From the Riffle – Kim Kelleher
This week we are excited to post a From the Riffle submission. Each month, Casting for Recovery will feature a guest blogger that will share information on who they are, their “home waters” where they fish, how they are connected to CfR and where they would like to see the organization in the next 25 years.
We recently connected with Kim Kelleher, a past participant from the Southern Oregon Program. Read more as Kim discusses her “home waters”, and what it was like to attend a Casting for Recovery retreat.
If I go way back, my “home water” was in Knoxville, TN, as that is where I did my first fishing. My dad has always been a very enthusiastic fisherman and he would take my brother and me out on his aluminum bass boat. I had a casting rod and reel of my own (my dad has not yet tried fly fishing) and we also would use cane poles for “doodle-socking” (my recollection is that you would have a short-ish line that you’d leave in the water and you would then tap the tip of the cane rod across the top of the water in hopes of attracting a fish to bite). We were fortunate enough to live just a block off the Tennessee River and there was a boat dock less than a mile from our house.
Once I left for college, I did not do any fishing for many years. But my husband, kids and I ended up in Oregon very close to my parents several years ago and when my dad purchased a fishing boat, I ended up getting out on the water again on the Willamette. My dad purchased all four of my kids a rod and reel when they were quite young to give them the experience as well and we went out a few times as a family. We now live about a mile from the Tualatin River here in Oregon which is a peaceful place to spend an afternoon.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August of 2018 and I decided to go very public with it by posting about it on Facebook and then creating a Caring Bridge journal. Missy Sprouse, a CfR board member, was my wedding photographer back in 1996 (she and I grew up together in Knoxville) and she contacted me in early 2019 to let me know about Casting for Recovery. I applied to the Southern Oregon retreat and was thrilled to get accepted! I attended the Southern Oregon retreat at the Big K Guest Ranch in April 2019 which was an amazing experience. Since then I have been focused on recovering and getting back to “life as normal” and have not yet played a part in Casting for Recovery since being a participant but it was one of the best experiences I had relating to breast cancer and I may be involved in the future.
Casting for Recovery was, for me, a revelation about the kindness of strangers. I couldn’t believe that this entire network of people I did not know was pouring time and money into creating retreats for women with breast cancer, and I also could not believe that I was getting invited to attend an entire weekend away at no cost to me! Given all of the things you experience going through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, to be presented with something fun and uplifting seemed almost impossible which made it all the more impactful.
At the retreat I got to meet women who were well down the road of recovery from me – I was the participant most newly out of treatment as some attendees had been diagnosed and treated up to 15 years prior. There is nothing like spending time with someone who has lived what you are going through when it comes to cancer and the retreat provided 13+ other women that could relate to everything I was dealing with. And to be at a location that was so beautiful and, most importantly, AWAY from my everyday life where everything was taken care of for me – that was truly a gift. And speaking of “gifts” – there were soooo many gifts/treats provided by donors!! At every meal, there was at least one item waiting at each place setting, including everything from handmade ceramic bowls/plates, insulated mugs, CfR hats, etc. It was absolutely overwhelming that strangers had worked to put all of this together for someone like me.
The other thing that made the retreat so special is that I got exposed to women who have a PASSION for fly fishing. To be honest, while I’ve had exposure to fishing in my life, I did not take to it like my dad (despite his best efforts). But getting to see the instructors teach us what to do and hear their stories about some of their favorite trips/places to go… it absolutely inspired me to find a hobby, be it fishing or otherwise, about which I am passionate because it clearly adds an extremely positive dimension to their lives overall.
I would love for Casting for Recovery to not only be continuing to hold retreats in 25 years, but maybe being able to grow so that more participants can attend each year. Having experienced it personally, I would like nothing more than for every woman with breast cancer to get to attend a retreat in order to have the opportunity to commune with both nature and other women in their situation, as well as experience what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that much generosity, love and support. Thank you to everyone involved for providing such a meaningful event for women like me – I am so grateful to have been a participant!