The Birth of Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreats

Karin CookeWhen Karin Cooke, RN filled in on the Oncology wing of the hospital where she worked as a young nurse in Portland Oregon in the 1980’s, she had no idea this would awaken the passion that would become her life’s work!  After years of studying integrative healing therapies, research and her own personal cancer experiences, she co-founded Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreat (KFCR) Center in Hawaii to help those affected by cancer find their way to healing.GroupRetreats

Karin feels it is her kuliana (Hawaiian for responsibility, passion) to share with others what she has learned through her own life experiences, because she feels sharing validates those experiences. She believes all of us go through journeys of great times and also of deep despair and we gain much wisdom by going through these periods. “What use is this amassed wisdom if not to be shared? It’s what life is about.”  It gives her a sense of purpose.

Karin married her high school sweetheart, David Cooke, and they had 2 daughters, Gina and Stephanie, before he was diagnosed with a cancer that eventually took his life.  She was his caregiver and primary support person for twelve years while he struggled through intensive chemotherapy in order to achieve his goal and survive long enough to see his daughters finish high school.  During this time, she worked as a nurse full time, continued her studies, and raised their two little girls.  Dave had been the fifth in his family in 3 generations to succumb to cancer; Karin believed there had to more than just what western medicine had to offer for those on a healing journey.  She vowed to find what more there was for people to heal.

The year after loosing Dave, Karin met Lew Whitney, who shared her passion for the quest for knowledge of mind/body/spirit healing.  Together they studied various healing techniques, including numerous trips to China to study Qigong and other eastern concepts of healing. Then, after a few years together Karin received a cancer diagnosis herself.  She discovered she had had abnormal PAP smears for 6 years prior to diagnosis and each year had been told by her MD they were “normal”.  It wasn’t until the report read ”cancer” that she was told there was ever anything wrong. From oncology nurse, to caregiver, to cancer patient!   Karin felt she was betrayed by her doctor and robbed of the opportunity to use less extreme healing measures than the surgery she now needed.  She realized she had anger to deal with, in addition to a cancer that needed to be removed.  And, she knew the anger would absolutely get in the way of healing; that she needed to figure a way to dissipate the negative emotions in a healthy way!  Karin felt “When you have a cancer diagnosis it is as if your life has been taken out of your hands, like a hamster on a wheel, just putting one foot in front of the other with no power to change direction.”  She needed to find a positive space, the power in which to heal.

Lew had become a Qigong monk, trained in Mainland China but made as his focus that of Karin’s support and caregiver.  They realized when you are diagnosed with cancer you need time to gather yourself, think clearly, and find the empowerment to move forward to heal.  Karin put together a ‘cancer retreat’ for herself at a small cabin in the woods, a day’s drive from her home in Oregon, where she used all the tools for healing she had been learning about.  When she returned home several days later, she felt refreshed, in charge of her own life again, and ready to move forward with the task at hand, cancer surgery and healing.

Lew and Karin married a few years later and found the beautiful, peaceful land that is now their retreat center. Here they would farm organically and sustainably, which is possible in their location in Hawi on the Big Island of Hawaii where the average annual rainfall is about 60 inches and food can be grown year-round. The idea of growing healthy food was very exciting to both of them, along with a vision of sharing their amassed wisdom by teaching others in a retreat setting. The purchase of this property in Hawaii seemed to cement that dream.

Thus, they created Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreats, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit organization.  The name ‘Kokolulu’ comes from the combining of both their nicknames; later they were told in Hawaiian it means ‘calm blood’.  Here at Kokolulu Farm Karin and Lew offer people with chronic illness an escape to a peaceful environment where emphasis is put on regaining empowerment to take charge of their own healing journey, while offering a respite from endless medical appointments, stresses and strains associated with the diagnosis, and pressures from family, friends, and jobs! They share practical healing tools that make a difference in people’s lives. Karin is a Cancer Guide and Life Coach and also helps clients navigate the medical system. It warms their hearts to know that people come to Kokolulu Farm feeling emptiness and despair and leave knowing that they have power and control over their life’s healing journey.

Beyond all the delightful treasures of Kokolulu Farms – the velvety Hawaiian air, the gorgeous view of the ocean framed by the lush rain forest filled with colorful flowers, juicy sweet papayas right off the tree and fresh organically grown produce, combined with the genuine and warm-hearted welcome from Karin and Lew- is the intention of their inspired co-creative hearts to provide a healing space that guests will be able to feel to the depth of their being when they step foot onto this sacred land.