Casting for Recovery UK & Ireland (CfR) is a registered charity which supports women who have or have had breast cancer. It provides an innovative outdoor programme, the first of its kind in this country, which combines fly fishing, counselling and education to promote mental and physical healing within a rural background. This innovative programme, the first of its kind in this country, provides an opportunity for women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer to gather in a beautiful setting and learn fly fishing whilst meeting new friends and having fun. Any lady who has, or has had breast cancer, is eligible to apply to attend one of our retreats which have brought rural and urban women from all over the UK and Ireland together and created some great new friendships. Part of the programme’s innovative nature is that it promotes the British countryside to all women, without boundaries. Any lady who has, or has had breast cancer is eligible to apply to attend a retreat. CfR is very simple: ladies apply to attend (with medical clearance) and, if they are successful (places are allocated by ballot), they are then taken away on a 2½ day retreat. CfR enjoys the backing of several donors including the Countryside Alliance, so retreats are at no cost to ladies taking part. All equipment is provided by Orvis UK. Anyone who fishes can tell you that the dynamics of fly fishing provide a healing connection to the natural world, relieving everyday stress and promoting a sense of calm. With that in mind it’s amazing that no one thought of this programme before now. Casting techniques provide a gentle exercise for joint and soft tissue mobility, and casting requires no strength so is perfectly safe and comfortable – ideal for those recovering from their illness. Participants are also taught the fundamentals of fly casting, entomology, knot-tying and equipment basics - but most importantly, the ladies spend time on the water practicing catch-and-release fishing. 40,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in England alone; a staggering and overwhelming number.
That number only accounts for those diagnosed, of course, but the numbers affected by the diagnoses; the families and friends, is far, far greater. We are not able to provide retreats for anywhere near that number, of course, as we are still a small charity, but we do have big plans, and our dreams of holding two retreats a month may take shape in the not too distant future. At present, seven retreats a year is our maximum, and that is a stretch on the funding and volunteer base we currently have. This means, with around 14 ladies per retreat (a small number to ensure an intimate and informal atmosphere) 100 ladies can be put through the programme every year. Not enough, not even close, but a start, and something to build on. The retreats themselves are professional, supportive and very welcoming to those attending. Many ladies arrive feeling overwhelmed at what they have let themselves in for, but they quickly learn they have nothing to worry about. There are trained facilitators at each retreat taken from a volunteer base of health care professionals (e.g. counsellors, specialist nurses and physiotherapists.) and qualified fly fishing instructors. One on one counselling is available at any time, and the focus is on supporting the ladies, encouraging them to take things at their own pace, doing as much or as little as they feel able. Everything is geared towards the ladies, and they are receptive and delighted by the retreat.
All of our volunteers agree that the very nicest aspect of the retreat is the final morning, when each lady is assigned her volunteer guide for a morning’s guided fly fishing. From never having met before, by lunchtime they are firm friends and the banter is flowing. You would never believe the ladies and guides had only just met – such is the camaraderie, teasing and fun. In fact, many of the ladies get extremely competitive over who catches the first fish amongst the group, and the water tends to echo with shouts of delight or squeals of rage if a trout gets away! The UK and Ireland Programme Co-ordinator is Sue Hunter, who recovered from breast cancer (twice) to become an international gold medallist fly fisher, and 2008’s England Ladies National Champion. She runs CFR with the help of 2007’s national Champion Sue Shaw, and together they ensure that each retreat meets the exacting standards of beautiful location,supportive environment and huge fun. CfR has staged retreats at some of our most beautiful sporting hotels, including the Arundell Arms in Devon; Mount Falcon, Co Mayo ROI; and the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel in North Wales. In our five years of operation we have run 20 retreats and seen well over 250 ladies through the programme. CfR is growing gradually and strongly. In early 2010 we achieved charitable status and our ability to run more retreats is developing as more people hear about us, bringing us charitable donations from all over the country, as well as practical offers of help from fishing guides, counsellors, specialist nurses and physios.
or visit our web site : www.castingforrecovery.org.uk