Fishing for hope: Local organizations strive to provide cancer patients with a sense of reinvigorated hope
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - The day someone is told they have cancer can be a traumatic and life-altering event. Two local groups strive to help both men and women who deal with their diagnosis find hope for recovery and move forward in their life.
One such group is the Idaho 2 Fly organization which strives to help men deal with the mental aspects of their diagnosis.
"What we do is we take men out on retreats, fly fishing, retreats to a weekend, a fly fishing retreat, all expenses paid, and being a nonprofit, we take them out there and help them enjoy and get away from their cancer and help them deal with it and also know that there are other guys out there that are dealing with the same thing," said Steve Drabek, the vice president and guest services for the Idaho 2 Fly organization.
Another such group is Casting for Recovery which strives to help women dealing with Breast Cancer.
We have a lot of sessions on bonding, nutrition, and medical information. The best thing about the program is that the women get a chance to meet and bond with other women in similar situations who've been through the same thing," said Kathy Maiben, the program coordinator for the eastern Idaho chapter.
Maiben adds they also take groups of 14 women on an all-expenses paid Fly Fishing retreat, Challis.
For the men and women who go on retreats, the experience is worth the trip. Maiben, who is a breast cancer survivor, says she once went on a Casting for Recovery retreat.
"It's a very kind of life-changing weekend to be able to open up and realize new things."
Tom Eckert went on a retreat with Idaho 2 Fly and says the retreats can bring emotions to the forefront.
"I think men especially tend to keep those emotions bottled up and feel like they can't really talk to people about it. But everybody at the retreat has that common experience in their background. And so it was much easier. And, you know, you see men, frankly, some of them would break down in tears because they haven't had a chance to talk about those things. And they're just bottled up until they just come flowing out. But it really was great."
Eckert adds the experience really touched his life and now helps volunteer with the organization.
"I want to reach out and help people. I brought cancer information to share with people that may need that, but I just want to tell them about the experience I had and just can't beat it."
Ted Soza said for him it took a bit of an extra push but he is thankful for the experience he had at the retreat.
"It was unexpected because I thought it was just going to be a fly fishing trip. It was my first one. I'm diagnosed. I'm two and a half years out of cancer recovery. So they gave me a flier. My wife gave me one. I kept pushing her away because I was mad about having cancer. But I went to this retreat, had a great time, and the big thing I got out of it besides fly fishing was as a group. Everybody got together and it was like a counseling meeting and everybody's. All the men's walls came down because they were touching on nerves. And people were men were letting their walls down to say, Yeah, I'm scared because I got cancer."
Men typically try to put up a strong front and not come across as weak when they get their diagnosis, oftentimes making them feel alone in their cancer journey. Soza and Eckert say having that common bond with everyone at the retreat is what leads to those walls coming down. But also as they go through the weekend they find a new sense of hope.
"I did feel like a weight coming off. I mean, it was scary at first because I was intimidated. There were 60-80 guys there and there was a couple of them I knew from talking to prior to going. So I hung out with them and then just eating with them, you know, breaking bread with them and doing the counseling and getting in the river. And things just opened up. And I had a great time because their whole goal is for us to get out for the weekend and have a good time and not think about our cancer," Soza said.
"It's not just a one time. And then down at the retreat, Idaho to find offers numerous opportunities throughout the year to get back together as a reunion through activities, not just fishing activities, but even things like painting, watercolor painting classes, photography classes, and fly fishing instruction, just all things that guys tend to be interested anyways," Eckert said.
Maiben adds while the women are struggling, they are quick to open up and just like the men the emotions are high.
"We've had women make long-lasting friends. The very first evening that they're there, they're actually anxious to have an opportunity to talk about what happened to them when they were told they had cancer. And they learn how to cope and build some resilience by talking to the other women. And I think they're actually very anxious and looking forward to being able to talk to the other women and open up and share," she said.
Maiben says the retreats also provide a sense of hope for the women struggling.
"They make friends. They make bonds that they carry with them. Our last group is actually planning a reunion for themselves."
Josh Calhoun volunteers as a fly fishing guide or Fishing Buddy on the Idaho 2 fly retreats. He says oftentimes the fish isn't the only thing that is on the line.
"It's our job to just be human, you know, and relate to them. Whether the person has cancer or not or offers any advice or just a friendship. So it all comes naturally when you're out on the river. And that's just how it was with Tom and other passed buddies."
Participants on both fishing retreats will be provided with waders, a rod and reel, and any other gear they will need before they enter the fishing waters. They also will be paired with a guide who can help teach them how to fly fish and what flies to use and when.
Miranda Hedges is a social worker who helps out on the Casting For recovery retreats. She says the experience is one of learning.
"When we're out fishing and tying flies and kind of incorporating learning about bugs as far as the ecosystem and the ecosystem within ourselves and how cancer affects our systems. So we all work together to share and laugh and cry and yeah, it's great."
She says the important thing to remember for both retreats is to always be willing to share.
"I think it's just it's always important to continue to share your story and share your story with the guides with the other girls that are there with all of us that volunteer. So that's very important."
For women or their loved ones, who may be interested in going, or sending a loved one on the Casting for Recovery retreat in Challis, you can find more information and sign up here. Look for the Eastern Idaho chapter. The deadline to sign up is the end of June.
For men or their loved ones, who may be interested, or sending a loved one to the Idaho 2 Fly retreats you can find that information here.