(Dubois, Wyo.) - When they arrived at the Absaroka Ranch near Dubois, they were 14 strangers from across the state of Wyoming. 14 women diagnosed with breast cancer. From age 31 to 72, from saddlemaker to physician’s assistant and non-profit director to nurse, from remission for 17 years to currently in treatment. They are mothers, they are grandmas, they are survivors!The women were gathering for the annual Casting for Recovery, a weekend retreat in July where breast cancer survivors get together to learn from and support each other, get away from the hubbub of daily life and learn how to fly fish. The local CFR is part of a national program.
Before the retreat officially started, the women had already gathered to talk, take walks and relax. The low hum of their conversation and laughter was a joy to hear. We were all keeping a watchful eye on the skies and the plumes of smoke coming from the Lava Creek forest fire burning about 10 miles away. The nearby fires continued throughout the weekend - but they did not impact the women who had come for a weekend of renewal and sharing.
During the weekend, the women learned the basics of fly fishing - from tying knots to casting a fly line to safely landing and releasing fish. But the weekend is about much more than fishing. We also had facilitator-led medical and psychosocial discussions. We gathered around the campfire for wonderful music performed by a local singer/songwriter. On Sunday, we began the day with our “Greeting the Sun” gathering which combines poems and songs that celebrate the blessings in our lives such as new friendships and natural places that renew our spirit. We concluded the retreat by celebrating success and the bonds of friendship that were formed over the weekend.
Participants spanned from Cowley to Cheyenne and Gillette to Kemmerer, and some said the following of the CfR program:
“This program changed my life. It sounds so cliché to say that, but for as much as breast cancer changed the course of my life, this program changed the course again and made me feel productive and gave me the hope and strength to continue on my breast cancer journey.”
“The love was instant and continued throughout the weekend. I was so humbled by the loving and generous spirits. It felt amazing to be pampered and to connect with volunteers who were also survivors.”
“I loved receiving instruction from seasoned fly fishing guides. I soaked up as much information from then as I could. I really enjoyed hearing the other women talk about their experiences with breast cancer. But the moment that will stick with me was the symbolic throwing of a rock in a creek that released a lot of the anger I held onto during my breast cancer fight.”
“I thought I’d enjoy myself and learn a new sport. I was so wrong. This program helped me let go of emotions (some that I didn’t even realized I had) - anger, resentment, sadness, loneliness. I know that I was able to rid myself of these and begin renewing myself both physically and emotionally. I am honored and blessed for having met these strong courageous ladies!! I am stronger and braver and I give credit to the wonderful staff, amazing participants, terrific guides, generous donors and the entire CfR Program. Thank you.”
Photos: h/t Mary Turney / Pitchengine Communities
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