A "spa day" does not mean what it once did for Bridget Ford Hughes. A massage therapist who worked at Canyon Ranch
for many years and travelled the globe as part of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger's entourage (which is how she ended up massaging Mick Jagger on the island of Mustique), Hughes and her husband, sculptor Jonathan Prince
, settled five years ago into a beautifully renovated dairy barn in Southfield, MA, where he could make his large-scale stone sculpture and she would run a personal training-and-massage studio. But before she could launch her business, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the massage tables were turned upside down. "The surgeries made me very weak," says Hughes, who had lumpectomies, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgeries. "For a long time I could not raise my hands over my head."
Now that she is finally healed and has regained her strength, Hughes's luxuriously minimal spa-in-the-barn (below) is open to men and women who want her full attention with a one-on-one yoga or Pilates class ($50) perhaps followed by an hour-long Swedish massage ($85) in her vast vaulted-ceiling studio that overlooks an indoor gallery of John's art. Just driving to her rural studio (about 10 minutes from Route 7 in Sheffield), you begin to de-stress and her gentle, earthy demeanor makes you feel like you're working out with your new best friend.
But if you are a woman with breast cancer, you can come for a wellness weekend at The Pastures
, as the farm is called. "I want to create a sacred space where women with breast cancer can heal," says Hughes, who will offer meditation, nutrition and cooking classes, as well as Pilates, yoga, dance and massage. "And I will offer Aruyvedic treamtents." Hughes is currently enrolled in Kripalu's Ayurvedic program
, making an intensive study of the ancient Indian holistic approach to health.
Although Hughes is deeply empathic, it is her thorough understanding of the mind-body connection that makes her a healer. From her own experience, Hughes believes women with breast cancer are not adequately prepared for the physical challenges they will face. "Basically, surgeons don't tell you anything," she says. "They don't want to freak you out." Hughes wants to help women get ready so they'll recover faster. "Before surgery, you should prepare like a prize fighter getting ready for a bout," she says.
While there are scores of organizations and support groups for women with breast cancer, Hughes felt isolated battling her illness in the Berkshires, even though she had a devoted partner. "It seemed like I did everything alone," she says. "Girlfriends who haven't had cancer can only understand to a degree." So one weekend a month (beginning December 11 - 13
), she will send John and the dogs away for two nights so The Pastures can be a retreat for women like herself. "Cancer is the club you never thought you'd join, but you become a member for life," she says. "I am happy that I can use my home as a clubhouse."
1100 Clayton Mill River Road, Southfield, MA