Breast Cancer Survivors Use Fly Fishing to Help Heal Amid Recovery

by Jennifer Shea
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Some breast cancer survivors are fly fishing their way to recovery.

Casting for Recovery is a national nonprofit. It has been helping women experiencing breast cancer attend no-cost fly fishing retreats, the Pocono Record reports.

Breast cancer nonprofit

The nonprofit launched in 1996 from Manchester, Vermont. It is now based in Bozeman, Montana. Its founders are breast reconstruction surgeon Benita Walton, M.D., and casting instructor Gwenn Perkins.

CFR runs 57 retreats across the country that send more than 700 women fly fishing every year. The group estimates that 70% of the attendees at the retreats have never gone to a support group. So the retreat provides them with a valuable outlet.

Before the pandemic hit, breast cancer survivors in places like western Pennsylvania had been attending retreats and even joining the CFR staff.

“Having gone through the program as a participant, and seeing how impactful it was for me, I was sort of eager to pay it forward,” Erika Clemmer, 47, told the Record. Clemmer took part in her first CFR fly fishing retreat a year after she was diagnosed in 2012. “I wanted to share my experience with other women who are going through breast cancer because I saw how much [the retreat] meant to me.”

And in Colorado, the women gather each year for two days of lessons, entomology tutorials, knot tying, and casting practice before actually wading into the Crystal River to fish, the Post Independent reported. The weekend is free for survivors of all ages.

Retreats on hold

This June, CFR opted to cancel its 2020 retreats due to the coronavirus pandemic. But they held out hope for the 2021 season.

“This was not easy,” the group announced on its website. “We know so many women with breast cancer were looking forward to and needing the hope of something normal and connected that our retreats would have offered them. The CFR team is looking forward to supporting women with breast cancer in new ways this year as we pivot our programming.”

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