by Jennifer Lingvall, Founder of Wigwam Fest
I am grateful for my body every day–that I have the ability to move and be alive. For a brief time, I wasn’t sure that would be the case.
Three years ago I was diagnosed with an aggressive triple negative breast cancer. I was barely 31 (with no family history) and living with my boyfriend Erik, whose mother was also fighting breast cancer; only she was in stage IV.
It was a major awakening. I seriously considered following her path and moving to the Eastern hemisphere to explore natural healing, but my tumor was off-the-charts aggressive and my docs were, of course, very against it (not to mention the strong-willed Steve Jobs had just lost that battle). So, I decided it was probably best to approach healing with a combination of Eastern + Western methods.
By the way, I was the producer of a party company…
Used to vodka and Jameson shots, I started taking a new kind of cocktail: Eight rounds of nasty chemo straight from the mixologist … BUT I paired it with every resource I could get my hands on: Detox plans, choking down Chinese herbs four times a day (so gross), sound therapy (still our #1 go-to when we can’t sleep), acupuncture three times a week, mediation, yoga, foot baths, essential oils, juicing, hypnotherapy (thank GOD for this). I cleaned out my food and beauty cabinets, revisited my diet, swapped over to safe cleaning products, Durga became my best friend. I tried everything.
Meanwhile, there were parties to be thrown…
Like a St. Patricks Day Festival with 5,000+ intoxicated people.
I had just had an egg retrieval procedure and could barely stand up straight, but I was there. Definitely the only sober one.
A few days after my first chemo treatment, I threw an art auction. (My mom and sister came down to help.)
I knew my hair was going to fall out, so I got a mohawk from our friend/hairstylist Mandy. Other supportive friends got them, too. Trey and Maria somehow grew more hair. Odd.
Then I threw a date auction fundraiser for my nonprofit One Love Generation.
Then I put on a (costumed) 5K.
And a gallery exhibition for the One Love kiddos.
And then my hair fell out. You know that time you thought you wanted to be a rebel and shave your head like Natalie Portman in “V for Vendetta“? Or Britney (ha). Well, that’s a good idea for about a day. It was actually gone. It has been three years now, and only recently reached a length where I feel confident (read: like a girl) again. I never knew how much my hair defined me until it was gone. Totally ridiculous. But I will say there was a part of me that felt like I earned some sort of badge and it was cleansing in some strange way.
Almost six months later, Erik and I went to Key West for a “bon voyage, boobs” trip. It was the only time I wasn’t sporting a beanie.
When we got back, I went in to have a double mastectomy and full reconstruction. Two major female parts that define a woman: My hair, and my lady parts…gone. That night before surgery I had a naked cry fest staring at my marked up breasts for the last time in the mirror. I hope none of you every have to do that. The reality is, I have multiple girlfriends who have been diagnosed, some of which I met through this experience. Others have been in my group of girlfriends for years. About 1 in 8 US women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
When I got out of surgery the doctors told me they could not find my tumor, that the chemotherapy had done it’s work–literally destroyed it. My oncologist later told me we went into that fight with a 20% chance chemo would have been effective. TWENTY. PERCENT. And I was deemed to have “complete pathologic remission” (translation: 100%). What have we learned here? Basically, doctors are like weathermen: 20% chance doesn’t mean shit.
With the help of my army (see: lineup), I slowly picked myself up off the ground. I dabbled in exercise. One night, I told Erik I was thinking about taking a dance class. He jumped online and put that thought into action. I went the next day and fell in love with moving my body all over again. I’ll never forget the healing prisms of light reflecting off the beveled edge mirrors on to the floor. It is still a constant healing light for me and is reflected in the prismatic branding of Wigwam (I’ll get to that).
One month after my final surgery, Erik proposed.
We ran off to get married in Bali.
His mother, a goddess healer herself, passed shortly after.
Which brings me to now and a new kind of festival I’m working on (sans throngs of drunk people): Wigwam Wellness Festival.
Wigwam has been a vision for some time, inspired by the brilliant resources I’ve either personally had the honor of experiencing or someone from the core team has sworn by. I think I’m still here because I can be a resource for all the seekers out there. I have a gift for presenting experiences in a fun way, but the instructors are the real magic where guests come alive. I hope you will join us for an adventure that will inspire and excite.
What’s Wigwam Fest? It’s kind of like a music festival with nine stages, but the “stages” are in nature: A pavilion, a rooftop deck, a garden, a pond, an outdoor classroom, a walking path, a theatre, etc. You’ll truly feel like you’re on vacation, far away from the city. And the “acts” are wellness related–anything from fitness (stand up paddleboard, various types of yoga, salsa dancing, barre, Pilates, Stellar Bodies boot camp, etc.) to speakers (inspirational journeys and badass entrepreneurs like Jennifer Levison, Missi Wolf, and Ladypreneur), to workshops (ayurveda, vision mapping, sound therapy, an exercise in “Shine Theory,” meditation, chef demonstrations, juicing, how to read food/beauty labels, and much more).
Where is the Festival Held? It’s held at the beautiful Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell, just 16 miles north of Buckhead (day trip!). The event will be in 9 different venues over 127 acres. Click here to see a few photos of the venue.
When is Wigwam Fest? The festival dates are April 12, April 19, April 26 and May 3. You can purchase a single day or series pass. When you purchase your ticket, you sign up for (4) one hour experiences you’re interested in for that day. All fests are on Sunday from about 9-5.
What is a typical fest day like? Each Sunday starts with an opening ceremony for the group (every week is different), then you go to your first two experiences, break for late lunch/market/exploration time for 1.5 hours, then have 2 more experiences.
Get tickets and use code “wittypretty” for $10 off!
We’re giving away a pair of tickets to be used on the day of your choice! Just comment below and tell us why you want to attend (and tag the friend you want to bring if you’d like). Make sure the “post to Facebook” box is checked. The winner will be chosen Friday, April 3 at 5 p.m.