When you think of breast cancer recovery fly fishing isn’t exactly the first method that comes to mind, but two Vermont women in the US have successfully brought the two together.
Dr Benita Walton, a reconstructive surgeon and Gwenn Perkins Bogart, a fly fishing guide, found the active movement of casting and fishing combined with the social element of the sport had an incredibly physical and emotional impact on breast cancer survivors. This led to the creation of the first ever Casting for Recovery (CfR) weekend retreat.
After seeing the growth of the retreats to the UK, Canada and New Zealand, a fly fishers club in ACT negotiated to start Australia’s first retreat. It was launched late in 2015 and the first retreat took place in April 2016. CfR Coordinator at the ACT Fly Fishers Inc. Nick van Weelden tells SBS, “About one woman per day is diagnosed with breast cancer in Canberra. Women of all ages and all stages of recovery are welcome, provided they received their treatment in the ACT and that they have a medical clearance that they are fit enough to participate.”
Of course not every one is an experienced fly fisher, but that’s no dramas for CfR. van Weelden explains, “There are no skills prerequisites, qualified casting instructors teach the women from scratch. It is a busy weekend and learning new skills, like casting a fly line, requires concentration. No time to think about what you left at home.”
The responses from the participants have been nothing short of inspiring. One attendee said, “Every one has been so welcoming, supportive, we feel like princesses.” While another survivor exclaimed, “Best thing that has happened to me in a long, long time.” And the impact of the retreat on their lives post-breast cancer can be summed by another woman, “Didn’t realise I could still laugh and have fun.”
The impact of the retreat on their lives post-breast cancer can be summed by another woman, “Didn’t realise I could still laugh and have fun.”
The club is hoping to conduct two retreats a year, but with all costs taken by the ACT Fly Fishers Inc. the program can’t proceed without dedicated volunteers. “Many of the women did offer to help out as volunteers at the next retreat,” van Weelden says, “Which is fantastic!” And while it appears to be a one-time experience for the attendees, they have all been offered honorary membership of the ACT Fly Fishers Inc.
At this stage there are no other CfR organisations anywhere else in Australia, but if the success of this one is anything to go by, the US might be fielding requests in the future. For further information on Casting for Recovery visit www.castingforrecovery.org.au