As a massage therapist and Pilates instructor, Bridget Hughes was shocked to learn she had breast cancer after dedicating herself to health and fitness. After a two-and-a-half-year battle with the disease, which included two lumpectomies, chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, she is now cancer-free and stronger than ever. As a result of this experience, Bridget founded The Pastures, a weekend retreat in the Berkshires that assists women with breast cancer both physically and mentally. The survivor speaks openly about how the diagnosis changed her life and her mission to support other women through the recovery process.

Q: How does it feel to be a breast cancer survivor?

A: I am so much more grateful for every day that I have. I definitely don't sweat the small stuff anymore. I see life in the bigger picture. In a way, my eyes have been opened and I'm much more comfortable in myself. I really believe in the power of healing and being able to get past it and inspire another person to do the same thing.

Q: What inspired you to start The Pastures?

A: What I really wanted to do was provide a space for women to come and support each other because I was longing for that during my recovery. The retreat provides a nurturing space for women to get together in a supportive and educational environment.

Q: How does your background in massage therapy and Pilates factor into the retreat?

A: I'm a person that's very much body-centric. I already help women who are getting ready to go into surgery or getting back on their feet post surgery. The retreat allows me to do that on a bigger scale and offer different classes, such as yoga, Pilates, dance, movement, cooking and nutrition.

Q: How can women prepare their bodies for treatment?

A: Cardio, cardio, cardio. Prepare the body like you're a prizefighter going into the ring because it really is about upper body and arm strength. Eating a clean diet, cutting back on alcohol and sugar, or eliminating those things altogether. Visualizing that you're going to come out of this on the other end.

Q: What advice do you have for women fighting the disease?

A: Never lose that sense of hope and just keep up the fight. If there's a small thing that they can focus on everyday to keep them from thinking that they're being swallowed by breast cancer and it defines them. To think that one day this will all be behind you. It sounds really ironic, but it's sort of a gift. I'm stronger and healthier than I've ever been in my life.

The next retreat is on Saturday, December 12, 2009. Visit or call 413-229-9063 for more information.