PLATTSBURGH - When you think about recovering from a bout with breast cancer, fly-fishing might not be the first form of therapy to come to mind. However, it's quite effective, said Janice Opal, a registered nurse at CVPH Medical Center.
Opal would know, as she's a breast cancer survivor involved with Casting for Recovery. The non-profit organization hosts retreats that use the sport of fly-fishing "to promote physical, emotional and spiritual healing" for breast cancer survivors. The retreats, she explained, focus on how casting can provide much-needed exercise for arm muscles after the removal of lymph nodes - which happens frequently in the treatment of breast cancer.
"Fly-fishing helps strengthen the arm and lower the risk of lymphodema," said Opal, referring to a condition in which fluid builds up in the arm, causing swelling and putting tissues at risk for infection.
Casting for Recovery, which has been in existence since 1996, gives women the opportunity to spend a weekend learning how to fly-fish but also gives them a chance to interact socially with other breast cancer survivors and enjoy the healing powers of the outdoors.
"It's very nice because there's not just fishing, there's a sort of spiritual healing that takes place," said Opal. "There's amazing bonding that happens."
Opal participated in Casting for Recovery's most recent New York retreat in Boonville in Central New York. That retreat was the closest one for women in the North Country until now. Planning is already under way to host the next New York Casting for Recovery retreat at Wiawaka, a women's retreat center on Lake George, in August 2010.
"We're really excited to bring a retreat closer to our area," said Opal.
However, the retreats are only possible through the generosity of the community, Opal noted. Women attend retreats at no cost but the actual cost per woman is about $1,500. With roughly 12-14 women attending a retreat, there is significant fundraising and donations needed. Fundraisers are held to help provide the funds for women to attend, with the most recent being a kayak raffle.
For more information about Casting for Recovery, including how to help fund and register for the 2010 Adirondack Retreat, contact Opal at 314-1289 or visit www.castingforrecovery.org.