SHERIDAN — Two Sheridan area women traveled to Dubois this past weekend to participate in a special fishing trip for breast cancer patients and survivors.
Mary Jane Edwards of Banner and Lori Hink of Sheridan were selected from 60 statewide applicants to join in a weekend of fishing and camaraderie at the third annual Casting for Recovery Wyoming event.
Casting for Recovery is a nationwide program that provides a weekend of free accommodations and fly fishing instruction for current breast cancer patients as well as those in remission. The weekend also offers counseling sessions and medical discussion groups for those who wish to participate
Started in Vermont in 1996, the program has now expanded to all 50 states. Wyoming started with just 20 applicants the first year, and has grown to more than 60 applicants this year for the 14 available slots. This year’s Wyoming event was held at the Absaroka Ranch.
Hink, who has been in remission for two years, said she heard about the event through a friend whose mother had participated in a different state. She learned she was one of the 14 chosen for the weekend event several weeks ago. No planning or preparation was required, as all expenses are paid for by the organization.
“All you have to do is get over there,” Hink said.
Once there, volunteers are on hand for every task during the weekend from preparing lunch to serving as fishing guides.
“On Sunday when we went to the river and pond we each had our own personal river guide that helped us catch fish, tie on our flies, packed luggage, got us water,” she said. “We had to do nothing. It was just relaxing, just phenomenal.”
Hink is already an experienced angler and fishes in local waters. Due to her positive experience this year, she is considering serving as a volunteer next year.
“I am considering helping next year as a river helper or ‘gofer’ just because it was such a cool experience,” she said. “I highly recommend it. It is a neat organization.”
Mary Jane Edwards, a Banner resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and finished treatment in May, said she was thrilled to see a flyer for two Montana events at the cancer center in Billings.
“I was ready to call them up and beg them to go,” she said. “But when I called the national office, they said ‘we have a program in Wyoming.’”
“I have been fishing since I was 8,” Edwards said about why she wanted to participate. “It was a great time and recreation and companionship with my dad. We fished until he died eight years ago. But I had always wanted to fly fish. He fly fished but we never got around to doing that. It was something I thought was beautiful and required a lot of concentration and skill and a different kind of strategy.”
Edwards said she and the other participants received one-on-one instruction from skilled fishing guides and also received a variety of gifts and support from well-wishers around the country and the world.
“Before this I was closeted,” Edwards said, noting that she had only shared her cancer diagnosis with a few close friends and colleagues. “I haven’t broadcast this because I didn’t know how I felt about it. I was still emotionally all over the board in terms of dealing with this. I kept wanting to have time to get my head around it. But after this weekend I am wide open about this. I want to tell everyone to go get a mammogram. One in eight women (will be diagnosed with breast cancer) and in some parts of Wyoming it is higher than that. It is frightening, but you can do something about it.”
The group spent Saturday and Sunday fishing on the Wind River as well as in private ranch ponds. At the end of the event, each participant was presented with their own fly rod, reel and line so that they can continue fishing in their home locales. In addition, Edwards said local chapters of Trout Unlimited will be meeting with participants in coming weeks to give tips on area waters that are publicly accessible and of course, provide good fishing.
“My dad said there is fishing and there is catching, even if you don’t catch anything you are out there and it is beautiful,” Edwards said. “It is just a multi-sensory experience. It is a reinforcement that you are alive.”