Casting for Recovery
Casting for Recovery, is a blog post written to share my experience and to tell you about the people I met the weekend that I attended. I have shared information about this fine organization with other cancer survivors. That is how strongly I feel about the benefits of this program. I’m happy to report, I had some interested takers who signed up and they are waiting anxiously to see if they have been chosen. It is a brief and yes, sometimes emotionally intense weekend. But, it is mostly about learning the fly fishing technique and how to enjoy this peaceful and beautiful sport. The weekend is about knowing that there are moments outside of breast cancer and recovery.
I want to introduce you to Kristen Kile who wrote the guest blog featured below. Kristen was our lead instructor at the event I attended. We hit it off immediately. Was it our shared sense of humor? Love of the outdoors? I’m not sure but it just worked. I was absolutely amazed at her skill and passion for the sport. Her patience was boundless as she taught 13 breast cancer survivors how to tie, fly and cast that weekend. With that, I invite you to read this heart-felt blog that she wrote. Thank you so much, Kristen, for sharing this with me. Don’t quit the fishing gig, my friend, but you’ve got a great, creative style of writing.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
The voice cut through the din of the crowd as the ball careened off the side of my foot, trickling its way out of bounds. Shit. The other team immediately called timeout and players raced to their respective benches.
“We have seven seconds to not lose this game, so you better wake up. We are up by one. They are in the double bonus. Play defense. Do not foul but if you do make sure it’s hard enough they don’t make the shot. Do I make myself clear?!”
Bent over with hands perched on knees the sweat rushed down tendrils of hair tucked behind my ears. I listened intently, knowing the instructions were for all but the glare for me alone. I stiffened to standing knowing I had to find a way to repair the damage. This culminated in my teammates scraping me off the floor after a freight train of human being ran me down on the way to the basket. The referees called a charge and we were able to pull off a win. On the jog to the locker room a hand grabbed the scruff of my neck.
“Way to be mentally tough!”
For years my understanding of the term was derived not from real life but a game. Pure folly compared to what I would learn on the pine shaded grounds of Camp Tontozona.
Sun broke across the freshly manicured lawn, dots of prismatic dew sprinkled about. The ladies sat relaxed in the shadow of a large tree, a few shivered from the light breeze but found the shade partial to the high elevation beams a few feet away. They listened patiently, watched intently, at the demonstration before them. Back and forth the instructor performed until the crowd was ready. From the darkness the women rose to proceed, to cross the threshold into the light and let the sun wash over them in their first steps of a new journey. I couldn’t help but think the act poetic as I squinted out beyond the dusky veil. Quelling my own anxiety I hopped over the threshold like a pitcher over the first base line and began assisting.
As I made the rounds I knew I was witnessing true mental toughness, not a silly ball game that ends when the buzzer sounds. Although they too fight for the almighty win the game is vastly different for the women, with far more at stake. What I was seeing was the waking up each day to face the music that no one wants to hear. Like a jukebox with a really bad lineup already paid for it won’t go away without time. The women of a Casting for Recovery retreat share a hymnal sheet in their battle to survive; marching against breast cancer. When the body fails the mind prevails. The red cells that rebel are put in their place by the grey matter that makes up just a fraction of a physical being. Although mind over matter is an acquired trait for many, when looking into the eyes of these women it was clear that the fortitude was not learned but engrained in their soul. A truth so beautifully displayed in the elegant way every woman cast a fly rod. Each toss of the line they cast off some of their fear, their pain, their anger.
My presence felt intrusive, like stumbling into an occupied confessional, but the ladies made me feel so welcome. They were patient with me, answered my questions and laughed courteously at my bad jokes. It was my job to help them learn how to fly fish but here they were teaching me how to properly use my mind, how to truly live. Through stories and even a few recipes divulged under penalty of death, we lived and learned in the glory of the high country. Casting, catching, caring. And whether any of the women pick up a fly rod ever again in their lives I hope the time they spent on the water among friends was as deeply moving as it was for me. For although all the women were a few years my senior, I felt like a mother hen tending her flock, wishing to dote on their every moment. Until I remembered that they were not fragile newly hatched chicks. These women were strong and powerful, resilient in mind and body, and with that thought I felt better. Even still they had to extricate themselves from my clutching goodbye hugs.
Casting for Recovery is the wonderful non-profit that aims to improve the quality of life for women with breast cancer. As a volunteer powered group they are always in need of assistance whether it be tying flies or fundraising. Check out your local region of Casting for Recovery and consider giving your time, I can guarantee you will be glad you did.