The mastectomy is over. Not nearly as painful as you imagined, but will you ever be able to get your arm over your head again? Can anyone else understand how scared and alone you feel when you look at your scars?
That’s a summary of my mastectomy experience and from what I read, I wasn’t alone. Plenty of women were in the same boat with me following their breast cancer surgery. An organization called Casting For Recovery uses nature and the sport of fly fishing to empower breast cancer survivors.
“Fly fishing is a metaphor for how we will live our lives after breast cancer: stay focused and aware of what surrounds us, move slowly with grace, and be fully present in what we are doing,” says the Casting for Recovery website.
The point is not to become a great fly fisher although 92% of participants say they will continue with the sport after going through the retreat. The point is to join with other breast cancer survivors in a beautiful natural setting to learn more about breast cancer and survivorship issues. The motion used in casting is similar to the exercises prescribed by physical therapists to recover range of motion after surgery. Who wouldn’t rather do her PT in a gorgeous mountain lake surrounded by new friends than alone in the gym?
The program is absolutely free to breast cancer survivors, and the demand for the 14 places at each workshop is strong, so participants are chosen by lottery. There are 47 retreat centers in 33 states with sister organizations in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. You may apply only for retreats in your state or region. On the website, there is a link for the residents of each state to click to find out where your area retreat is. People of all ages and stages of recovery are welcome, so whether your diagnosis was six months ago or six years ago, this is a program that might be for you.
In a 2007 share post about her experience with the program, PJ Hamel says, “The retreat isn’t solely about fishing. Fishing is the means to the end: bonding with other survivors around a common activity, sharing experiences, feeling less alone, taking a break from your everyday life.”
The 2012 retreats are mainly filled or over, but if you are like me, you need some lead time to plan. I have read about this program before, but it took a recent letter from an on-line friend to get me to investigate further and see how this program could help me. Now is the time to look ahead and gather the information so that you can be ready to apply for the 2013 retreats. Although the program is free to participants, the actual cost is about $1,000 per person, so it is definitely not too early to consider donating your time, money, or other resources to Casting for Recovery.
A important metaphor in a Casting for Recovery retreat is the ripple effect. Imagine the ripples in the water as each woman tosses a stone in the water joining with the other ripples and extending outward. The idea of these retreats is that learning a new skill with other breast cancer survivors will ripple outward creating new peace and confidence.