Cancer Patients and Survivors Find Solace and Healing at Coachella: A 2-Day Respite

October 19, 2023

Collaborators Carewell, LifeScience and Jun de Leon mount wellness camp to support underprivileged survivors

Twenty cancer patients and survivors, many of them underprivileged, recently completed the first Coachella for Healing – a 2-day holistic wellness camp that provided mindful sessions and more importantly, an opportunity to step away from the rigors of treatments and to relax in the company of people who understand what each other is going through. 

Made possible by a collaboration between the Cancer Resource and Wellness Community (Carewell), functional medicine provider and advocate LifeScience Center, and renowned photographer Jun de Leon, who spearheaded the program, the first Coachella for Healing was set amid the lush, open spaces of Casa San Pablo in Laguna. 

Creative wellness retreat. The cancer warriors in attendance were offered three clusters of activities during the camp including therapeutic mindfulness activities, creative expression sessions, and nature explorations. All were designed to rally and support these warriors as they faced the toughest battle of their lives.

LifeScience expert Adrian Tan took cancer warriors through a workshop of Pain Reprocessing Therapy (RPT), an approach to treating chronic pain through mindfulness exercises that “rewire” neural pathways in the brain so that pain becomes less threatening. “Through RPT, we learn to experience pain just as it is,” explains Adrian. “We learn to free ourselves from the emotional state behind the pain.” Aromatherapist Gina Torres Evangelista prepared the participants for a peaceful night’s sleep by guiding them through an aromatherapy meditation.

The following day, Viel Tiu, also from LifeScience, led a Sunrise Somatic Movement session. Somatic exercise uses gentle mind-body movements and awareness to release pent up tension in the body and our emotions. A most welcome treat was an osteopathic massage, a holistic full body massage focused on soft tissues using very light touch and gentle short strokes. Viel explains, “Osteopathy helps the body heal itself.”

Carewell’s Toots Magsino, a mixed-media collage artist and a cancer survivor, kicked off the creative activities by teaching the cancer warriors how to make glass tealight holders decorated with translucent paper. “It was fascinating to feel the energy in the room gently convert into soothing safety,” An observed. “I could feel inner healing happening as everyone was immersed in their creative work.” Casa San Pablo’s creative wellbeing facilitators rolled out other activities for the participants including artisan pizza-making, hand-crafted jewelry-making, macrame, and hand painting jute bags and hats.

Life-changing. Gina Ledesma, a breast cancer survivor and former caterer, didn’t hold back her tears during her walks in the gardens. “I can feel a special kind of healing happening here. The free flow of tears is the signal that healing is happening,” she said. “This is like coming full circle. We’re all survivors in a way, right? Coming together this way puts a period or an exclamation point to what we have been through. I needed this.”

An, the innkeeper and a caregiver expressed, “I think as caregivers we don’t allow ourselves to feel. We can’t be vulnerable when we must be strong for our sick loved one. But doing this creative activity here, knowing that I am surrounded by others going through the same thing, gave me permission to feel again.”

For Ellen Carbon, a retired school administrator diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022, the time together allowed her a chance to reflect on her life journey. “I am single and independent. I don’t want to bother people to take care of me,” she explained. “But what I am learning now is I need to be a good receiver. I was so dedicated to my work, I probably completely forgot myself.” 

Abbygale Arenas de Leon, former beauty queen, motivational speaker, and herself a cancer warrior summed it up best in her inspirational talk at the last stretch of the retreat: “I learned to be mindful and present in the moment. Now, I make time to sit down and watch the clouds. Now, I don’t want to miss out on experiencing life as it happens.

“There is life after cancer,” Jun de Leon points out. “As dedicated caregivers, this is what we are working hard to show the cancer warriors we can support through the Coachella for Healing. Life should never be half-lived. Everyone deserves more, and I hope that this program benefits more underprivileged cancer patients and survivors with the help of many others. 

To learn more about the Coachella for Healing program and the ways to sponsor and support cancer patients and survivors on their healing journeys, contact