For some veterans with cancer, ‘reel’ comfort comes from fly fishing

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — “You have cancer:” Three words that are tough to swallow and are no easier for people who have served on the front lines of the military.

But next month, a group in Virginia will teach some vets a unique approach to coping with the disease while wearing a different type of uniform, in a place as far away from the front lines as anybody can get: A fly-fishing retreat with a group called, “Reel Recovery.”

“If you’ve ever been out on a river, where the only thing you hear are the rippling brooks, and all of the sudden you cast out and a fish hits — there’s nothing like it,” said Reel Recovery volunteer Kenneth Olshansky.

Yet despite the peace of being on the water, Reel Recovery says there is an alarming level of vulnerability among participants at these retreats.

“Men in general are not great about sharing their feelings, their fears and this is an opportunity for them to do that,” Olshansky said.

It’s a chance to learn the sport of fly fishing alongside strangers battling cancer.

Reel Recovery began in 2003 and now has chapters all across the country and even in New Zealand.

The upcoming October retreat, however, is meant specifically for patients who have served — or are still serving — in the military.

“They will come together not knowing one another, perhaps nervous, or anxious about, ‘what have I gotten myself into?'” said Reel Recovery Facilitator in Training Ed Rossmoore. “And by the end of their 2.5 days together they will be a unit.”

The fall retreat is Oct. 23-25 at the Graves Mountain Lodge at Rose River Farm in Syria, Va.

All expenses are paid for this retreat, which can accommodate 12-14 men.

It costs about $700 per person for the weekend — made possible by donors and sponsors.

Some of the volunteers with Reel Recovery are former participants and some of them veterans themselves.

Reel Recovery says after nearly 15 years of retreats, participants often have two pieces of feedback.

“One, it’s the first time [they’ve] been able to talk to someone else about [their] cancer. And two, [they] had two days where [they] rarely thought about [their] cancer,” Olshansky said. “And that’s the gift that Reel Recovery gives.”

If you or somebody you know would be a good candidate for this retreat next month — or if you’d like to be a donor or sponsor to make these events possible — visit the Reel Recovery website.

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