Casting For Recovery

I came across this wonderful program -- Casting For Recovery -- Founded by Gwenn Perkins, who was director of the women's fly-fishing programs for Orvis, and Dr. Benita Walton, a reconstructive surgeon and fly-fisher. Casting ...

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I came across this wonderful program -- Casting For Recovery -- Founded by Gwenn Perkins, who was director of the women's fly-fishing programs for Orvis, and Dr. Benita Walton, a reconstructive surgeon and fly-fisher. Casting For Recovery seeks to enhance the lives of breast cancer survivors by providing retreats designed to promote and support mental and physical healing. The founders are committed to socioeconomic and cultural diversity. Each two-and-a-half-day retreat is offered at no cost to participants.

Read the article below and explore their website, learn more about CFR by visiting

Perhaps this will be just the experience you need to help restore and heal your body, mind and spirit.

In Good Health
Janet Fenimore
Cancer Wellness Coach

Katya Bowen

"Why isn't this working?" asks my student. She's attempting to cast her 4-weight rod, to place a piece of chartreuse fluff on the surface of Laurel Lake, near the town of Lee, Massachusetts. She looks much the same as other students I have taught; wearing summer clothes, sunglasses, a ball cap, and a vest that is a little too big. However, she also wears something that most of my other students have not; a wig to cover a head left bald by chemotherapy.

It turns out that she has strung her line through the hook-keeper as well as the guides. After correcting the problem she is on her way. By the time we break for lunch, she is executing a tight loop, and is smiling at the enthusiastic praise from her instructors and fellow students. Later she will have her picture taken holding a comical papier-mch Atlantic Salmon named Salmo, and will laugh at the fashion statement she makes in her waders and boots. She is the latest in a line of Casting For Recovery alumni.

Casting for Recovery participants (shown above at a recent retreat at Laurel Lake) learn to fly fish for physical and mental therapy. They are all survivors of breast cancer. The weekend retreats are paid for by corporate sponsors.

Casting For Recovery was created to enhance the lives of women who have been affected by breast cancer. Its founders are Gwenn Perkins, who was director of the women's fly-fishing programs for Orvis, and Dr. Benita Walton, a reconstructive surgeon and fly-fisher. Perkins and Walton sought to create a program where women with breast cancer could have the opportunity for physical and mental healing through the sport of fly-fishing. The casting used in fly-fishing provides joint motion and soft-tissue stretching, which aids in the recovery of tissues damaged by surgery and radiation. In addition, the sport of fly-fishing provides a sense of calm and stress relief, and allows the participant to enjoy the benefits of interacting with nature.

Perkins, Walton, and a team of instructors held the first CFR retreat in 1996 in New York. The response was overwhelming. Since that time, retreats have been held all over the country, including Maine, Arkansas, Vermont, New York, Alaska, and Michigan. To date, CFR has provided retreats for 300 breast cancer survivors. CFR provides two-and-a-half-day retreats in beautiful natural settings for women who have been affected by breast cancer. There are no pre-requisites to attending a CFR retreat; the only condition to be met is that of breast cancer survivor. The retreats are provided at no cost to the participants, and include lodging, meals, and professional instruction. A typical retreat consists of 14 students and an all-female staff, which includes four fly-fishing instructors, a health-care professional, and a psychotherapist. Funding for the program comes from grants, corporate donations, and the private sector. Program director Susan Balch emphasizes that the retreats are not just about fly-fishing. "This isn't a fishing club," she says. All activities are optional. Students can learn to tie knots, cast a fly-line, watch a slide show about aquatic insects--or they can take a nap. It is all up to them.

On the last day of the retreat, the students are spread out along a stretch of the Housatonic River. After a quick lecture on fishing techniques by the Lee retreat lead instructor Marilyn Moran, they enter the water. It is a gorgeous spring day; blue skies, temperatures in the 60's, orioles singing in the trees. Thanks to the generosity of some local guides, it is almost a one-to-one student-to-guide ratio on the river. Looking upstream and downstream, there is an entourage of mothers, wives, sisters, a teacher and an architect, a minister's wife, and a horsewoman, a Harley biker, and an artist. As I show my student how to use the down and across method with a streamer, we hear the joyful shout of another student upstream. "I got one! I got a fish!" All heads turn in the direction of the voice. Sure enough-she's got a beautiful Housatonic River brown trout on her line. The trout is released, and the student can barely contain herself. Her instructor Seline Skoug, executive director of CFR, gives me the thumbs-up from upstream. Another CFR success story.

In 2001, the Orvis Company will match your donations to Casting For Recovery. Send your donations to: Casting For Recovery, c/o The Orvis Company, Historic Route 7A, Manchester VT, 05254. You can also learn more about CFR by visiting their website,, or by calling 888-553-3500.

Katya Bowen is a graduate student pursuing her Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Worcester State College in Worcester, Massachusetts.


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The Breast Cancer Site needs your help to provide Free Mammograms - Visit
Each time you visit The Breast Cancer Site and click on the donation icon, sponsors contribute to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The contributions are used to fund free mammograms for low-income women. Last year, 4.7 million clicks resulted in tests for more than 400 women. Check out the site and Click!

After Kathryn Tunstall, president of a medical device company, was diagnosed last year with stage II breast cancer, she founded to connect people to emerging medical treatment options. A spin-off of the site is Check out this site for the latest information.

Mount Sinai Breast Health Resource Program - A recently created Men's Breast-Cancer support group to provide support and increase awareness that breast cancer is not solely a women's disease. For information call: 212.241.7491

"Free" Self-help in a Toolbox - The New Cancer Survival Toolbox audio tapes provide practical discussions, which are presented in, clear, concise, and easy-to-understand formats. This set of three tapes (available in Spanish as well) provides strategies to help you take charge of your care and make sure that you get the best treatment available. To order, call toll-free 877.866.5748


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