Having been diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of 2013, 59 year old widow, Dorothy Russell, found that one of the hardest things about treatment was no longer feeling like herself. Here she explains how, on a break from her chemotherapy, a Recovery Retreat spa break at Rockliffe Hall in County Durham helped to remind her …
As a cancer patient I was so excited to hear that Rockliffe Hall provided spa treatments for cancer sufferers. On the day I went I was around half way through my chemotherapy plan and I timed my visit to coincide with my ‘good days’ prior to the next dose. I had discovered that I had breast cancer in January. I love my clothes, my make-up, my hair and all the girlie things involved in being, or trying to be, a ‘trendy and smart modern day woman’. I am used to looking after myself but the last year has been challenging to say the least. Suddenly everything seemed to change, despite being very positive about the final outcome, I became the one to be cared for, not the carer. My body looked and felt strange, and I ceased to feel like a woman. My body seemed not to be my own but simply something that had things done to it which were consistently unpleasant and painful. I had also discovered that all the beauticians in the area refrained from giving any beauty treatments once they knew you had been diagnosed with cancer. So imagine my delight at the thought of staying in a five star hotel where I could be the old me, the me who could enjoy the pleasures of a beautiful hotel and beauty treatments, the me who was like everyone else
Rockliffe Hall is about one hour south of my home in Newcastle upon Tyne. The hall originally belonged to a wealthy land owner but since that family left it has been used as both a school and hospital. My first impressions were good; the weather on arrival was beautiful and so the hotel was bathed in light and it exuded calm and stillness, and a sense of sleepy satisfaction.
At its heart the hotel has an original hall which has been sympathetically extended on both sides so the two buildings blend with elegance and charm. The gardens, mature trees, parkland and golf course surrounding the hotel are equally inviting, while the inside of the hotel did not disappoint – continuing to be elegant and comfortable, with welcoming, warm and attentive staff. The bedrooms are large, very well appointed and comfortable, with French doors leading to a rose-lined patio which, in the sunshine, was a the perfect place to sit, enjoy the scene, and pour oneself a drink.
On arrival our luggage was put into safe keeping while our room was made ready and we were escorted to the spa, shown around, and our treatments explained. We then proceeded to be taken to the Brasserie for a light lunch which was very healthy, and completely delicious. We were immediately presented with a group of three small glasses, one of which was filled with a yellow liquid, one bright green, and one very red . I admit I looked at them very suspiciously but they proved to be very pleasant and full of all things good for you to start a process of helping our bodies from the inside. After lunch and a brief period of relaxation and allowing our food to digest, we were taken for our treatment. My therapist, Karen Jennings, was happy to explain that to qualify to do the treatment she had done a course in palliative care for complimentary therapists through Butterwick Hospice in Stockton and The University of Teeside. She immediately put me at ease and the treatment was so wonderful that I think I floated out! Next we went to the Sleep Retreat room; something we all need to renew ourselves and heal. Here sound wave therapy beds produce a gentle massaging vibration, releasing stress and calming the body and mind. This period in the Sleep Retreat ended the spa experience on a wonderful note and I started to feel more like me again. We then returned to our room which had been made ready for us with our luggage safely deposited. The sight of the comfortable, sizeable beds waiting us, the generous facilities, and a peaceful patio of our own to relax in as we contemplated the day so far and made plans to return, was wonderful.
The hotel has three available restaurants for visitors: The spa’s Brasserie which serves food with regional influences and offers a range of healthy options; the clubhouse on the golf course; and the award-winning restaurant, The Orangery. On the evening of our stay a private function in The Orangery meant that we returned to The Brasserie for dinner but we were not to be disappointed as we enjoyed another delicious meal sitting on the veranda, taking in the peace and pleasure of the country location. The staff were well versed in the various meal options and were happy to recommend dishes that they considered would suit my palate. On the morning of the following day we were pleased to experience the atmosphere of The Orangery which is the venue for breakfast. It is a stunning room full of all the things one associates with an orangery and the tables are set spaciously with views of the parkland and golf course. The range of choices for breakfast was very broad, but noticing that the choice of fresh fruit did not include strawberries which my companion had hoped for, she mentioned this quietly to me. However our keen-eared waitress overheard and having disappeared into the kitchen, re-emerged with a dinner plate of strawberries and other red fruits for my friend! This typified the care and attention to detail that all the hotel staff showed. Finally we were shown to the beautiful outdoor patio and we concluded our breakfast with coffee and a wonderful dose of sunshine and fresh country air!
– Treat yourself to a manicure after your treatment as there is nothing like a set of prettily coloured and manicured nails to help you feel really feminine!
– Leave time to go on a spa ‘journey’ in the thermal area; a wonderful experience to promote health, wellbeing, and total relaxation.
– Spend time browsing in the spa’s boutique and picking up some of the items on your personal prescription following your treatment, so you can continue the experience once home.
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