Katerina Gmitter and Jessica Murley set out on a mission in 2019 to support the North Carolina women’s cancer community with space, connection, time and hope. For both women, their “why” runs deep, and like for so many, it is a family affair. Katerina, an 11-year triple negative breast cancer survivor, was 20 years old when she lost her mother to metastatic breast cancer. Jessica lost her father to metastatic pancreatic cancer four years ago. Both women had unique experiences with this disease, yet they shared a common realization: holding space for connection and self-care is critical for healing. And with that, Healing Pines Respite was born.
A Local Helping Hand To Start
The mission of this organization is to provide time and space for women with breast cancer, as well as other cancers. They recognize that healing is not linear, and as Katerina said, “once you’re thrown into the world of a cancer diagnosis, you realize the gap for healing that needs to take place.” Healing Pines Respite was connected with local non-profit Genevieve’s Helping Hands near its inception, and the team lived up to their name by extending a helping hand to help this new partner grow. Just as we’ve recently covered their partnership with Beacon Bragg, Genevieve’s Helping Hands had also initiated a fiscal-partnership with Healing Pines Respite that would allow them to accept donations and immediately start impacting women facing breast cancer of North Carolina while they worked on finalizing their 501c3.
Programming to Heal
Healing Pines Respite has served survivors and thrivers around the state with daylong respite sessions as well as 2-night sleepaways, outdoor yoga classes, speakers and resources. Programming is free thanks to funding through grants, partnerships and donations. When Covid hit, many spas and opportunities were shut down, but the duo expanded into online programming and outreach. “Covid shut down many things, but a cancer diagnosis was not one of them,” said Katerina. It was important to continue their efforts and make sure women knew they were not going through this alone.
Next month, Healing Pines Respite will host their first 2-day respite since the shutdown at Pinehurst Resort and Spa, supported with partnerships from Elliott’s on Linden, Om Shanti Healing, and Andrea Bridger Yoga.
“Healing happens when you’re surrounded by women that understand. Everyone has different experiences, but there is a commonality without having to explain it,” says Katerina. “There is something about sitting with fellow survivors and holding physical space with them. Your journey is recognized, and you know you’re not alone.”
The respite programs are currently serving North Carolina women who are in treatment or within two years of completion. Healing Pines Respite serves women with all cancers. You can apply to join a program here.
Support The Cause
Katerina and Jessica are celebrating the return of in-person respites and have sights on sustainable expansion to serve more women across the state. “We are always looking for volunteers, funding, and partners to expand our mission,” says Jessica. “If you think of someone that could be a good fit, please put us in touch.”
Here are some other ways to connect with the group:
- Engage on Facebook and Instagram
- Sign up for volunteer opportunities that include communications, grant writing, event services, and more
- Make a tax-deductible donation
- Become an event sponsor or partner by connecting with the team
“For me cancer was apart of my story,” said Katerina. “This is turning wounds into medicine as it has helped with my healing as well. We are honored to help other women move forward.”