Casting for Recovery
Meet Trish: Breast Cancer Survivor, Thrill-Seeker, and Fly Fisher
Twenty-one years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Devastated by the diagnosis but fiercely determined to get my life “back on track” as quickly as possible, I immediately scheduled my surgery. Two weeks post-mastectomy, and against strict doctor’s orders, I was back to work as an orthopedic surgeon, completely immersed in my private practice, avoiding any thought or discussion of my cancer diagnosis. And I was relieved that my life had seemingly picked back up right where it had left off before the diagnosis.
Fast forward to a couple of years later. I’m flipping through a copy of Outside magazine and notice a tiny ad in the back pages mentioning something about women with breast cancer, being in the outdoors, all expenses paid weekend retreats. But what really caught my eye and had been a high-priority bucket list item for me was the part about learning how to fly-fish.
I have to confess when mailing in my application (snail mail back then!) that I felt a slight twinge of guilt knowing my motivation for attending that retreat was to learn how to fly fish.
I honestly did not want to talk about breast cancer nor share my story, and I definitely did not want to sit in any kind of kumbaya sort of circle. My sole mission was to learn how to fly fish!
With that goal in mind, I showed up on a Friday afternoon at a beautiful lodge in Mount Rainier, Washington. I quickly met my roommate, got checked in and unpacked … and then immediately asked, “When do we get to fly fish!?!” Spoiler alert — that weekend didn’t turn out anywhere near how I had planned. Yes, I did learn how to fly fish and fell in love with the sport. But what I actually experienced throughout that weekend, while doing my absolute best to stay on the perimeter with minimal interaction, was way beyond fly-fishing.
I found myself surrounded by an amazing group of women from so many different walks of life. Each one traveling on their unique path, braving their own challenging breast cancer journey and, unlike myself, courageously showing up that weekend to share their painful but heroic stories.
And without realizing it … I started to slow down … and I began to listen … and I listened some more. And in hearing their individual, heartfelt stories, I eventually heard and found my own personal story. And for the first time since my diagnosis, I was finally able to open up and share, never imagining how amazingly healing and therapeutic that might be.
A breast cancer diagnosis can leave you feeling so scared and completely alone. During that weekend I learned that I was no longer alone in my breast cancer journey and that there was this entire network of incredible women out there waiting patiently to take my hand and accompany me on my own journey.
Livestrong Solution Grants partners with organizations that help improve the quality of life for millions of people impacted by cancer.
2021 Solution Grant Partner, Casting for Recovery, is unique in its unlikely combination of pairing breast cancer recovery with fly fishing. The organization serves over 700 women all across the United States with 57 retreats and over 1,800 volunteers, including medical and psychosocial professionals, fly fishing instructors, and alumnae.