences I’ve been to. Keep doing what you’re doing – it sticks. The principles are so good they transfer across all areas of the health spectrum and are not restricted to a specific illness category.”

Travelling Well – Allison Cannon
Winter 2015, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I have now been cancer free for over 10 years. That’s the longest period in my adult life without cancer and I think it’s no accident. I’ve remained a member of the foundation ever since that stay in 2001. I keep the magazines and re-read them because they give me upbeat news. I’ve been to the conferences when I can. I visit and just sit in the garden. I hope to bring my son one day because the life skills I learned gave me the strength to keep working towards having him.”

Len – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, March 2015.

Lemons with Lyme – Emily Harrison
Autumn 2015, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“In my search to find answers and better understand health and wellbeing, I found myself at The Gawler Cancer Foundation Conference several years ago.
It was an inspiring weekend and uplifting to be in the company of so many like-minded people. It provided an opportunity to pick apart the many different layers of ‘health’ and put small changes into place. I discovered qi gong and techniques around meditation and pain management that I still use to this day. In fact meditation has been a life-changer.For a long time I was fighting not to become my illness, while simultaneously forcing myself to overcome it. Neither strategy was particularly successful, in fact it kind of made things worse! It was surrender (at first through utter despair) that softened things. It was the soft surrenders, the depths of acceptance and the gentle whispers of the heart which truly changed things. The healing and peace-making had to begin from the inside out.”

Rick & Julie – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participants, March 2015.

Freeing Myself from Fear – Linda Rocke
Autumn 2015, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I have attended ten retreats at the Yarra Valley Living Centre and each time I come away calmer, wiser, and soul-enriched to face life’s daily challenges. And a break from cooking is always a treat! At each program I meet amazing people who all have their own stories to tell. On many occasions, it’s hard to say goodbye.”

Planting a Healing Seed – Sophie Jackson (UK) OMS Participant
Summer 2014/15, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I truly believe that if I put the skills that I was taught that week into practice, that I will be well, fit, strong, and healthy for a very long time, as well as happy, calm and content and with a strong sense of inner peace.  I am eternally grateful that I found my way across the world to the Yarra Valley Living Centre and I would do  it all again in the blink of an eye!”

Second Chance – Leonor Sorrentino
Summer 2014/15, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I had the most marvellous experience at The Gawler [Cancer] Foundation. Those days learning and processing everything that had happened in my life gave me the confidence I needed to be sure I WAS GOING TO HEAL!!! It transformed our lives forever. We comprehended the power of our minds, the scientifically proven effectiveness of meditation and the pleasure of eating basic, pure, real food!!!”

The Gawler Mob – a song by Brendan “Mookx” Hanley
Brendan “Mookx “- Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, December 2014.

Why I put my hand up to be a Gawler Foundation advocate – Autumn Tansey
Winter 2014, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“So with the tremendous support of my aunt, family and friends, I attended the Life & Living 10 day retreat at the foundation’s Yarra Valley Living Centre. This is where my true healing began, because in that short time, I went from a fearful and broken human, to an empowered and broken human. Yes still broken. What I learnt was that there was no quick fix, but that I have choice. I didn’t leave there miraculously healed, but I left empowered, with the courage and tools to continue healing. And from this one retreat, my life was returned to me.”