Wonderful Women Connect at the Women’s Retreat

Our first ever MDNSW Women’s Retreat (for women who live with a neuromuscular condition) was held at the picturesque Gibraltar Hotel Bowral over the weekend. What a very special time, full of laughs, tears and life-changing experiences for the 14 women who participated.

Our theme for our welcome dinner was ‘sparkle and shine’. After a fun photoshoot we shared a delicious three course meal making connections and celebrating the sisterhood. The food was superb and generous, everyone loved it and the service was impeccable. The view from our dinner was so lovely with Mt Gibraltar shining in the dusk and cockatoos soaring past. After dinner the women shared their lives, the positives, challenges and the strengths within.

The buffet breakfast has made a welcome return, served with lots of chatter and spectacular views! It was a perfect day to head off to town for the markets and some high street shopping. Some of the group were nervous about the 4km round trip (by wheelchair) and navigating rocky roads and unfamiliar areas, but we all managed to have fun and take the long way round, buoyed by the Thunderbolts car rally honking us as they passed in their hotted up Ferraris and Lamborghinis!

We made it back to the hotel just before the storm hit, which made for a perfect indoor crafternoon creating Christmas cards, learning new skills of stamping and design, and singing along to the festive tunes. Some participants took a dip in the heated pool, had fun exploring the lush gardens, had a nap and took many pictures of the beautiful surroundings.

On Saturday evening, we gathered in an ambient lounge bar for our Spring Cocktail party. The open fire and music, paired with cocktails and canapes, made for great conversations and connection. Laughs aplenty at Games Night playing musical catchphrase and listing gourmet cheeses and celebrity crushes!

The entire group were blown away with the facilities at the Gibraltar Hotel. The rooms were spacious and well-appointed. The four accessible rooms were truly accessible and even the standard rooms were well suited to our participants needs which is so rare. One participant didn’t want to go home so booked another night!

The feedback from this event has demonstrated the incredible power of peer connection and created a special supportive bond between women. Participants said they loved not having to plan and organize every detail themselves and knew it would cater to their needs. Some people saw it as an opportunity to try out a short stay before planning a bigger trip and others just relished the opportunity to have a refreshing break away with people who ‘just get it’.

Participants comments:

“First ever MD Women on Wheels retreat. Here’s hoping it becomes an annual event.” – Christie.

“I went to the MDNSW retreat for women with neuromuscular disorders. I thought even if I stayed in bed most of the weekend but I just got to meet the other ladies and connect at ONE activity, the weekend would have been more than worth it. That was probably all I could manage I figured. Instead of being stuck in my house and bed, I can be stuck in a new place and new surroundings. I love exploring new places. Well, I had the most amazing weekend ever!!!!! I got to do ‘normal’ things. I felt connected and had a complete sense of belonging…. I felt so loved, so safe and I had so much fun. First weekend of using my wheelchair full time and I did a 6km return trip on main roads. I have gained six beautiful friends. And the mums looked out for me too, so thank you so much, Jennie and Lynette. I will never forget the memories from this weekend 😍. Here is to staying friends and sharing laughs when we are old, wrinkled and grey. 🥂 Special thanks to Carolyn and Joan at MDNSW and also the behind the scenes work by Jenny. This is life changing. Thanks so much for your Peer Connect Program and for letting me tag along even though I am from Canberra.” – Su Mon.

“I had a great weekend with a bunch of absolutely AWESOME ladies. Amazing food, drinks, laughs, wines, tears, craft, adventures, more laughs and more food and most importantly a weekend full of memories that’ll last forever with some ladies who I hopefully get to hang out with more often in the near future. Oh AND I got to take my mum. I haven’t had a little holiday away with my mum for a very, very long time.” – Natalie.

Article written by Carolyn Campbell-McLean.