LANSING, Mich. — The Grand River is a staple in Lansing. It flows through the city, serving as a place to hang out with friends, do some fishing or walk along the riverbank. For one local group, it serves another very different and extraordinary purpose.
East Lansing resident Dale Carlson visits the Grand River as part of the non-profit Casting For Recovery.
“Casting For Recovery was originally developed by a breast surgeon,” Carson says. "The surgeon is a fly angler, and she realized that using her arm to cast a fly-fishing pole was beneficial. That movement was good for stretching post-surgery. A lot of times after you've had breast tissue and lymph nodes removed, you're pretty stiff, and you can swell easily. Getting more movement, you know, provides more circulation.”
Sandy Thomley is the coordinator for Casting for Recovery Michigan. Each summer, she organizes a free outdoor fly-fishing weekend retreat for women with breast cancer at no cost to the participants. Thomley says the retreats are a much-needed reprieve for the women.
“What I see Casting for Recovery doing is making a person that's been through a cancer journey take a break, stop and take a weekend for themselves and meet other people that have gone through a similar situation,” Thomley says. "You can talk about shared experiences; you can learn something from each other.”
Thomley says 70% of Casting for Recovery participants nationwide have never been in any kind of support group before attending the retreats.
Michelle Yelovina found out she had breast cancer at age 37. For several years Michelle says she participated in the Susan G. Komen 60-mile-walk. At one of the events, she met an 85-year-old man named George, who changed her life.
“He asked me if I had a mammogram. I was like, that’s a little personal, and I am a little young to do that,” Yelovina says. "His deal is that he would go on these walks, and he would get women to promise that they would get a mammogram.”
Yelovina says she ultimately promised George that she would make an appointment to get a mammogram.
“I went to talk to my doctor, and she agreed that it would be a good baseline, and we'll compare it when you're 40”, Yelovina says. “I went, and she called me that day and said, Okay, you need to see a surgeon.”
After Yelovina’s diagnosis, she learned about Casting for Recovery.
“It was a support group that I never knew I needed,” she said. “And I'm absolutely thrilled to death I have.”
Casting For Recovery Michigan organizes one fly fishing retreat yearly.
The weekend costs about $1,500 per participant. Volunteers spend all year raising funds and usually can cover the costs for around 14 women to attend the event, even though the group receives many more applications.
A lottery drawing selects the women who get to attend.
"Casting For Recovery volunteers are good neighbors because we're giving back," says Carson. "We have all been through something horrible, and we know all the other women who are going through a similar horrible experience. We are trying to provide something to help other ladies."
Kirsten Fisk agrees with Carson.
“There are always emotions just under the surface. And that's true for all the participants and the volunteers,” Fisk says. “I can say at the end of the weekend we're emotionally exhausted, it's but it's beautiful to see people being able to express the emotions. I can say that Casting for Recovery was the support group that I never knew I needed.”
We want to say thank you to the volunteers of Casting for Recovery Michigan for organizing free fly-fishing retreats for women with breast cancer, and at the same time, making an emotional and sometimes painful experience a little less lonely.
If you would like more information on Casting for Recovering Michigan, you can visit their website at https://castingforrecovery.org/mi/
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