Use Retreats To Bond with Other Breast Cancer Survivors
Wanna go fishing?
Now, before your head fills with nightmare visions of squirmy worms and tangled lines, just hold on. Casting for Recovery, a national non-profit support and educational program for breast cancer patients/survivors, is based on fly fishing: fishing with artificial flies, NOT worms. And it’s about so much more than fishing; as CFR’s Web site notes, “We provide an opportunity for women whose lives have been profoundly affected by [breast cancer] to gather in a beautiful, natural setting and learn fly-fishing, ‘a sport for life.’ Just as importantly, we offer an opportunity to meet new friends and have fun. Our weekend retreats incorporate counseling, educational services and the sport of fly-fishing to promote mental and physical healing.” And, those magical words: it’s FREE.
To sign up, visit the Casting for Recovery Web site.
Here we are, in Vermont's Green Mountains: Sunday morning, ready to get onto the stream.
I attended a CFR retreat several years ago, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. We gathered at a mountain lodge in Vermont, twelve women in varying stages of dealing with cancer: from ten years out and feeling fine, to in between chemo treatments and feeling pretty crummy. None of us had fished before; and none of us looked like the typical “outdoor superwoman”–you know, one of those slim, sculpted women who can ride a bike 50 miles, climb a cliff, and run a half-marathon before breakfast. We were more typical: young-middle-aged to older, kinda overweight (or battling not to be), pretty much a desk-job crew.
Struggling into our rubber waders on the first night was plenty of physical challenge for most of us. But we shared one thing in common, besides cancer: we all had a “what the hell, let’s give it a try” attitude. And that’s all you need at a CFR retreat: a willingness to try something new. The dynamite instructors walk you through the rest of it, from knot tying to casting practice till, on Sunday morning, you’re actually standing out in a stream, waders on, fishing rod in hand, and casting line out on the water (catching a fish is definitely optional).
I didn't catch a fish, but at least I looked like a fisherman, right?
The retreat isn’t solely about fishing. Fishing is the means to an end: bonding with other survivors around a common activity, sharing experiences, feeling less alone, taking a break from your everyday life. Learning a semi-athletic skill that’s perfectly suited for survivors: the physical motions of fly fishing provide gentle exercise for your arm and shoulder, promoting mobility and helping rebuild strength. And, at the end of the day, having FUN. I mean, a weekend at a fabulous lodge, gourmet meals, being with women, all FREE–what’s not to love? Each retreat is staffed not only with fishing instructors, but with a health care professional (physical therapist or nurse) who can answer your questions (“Is it OK for me to cast with my lymphedema arm?”) and a psychotherapist, who leads an evening sharing session.
"As a fly fisherwoman, fly tier and breast cancer expert, I heartily support Casting for Recovery as one of the best programs for breast cancer survivors that I know." - Susan Love, MD
Interested? CFR will give 34 free retreats around the country this year, from Maine to Alaska. Signups are going on NOW; it’s first come, first served, and spaces are definitely limited. So get yourself to their Web site, find the retreat in your area (you’re eligible to sign up for a retreat only in the area in which you live), and start dreaming of a warm day, the sound of a gentle stream, the empowering feeling of learning a new skill, and the camaraderie of new friends. With nary a worm in sight.
Published On: March 19, 2007