Our Islands, Our Future

Recently, the Maui Cancer Wellness Retreat (MCWR) for cancer survivors from Maui and Molokai was held at the Napili Kai Beach Resort. Following the Hawaiian opening ceremony officiated by Rev. John Hau’oli Tomoso, the three days focused on the retreat theme, ‘Healing Cancer from the Inside Out’. Led by Dr. Bridget Bongaard and a staff of healthcare professionals, MCWR, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was attended by 21 cancer survivors who all received scholarships to participate. Dr. Bongaard, a board-certified internal medicine physician with a post-doctoral fellowship in integrative medicine, designed the event to help cancer survivors, with any diagnosis, transform their lives into a new and better level of health and wellness.

“Integrative medicine looks at all angles to solve problems,” Bongaard explained. “My approach to wellness is a three-dimensional process, physical, emotional, and spiritual. When one has the power of information to make changes, the results become apparent quickly. Best of all, the ripple effect of building community, having support, and being able to care for ‘self’ is massive. It creates effective problem-solving and resilience strategies. It works to eliminate suffering while improving the physical, emotional, and spiritual quality of lives. We look forward to starting healing circles and to supporting each other as the journey — and more retreats –continue.”

A key MCWR presenter was board-certified Lifestyle Medicine physician, Dr. Irminne Van Dyken, who is also a trauma surgeon on Maui. Patrick Brault, a participant from Pukalani said, “Van Dyken’s presentation was relevant information to anyone with cancer. Her talk, “How to Restore the Physical Body to Heal” highlighted the importance of diet, nutrition, physical activity and the dangers of tobacco use and stress.” Attendee Ben Massenburg summarized the general feedback from all the MCWR participants, “With great teachers and fellow cancer survivors, we stood together and supported each other, learning techniques to create a more resilient spirit to promote healing.” A closing ceremony by Rev. Tomoso charged the cancer survivors to move forward in their healing journey. Attendee Rhett Ferguson concluded, “No one fights alone; this was never more evident than during this MCWR.”

“The MCWR program is specifically designed to teach participants skills to meet difficult challenges. With faith and community, there is always hope.”
To learn more about the MCWR contact Dr. Bongaard at

Rev. John Hau’oli Tomoso, Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Wailuku