Great escape helps women heal

Cathy Backus has never been diagnosed with breast cancer, but she knows well the physical and emotional toll that the disease often takes on those who have.

“When you’re hit with breast cancer out of the blue … you’re completely shell-shocked and you go into this fight-or-flight mode and you just (try to) survive. You’re just trying to get to the next step of the process,” she said.

Backus, a longtime Summerlin resident and travel industry executive, founded Send Me on Vacation in 2012. The nonprofit organization, based in Las Vegas, organizes, funds, awards and leads trips to exotic locales around the globe that are designed to help breast cancer survivors “rejuvenate and heal their minds, bodies and spirits” following treatment for the disease.

According to research published in a 2016 issue of the medical journal Psycho-Oncology, 82 percent of women with early-stage breast cancer exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after being diagnosed and before beginning treatment.

Backus, 64, witnessed firsthand the positive impact that a vacation can have when she traveled in 2006 to a Mexican beach resort with her best friend, Pam Horwitz, a two-time breast cancer survivor.

“(Horwitz) came back renewed, revitalized,” said Backus. “She said, ‘I feel like the waves took all of the anxiety and fear and stress out to sea with them, and as I was sitting in sun, it felt like I was baking goodness and warmth back into me after all of the cold chemo.’”

Backus returned from that trip determined to help other breast cancer survivors enjoy similar experiences. She and her husband, Las Vegas attorney Leland “Gene” Backus, went to work establishing Send Me on Vacation. (Horwitz now serves on the organization’s board and chairs its survivor committee.)

While hospitals and cancer care centers typically offer “wonderful programs” for breast cancer patients, Cathy Backus said, resources for survivors can be scant. Patients often suffer from dramatic physical transformations that can result from breast cancer surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“It’s a terrible cycle,” she said. “At the end, they’re left so destroyed.”

However, when survivors “change their lives, they change the lives of everyone” around them, Backus said.

In the past six years, Send Me on Vacation has sent about 500 women on getaways. Backus attends and personally oversees each trip, which usually includes 20 survivors.

Using her travel industry connections, she has gotten hotel accommodations, cruise ship staterooms and airfares donated for the trips, which cost about $1,000 per person. Most of the funds are raised through events that Send Me on Vacation hosts in eight countries around the world.

Beginning next year, Backus said, it will rely more on private and corporate donations to raise the majority of the $100,000 required yearly to cover the costs of its five annual trips.

The organization is affiliated with hospitals, cancer care centers and international nonprofit organizations, which refer survivors to it. Vacation recipients are selected via an application process (accessible at that has women pen an essay about why they believe such a trip will help them heal.

Survivors were previously required to have experienced financial hardship as well. However, that requirement was dropped last year to make the program accessible to more women.

“We’ve never turned down anyone who qualified (for a trip),” Backus said.

Three years ago, Send Me on Vacation began offering its signature getaway, called A Mermaid’s Journey, that features a multiday, guided meditation workshop and concludes with a “phototherapy shoot,” which has participants styled from head to toe as a mermaid.

“They release all of that pent-up anger and fear” via meditation, Backus explained. “And then they use the archetype of a mermaid to find their inner beauty, strength and grace.”

A former Las Vegas resident, Heidi Lamprecht and her family relocated to Washington state in 2013. Two years later, at age 34, the mother of two was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma. She underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation treatments and also battled PTSD.

Lamprecht, who learned about Send Me on Vacation while researching online for survivor support systems, participated in A Mermaid’s Journey when she traveled with the organization in 2016 to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The weeklong trip “was fantastic,” said Lamprecht, who especially enjoyed meeting fellow survivors.

“I never had to explain myself,” she said. “We were all there and we all knew we needed something, so we had that as a sort of camaraderie.”

Earlier this year, she traveled to Cancun, Mexico, through Send Me on Vacation’s Mermaids and Angels empowerment and mentoring program, which pairs new vacation recipients with past participants.

“I realized just how much of a tribe I needed to create in order for me to keep moving forward and healing,” Lamprecht said. “Being able to go on vacations and help other women do the same thing is what helps me get up in the morning.”

MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like