Written by: Chelsea Long
Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to be a River Buddy for the Casting for Recovery (CfR) retreat in Waring, Texas. Casting for Recovery is a nonprofit organization that coordinates and hosts retreats for Women who have either survived or are currently fighting various types and stages of breast cancer. Each retreat welcomes 15 or 16 women sponsored by local clubs, fly shops, or individuals. The retreats are completely run by volunteers and this is where my story starts.
In November 2016, my Mom, Jennifer Long, was diagnosed with stage 1, triple negative breast cancer (an extremely aggressive form), As an avid fly fisher, I instantly thought of CfR, and suggested that she apply for the spring retreat in 2017. Unfortunately she was not selected for that retreat. (They pick randomly from among all applicants, similar to drawing names out of a hat.) Fast forward to February, when she applied again for the spring retreat and was selected! I had already been talking to Susan Gaetz, program director for the Texas Chapter, about volunteering to be my mom’s River Buddy, and it worked out perfectly.
Being a River Buddy is an incredible opportunity to share the love of fly fishing with someone who really needs that momentary break from a difficult time of life. Being my mom’s River Buddy was not only an honor, but a gift, as well. We definitely made some lifelong memories at Jacobs Creek that day. Helping my mom land her first fish on the fly was amazing, and seeing her excitement over this two-inch sunfish was just awesome and exciting. I have been trying to get her to try fly fishing for years. She had a great time at the retreat, which was such a positive experience for her that she now has all of her own gear, including a vise to tie flies.
Mom is a Special Education teacher, and she was so excited to go to work on the day after the retreat and tell her students and coworkers about the amazing time she had had. My heart is so happy that she went to the retreat and loved every single moment of it; it was good for her soul. Cancer changed my Mom, but not for the worse. She has shown us what true strength looks like: despite intense chemotherapy, she still went to work nearly every day to teach her students. I was honored I had the privilege to help her catch her first fish on the fly, and I am so excited and looking forward to hearing her stories from the alumni retreat in September.
I want to thank Living Waters, for being my Moms sponsor, and Orvis for donating the equipment that was used at the retreat. The people and businesses that donate funds and gear to this great organization make the retreats possible. I can’t wait to be at the next retreat helping another survivor catch their first fish on the fly!