Meet Pat. A 2012 Casting for Recovery Maine participant. She is this week’s guest blogger sharing more about an extremely special CfR experience—one she was able to share with her dear friend, Gail.
I would like to share a story with you about friendship, love and letting go. In 2007 my dear friend Gail was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After many surgeries and a bilateral mastectomy, I am grateful that I have been cancer free for nine years.
In 2012, Gail and I were given an opportunity to spend a weekend at a Maine camp through a program called Casting for Recovery. At the time, we were both breast cancer survivors. We fished on Rangeley River and did not even get a nibble, but it will be the best fishing story of my life!
Our story begins 31 years ago while I was working at a local television station in Portland, Maine. Gail was starting her career as a professional photographer. A coworker at the station knew Gail and that she was in search of a photo assistant. I enjoyed photography as a hobby and was interested in the position. I called her to arrange an interview. A few days later she called me and offered me the job as her wedding photographer assistant.
We instantly connected with our goofy sense of humor and shared many laughs over the years. It was during the beginning of our friendship when she convinced me to dress as a clown for a young boy’s birthday party that she was photographing. She called me and said that the clown they hired from Boston was in an auto accident and asked if I would fill in. I thought to myself, this is a joke but at the time I did not know her well enough to know if she was kidding. Then her voice got firm, can you do it or not? Sure! I said. On Saturday I arrived at her home, we loaded the car with camera equipment and went over the photo combinations to be taken. I was wearing clown like pants with an elastic waistband and white converse sneakers. Gail just happened to have a dusty brown paper bag in the basement with a clown wig and a big red nose, right. We sat at her kitchen table in Falmouth as she applied white paint to my face and black lashes under my eyes, we couldn’t stop laughing, soon I would find out that the joke was on me.
The boy’s birthday party was taking place in Portland, close to my friend Diann’s home. As we turned the corner, I saw Diann walking her dog. We pulled the car over to the side of the road. I rolled down the window and said Diann, its Pat. Diann roared with laughter at my appearance and insisted that I show her husband my costume. We had a few minutes and went to Diann’s home. I walked into her kitchen, surprise… Happy Birthday! It was my 30th Birthday.
In April of 2012 I drove Gail to LL Bean to do some shopping. We stood outside the main entrance by the big bean boot. She looked at me and said, “Patsy” then silence. I said Gail, I know what you are trying to say….” Casting for Recovery”, yes, she replied. At the time Gail was going through chemo and claimed she had chemo brain, slow on retrieving her thoughts.
We looked up the program and learned that Casting for Recovery is a retreat that is held annual at different sporting camps throughout the country for breast cancer survivors. There is no cost for participants to enjoy a weekend with fellow breast cancer warriors. You learn how to tie flies, cast and go fishing and if you’re lucky catch one! We both went online that night and applied for the retreat.
The next day I received an email stating that I was on the waiting list. I quickly called Gail to see if she received an email. She told me that she did, and it said that she was selected to go on the retreat.
June had arrived and I was still on the waiting list. The weekend retreat was July 6-8. I called the coordinator and expressed that I would be willing to sleep in a boat, up in a tree, on the floor…I needed to go, I was desperate! I began to pray every day. I ask God and the universe to line up my stars, planets, moons, I needed to be on this retreat with her because we both knew (without verbalizing it) that this would be our last hurrah together since her cancer had metastasized.
We would hang out at her home and watch tv sucking on lime Popsicles. She would be lying on the couch and I would be sitting at the other end with her feet on my lap. Sometimes we would chat about the cancer, sometimes we would laugh, cry, and sometimes we would sit in silence. Gail was very sick at this time and I remember her looking at me and saying that she might have to drop out of the retreat. I replied, you cannot, were supposed to go together and begin to cry like a little girl.
I prayed and prayed! On July 4th, my husband and I were golfing at a local golf course. We were on the 15th hole. Excuse me God, Universe, it is me again. It is getting down to the wire and I need something to happen NOW as I looked up at the soft blue summer sky.
I then decided to check my cell phone to see if there were any messages while walking to the green. To my surprise there was a MESSAGE.
“Hello this is Nancy with Casting for Recovery and I am happy to let you know you have the opportunity to be at the retreat this weekend.” As if a dam had just been released, the tears flowed. Every cell in my body wept. I was so happy that I would have this special time with her and so sad that her time on this earth was coming to an end. I still have this voice message on my phone.
She loved riding in my VW convertible beetle. Even when the weather was chilly, she would insist that I put the top down. There was something about having the warmth of the sun on her face and the fresh air that always seemed to lift her spirits.
I packed my bag, picked Gail up and off we went in my VW to Bald Mountain Camps on Mooselookmeguntic Lake for weekend. Yes, that is the correct spelling of the lake. Don’t ask me to pronounce it. I am forever grateful to Casing for Recovery for the special weekend they gave me and Gail and the other amazing women. During the weekend Gail and I laughed, cried, ate lobster, tied flies, and dressed in wading as we stood in the bubbling river. It was a gorgeous day when we went to the river to fish. I stood near the bank of the river and watched Gail cast her line repeatedly into the glittering water. Like a digital camera, I took several images of Gail and stored them in my heart, so I won’t ever forget this heavenly day.
On September 13, 2012 cancer took my dear friend, Gail.
The many memories of the adventures we shared bring me such joy and peace to my soul. Gail would be so proud of her daughters Annie and Lucy who are in college, beautiful young ladies now. She taught me about endurance, the spirit of hope, letting go and embracing life.
Thank you for all that you do for breast cancer survivors! For me, you gave me that special weekend, time with my best friend, priceless!