KINGSTON, Tenn. — Over the weekend in Kingston, breast cancer survivors spent some time casting for recovery. During the healing retreat, they made friends and fished.
Casting for Recovery is a nationwide nonprofit, with branches in different parts of the state, including East Tennessee. This year is the first full retreat weekend back since before the pandemic.
The weekend retreat reminded the survivors beauty can flow from the most unexpected places.
Life is a lot like water. There's steady and shaky times. Gretchen Thomas is more than willing to wade in it.
"You don't realize how much you need it until you're here," Thomas said.
She and 13 other women at the retreat in Kingston are all breast cancer survivors.
"When you hear the word cancer, you just melt, you know, and you break, but it's how you take that and live your life after that, that that matters the most," Thomas said.
That's why they're fly fishing.
"It ripples outward, just like throwing your line in," East Tennessee Program Coordinator Lindsay Long said.
Casting for Recovery brings together women who share that common thread, helping them heal through nature.
Fly fishing has therapeutic effects for cancer patients. It provides a soft tissue stretch, and allows balance work while wading in the water.
"We see a change in them even within one day," Program Coordinator in Training Denise Remkus said.
"They don't have to worry about anything, their jobs, their treatments, they just come and relax and enjoy the camaraderie," Long said.
They all start out as strangers to the sport.
"I don't know if I would call myself a fly fisherman yet, but I'm trying," breast cancer fighter Pamela Tupman said.
Many were able to try their hand on land, wading out into Watts Bar Lake and bobbing in a boat.
The guides are even touched by the survivors on the other end of the line.
"This, fishing, when you're doing it, your mind is on a brain vacation and you can't think about chemo and drugs and anything like that," fishing guide Wanda Taylor said.
The survivors kept casting, whether there was a catch or not.
"It's all about the experience and relaxing and just getting away," Thomas said.
If you would like to apply for or donate to Casting for Recovery, you can do so at castingforrecovery.org.