Luring them in: Unique retreat, Casting for Recovery, pairs breast cancer survivors with fly-fishing
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The ultimate stress test has to be cancer.
After the initial shock and fear over the diagnosis come the treatment options, the side effects, the unknown outcome of it all.
Rosemarie Cirina knows all about it. She is a 22-year breast cancer survivor and has also been at the side of a family member diagnosed with the same disease. She lost a brother and both her parents to cancer.
Today, Cirina is cancer-free and volunteering for an organization especially equipped to help women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s called Casting for Recovery, a national nonprofit that provides these women a weekend retreat away from the everyday stresses and strains. The next one here in East Tennessee will be April 11-13, 2014, in Gatlinburg. Fourteen women will be invited to come to the Buckberry Creek Lodge in Gatlinburg, where they will be taught fly-fishing, learn more about their disease and meet others just like them.
There will be medical professionals at the retreat — a lymphedema therapist, oncologist nurse, psychologist — along with fly-fishing professionals, past participants and local volunteers.
A healing force
CFR was founded in 1996 by a breast cancer reconstructive surgeon and professional fly fisherman in Vermont. It was founded on the principles that the natural world can be a healing force and that cancer survivors deserve one weekend free of the stresses from medical treatment, home or workplace. The women get to experience something new and challenging in a beautiful setting.
The retreat is absolutely free to participants.
Because Cirina believes in this program and wanted to help, she decided to come up with a fundraiser for CFR. It didn’t take her very long to come up with a plan.
Whenever she gets overwhelmed, she heads to the gym for a workout. That’s when she decided to ask her gym, The Rush Fitness Complex in Alcoa, to team up with her and CFR.
They jumped at the chance. The Rush will be holding a fundraiser for CFR on Saturday, Oct. 5. Anyone in the community is invited to come by, starting at 9 a.m. and participate in a cycling, Zumba or Groove class, for a minimum $10 donation.
All of the money raised that day will go to send women from East Tennessee to the CFR retreat. The Rush facilities in Lenoir City and the one on Chapman Highway will also be participating.
“I found out about Casting for Recovery four years ago when I went to Little River Trading to get my bike repaired,” Cirina said. “There was a card with a pink ribbon on it that was advertising a bike ride and all the proceeds went to CFR. I researched what it was all about and thought it would be a good way of giving back the life I was given to help someone else that might not have had the support I did.”
Then two years ago, Cirina was at the side of a close family member who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Cirina encouraged her to attend a CFR retreat. They went together, and Cirina said it was a defining moment.
“That weekend was a breakthrough for her,” Cirina said. “I was able to see her accept cancer for what it was and that there is life after breast cancer and treatment.”
All ages, stages
Lindsay Long is program coordinator for Casting for Recovery in East Tennessee. The national organization got its start here in 2006 when friends Charity Rutter and Mary K. Jenkins launched it.
Women in all stages of breast cancer and in all age categories are welcome to attend the retreats. “We have had women attend the retreat in their 90s,” Long said.
Long is also a breast cancer survivor. She attended a Casting for Recovery retreat a few years ago in North Carolina. She has heard stories firsthand from the women helped by this organization.
“I have been to a retreat where four women at the same retreat had considered suicide during their cancer journey,” she said. “There was one woman who was new in town and didn’t know anybody so she drove herself to and from her mastectomy. Everybody’s experience is different.”
Long said women who are literally fighting for their lives in Stage 4 breast cancer, attend the retreat. Casting for Recovery offers all of them this opportunity to meet other survivors, try their hand at fly-fishing and gain knowledge that will help them on their journey of healing.
Fundraisers are very important for this nonprofit, Long said. In addition to the Oct. 5 event at The Rush, there is that annual bike ride to be held on Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend. Those interested can register online at http://www.turningleaftour.com .
Several fly fishermen in the area graciously volunteer each year for this retreat experience. Long said they get as much from it as the cancer survivors. And while some might wonder about the connection between fly-fishing and cancer, it ties together on many levels, Long said.
“Fly-fishing is mentally healthy because it gets you out and away from the stresses of your life,” she said. “It helps you forget what is going on in your world. Physically, it’s good soft tissue stretching exercise. It’s also good for balance. And women who have had breast cancer need to be physically active.”
Every day, more than 500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Casting for Recovery continues to reach out across the nation to offer them respite as they take the road to recovery.