Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kiss the Fish and Let it Go

I asked Marty's mom to write a "short" story about her experience at a Casting for Recovery Retreat, well the story was to good to edit down, enjoy the read!

With our construction business reeling in the economic downturn, health insurance was one of those financial causalities that fell by the way side. Looming over me was the knowledge that I needed medical care for diabetes and lupus. I’ve never concerned myself about cancer because in my mind, I already had my share of illnesses. When the Wallace Concern and Project Access Now, picked me up as one of their clients, I was assigned to a wonderful caring doctor who not only got the existing disorders managed, but began some of those routine tests that had been put off. Of course one was the dreaded mammogram.

When the technician and a doctor returned to the little room where I sat uncomfortably in a paper thin gown, they began to utter words in the Charlie Brown teacher-speak. “Wawawawawa” As soon as I heard the words “we won’t call it cancer until we’ve done the biopsy” I was truly alone even though they were still in the room. Had they not given me a note as to where and when to go the next day for the biopsy, I don’t think I could have snapped out of that robotic daze..

The biopsy day was a blur, but the next few days seemed like time stood still. The waiting for “the phone call” was un-distractable. I think for those three days, I measured time with each beat of my heart. I prayed, pondered and prepared myself. It came, and once again the reality of being alone hit.
Then the appointments, the surgeon and ultimately surgery with the end result being, “We got it all.” Good. With a five year plan for treatment, the numb shock of what I was battling was not going to define me. However, the reality of loss (our business, our finances, my health) caused adjustments, but as long as I’m going to have these things in my life, it might as well be fun. It was up to me to define that!

One of those fun spots – without any adjustment at all was to thoroughly enjoy my family. My hero husband, Glenn, our son, Marty, his wife, Mia, our granddaughter, Tegan, our daughter, Melissa, her husband, Lance, and grandkids, Dillon and Megan, were essential in my new focus of fun!

Simultaneously with the diagnosis of breast cancer, Mia was participating in her annual casting “thingie” in San Francisco. She had planned a fundraiser for an organization called “Casting for Recovery” where folks would donate dollars based upon the distance of her cast. “Nice,” I thought in myself in a pity party style. I’m not able to participate in the donation realm, can’t go to San Francisco to watch, and Tegan was going with her so I wasn’t even going to grandma sit. As far as their lifestyle of spey rod fly fishing and their business, Little Creek Outfitters, I enjoy their stories, pictures, and occasionally ate fish or two, but as for really understanding their experience on the river or the precious people she networks with I was clueless.

Mia suggested I toss my name into the Casting for Recovery lottery, I qualified, so why not? Other than holding a rod for loading into a rig, I’d never thought of fly fishing. It might just be fun! That fits my criteria for my personal cancer recovery, so, on a whim, I applied.
The time just flew and I continued with adventures in fun by increasing my ministry as Chaplain at Cascadia Village Retirement and Assisted Living Center in Sandy. An e-mail came that informed me I wasn’t selected, however, I was selected for a wait list in case someone selected was unable to attend. That was ok. I kind of wrote off the experience until one day, Lisa from Casting for Recovery called to say I was going fishing!

Out of my box, into what my kids do, off I went to an unknown location, with unknown people, doing activities unknown to me, I was facing another experience of walking the unknown alone. Once I walked into the lodge, all of that unknown and aloneness vanished into welcoming, encouraging and adventuresome relationships. Overwhelmed with smiles and warmth the reception of kindness was embracing.

The focus was on fishing – not on cancer.

The goal was the ultimate high of “fish-on”. However, the goal wasn’t the focus – fishing was! Nobody said it was catching! It was the distraction of all the encumbrances of fishing: The rod, the reel, the line, the knots, the flies, the fashion (waders, boots and vests), the accessories like special juice to make your fly float, the pinchers that clip on a vest pocket, the box of flies, the retractable snipers, all attached to this body that fully dressed could only waddle!

It was learning and laughing with hands on practice. The fishing technique of the roll cast had me hooked. Over and over again without a fly, we practiced in the pond anticipating the graduation to a fly and the real deal. Sunday morning was the culmination of all our anticipation. The fashion and its accessories were now just normal, it was the read of the pond, the movement of the fish, the right fly, the touch of the line, the feel of a tug – and the silence that accompanies alone.

And there it was, full circle! I was alone, yes. Just like I was alone with the diagnosis of breast cancer in spite of skilled professionals tending to me, I was alone fly fishing with skilled professionals tending to me. I was out of the element of my world and truly enjoying the element of my family. I was freely casting my cares into the pond of unfamiliar and gently pulling in the desired result – fun. Over and over again, I was doing the dance of the cast of line laying it down upon the top of the water in the beauty of presentation. Gentle and determined with swift, short pulls of the line with each I imagined the investigation of a curious fish, hoping for a nibble. This is very fun!

Then there it was, the tug. Fish on! There was coaching all around, shouts of “give it line”, and “hold up the rod” and “reel”. Yes the coaches were there, but it really was just the fish and me. I wanted to see this elusive underwater being. Holding the rod, feeling the movement, I was in sync with the ebb and flow of the movement. It was me and the fish – it was me and cancer. I was going to land this – I’m going to beat this! Reality once again flashed back and my coach was scooping into the net the reality of the result and there it was – face to face with my conquest! I did it! I caught a fish! I’m a fly fisherwoman! I can do this! I can beat cancer! I’m victorious – equipped for whatever comes my way. Thank you! You have made this journey fun! Face to facing the imagined. Kiss the fish and let it go, knowing I’ve faced cancer – looked it in the eye and with an appreciative respect for the lessons learned, kiss it good bye and let it go. Brings new meaning to Catch and Release!

Photos by Judith O'Keefe

Read Judith's experience at the Filson Blog

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