Casting for Recovery is a non-profit organization that offers women fighting breast cancer and breast cancer survivors the opportunity to experience fly fishing.
Fear. Anger. Anxiety. Those are just a few of the emotions that are commonly experienced by anyone who has been affected by breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors, in particular, can experience fear that the disease may return or that it may not be gone for good.
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According to the Corvallis Gazette-Times; “A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that 42 percent of breast-cancer survivors — more than any cancer group — reported experiencing psychological distress during the recovery, such as anxiety or another mood disorder.”
One of the best ways for breast cancer survivors to deal with these emotions is to talk with other people who have gone through the same thing. The free weekend-long fishing trips offered by Casting for Recovery not only teach the participants how to fly fish, they also provide group therapy sessions and group meals that go a long way toward helping the new anglers recover and deal with the emotional aftermath of a fight against breast cancer while also forming lasting friendships.
Approximately 70 percent of the women who participate in Casting for Recovery retreats have never attended a support group meeting. However, the retreats can be very powerful gatherings for breast-cancer survivors to participate in, says Karen Kreft. Kreft is a 52-year-old breast cancer survivor who volunteered with the non-profit for several years before eventually attending a retreat herself.
“You might be the only one who’s had it,” she said, “but when you get in that group, all of a sudden, you’re all the same. I think that’s very, very important. You hear from people that their treatment was worse or better or they’re struggling with something worse. You’re not alone.”
The benefit of fly fishing for breast cancer survivors may not be readily apparent to most people. However, there are several reasons why fly fishing makes for a very therapeutic experience for these brave survivors.
The Casting for Recovery site says:
On a physical level, the gentle, rhythmic motion of fly casting is similar to exercises often prescribed after surgery or radiation to promote soft-tissue stretching. On an emotional level, women are given the opportunity to experience a new activity in a safe environment amongst a supportive group of peers. The retreats provide resources to help address quality-of-life issues after a breast-cancer diagnosis, and a new outlet — fly fishing — as a reprieve from the everyday stresses and challenges of their cancer.
The combination of physical and emotional benefits that fly fishing can offer breast-cancer survivors is truly remarkable. So many changes occur after fighting breast cancer that many survivors describe it as a transformation of sorts. That transformation can include different physical changes caused by cancer treatments and struggles with things like body image. Many breast cancer survivors also experience having trouble lifting their arms above their heads for a while after treatments.
Fly fishing can be the perfect remedy to some of those changes and issues. Although learning how to cast a fly rod and even simply holding the rod up can be challenging for some survivors, as time passes, the repeated motion and activity begin to help them grow stronger.
Physical strength is not the only thing that grows stronger with these survivors. Spending time with other courageous people who have dealt with the same challenges helps emotional and mental strength grow as well.
In addition to any negative changes breast cancer survivors may experience, the transformation can also include positive things, such as new friendships with other survivors and new hobbies, such as fly fishing. Casting for Recovery is doing everything it can to help as many breast cancer survivors as possible realize they can still have fun and create new memories following treatment.
The friendships and connections that are developed on the fly-fishing retreats extend well beyond the weekend of the event, and that support is one of the most valuable things breast-cancer survivors can ask for.
For more information about Casting for Recovery’s retreats or about how you can help, visit their website here.