Military women with breast cancer are offered the fly fishing retreat of a lifetime

Kaylah Jackson
October 09, 2018 - 1:06 pm

(Photo courtesy of Susan Gaetz)

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For women veterans who experience breast cancer, life can seem to move from one battle to another, but like in the service, that doesn't mean you fight alone. 

Through volunteers and national partners, Casting for Recovery (CfR) serves over 800 women with breast cancer each year, letting them spend a serene weekend in the outdoors learning to fly-fish.

CfR holds about 60 retreats around the country for all ages and stages of breast cancer, however, one of the retreats focuses on a particular group — military women. This retreat is open to all active-duty, Guard/Reservists, and veterans, but even eras of service don't separate them from connecting with each other.

Lindsay Long joined the Marine Corps in 1977 as an avionics technician and discovered she had breast cancer later in 2002.

"It bothered my husband more than it did me. He was scared he was gonna lose me I think and to me, it was 'ok, this too shall pass. We'll take care of it and we'll go on," said Long. Going through Chemotherapy treatments often left her sick and not able to travel."I could see God working the whole way, " Long said. During the time of her sickness, Long's son suffered a car accident but according to Long, cancer allowed her the time to stay home with her son with her injured son.

 

(Image courtesy of Lindsay Long)

The military community is already pretty small, and the military women community is even smaller but getting a group of them together always brings a good time according to Long.

“When most typical women come…they come real timid because they’re all strangers,” said Long. “The greatest joy was watching all these military women: Type-A personalities, full of life, they’re battling breast cancer…we’re loud, we’re boisterous, we’re competitive about our services, we’re talking to each other like we’ve known each other for years.”

 Long is now cancer-free, but Jennifer Hunt, an Army Reservist, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of this year.

Hunt serves in Civil Affairs and was activated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In 2007, her vehicle hit an IED. Approaching 17 years of service in December, she found that the all-military women environment offered a different atmosphere. 

"I think being able to connect with women who had breast cancer and been through treatment and different service backgrounds, they all had slightly different treatment plans and some of what they have been offered kind of overlapped with what I had heard were my options," said Hunt. "It was good to hear I think the pros and cons of having been through it..and I think just having that veteran connection or military service connection, it stuck with me more than maybe if I had talked to someone in another sort of cancer support group." 

1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public

Casting for Recovery is a 501(c)(3) and has been around since 1996. All of their retreats are provided at no cost to the participants and made accessible to those with disabilities. When the pilot military women's retreat opened in April of 2017, the effects of the weekend getaway was eye-opening for the staff of Casting for Recovery.

“The bonding was almost immediate because women came in knowing that they were going to have this double sisterhood of military service and breast cancer experience,” said Susan Gaetz. Gaetz started as a volunteer for local CfR in Texas and now works as the National Program Director training volunteers and leading retreats.

“They’ve been through a lot, they’ve given so much personally and professionally and to see them rally around one another, they understand of what each other has sacrificed and the compassion for one another, to support one another—it was intense,” said Gaetz.

For more information about upcoming military women retreats, email Susan Gaetz at susan.gaetz@castingforrecovery.org

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