Fly fishing retreats connect breast cancer patients and survivors with nature and each other

Woman next to a lake holding a fish up to her face and smiling while a smiling man watches

Navigating breast cancer recovery can be lonely. To counter this, a nonprofit organization, Casting for Recovery, connects women who have breast cancer or a history of breast cancer through healing fly-fishing retreats.

“Our mission is to bring breast cancer survivors together to breathe the fresh air of the outdoors, learn more about coping and thriving through their diagnosis and treatment, find other women to confide in and learn fun fly-fishing skills,” says Linda Lovgren, a breast cancer survivor who founded the Nebraska Casting for Recovery program in 2011. “It’s an opportunity for women to find inspiration in others and renewed energy for life, experience a healing connection with nature and ‘brave it together’ with other women.”

Over the past 12 years, the program has hosted 224 women at 16 retreats. Women in any stage of breast cancer can apply to attend the three-day retreats. Participants are randomly selected from the applications to attend the retreats for free. 

Breast cancer survivor Adriana Guzman feels “blessed” to have been selected to participate in the fall 2022 retreat, where she bonded with others through  shared experiences.

“I got to know other amazing breast cancer thrivers and spend a whole weekend with them, learning about fly fishing and its benefits for breast cancer survivors,” she says. “We were able to catch some fish with the help of professional fly-fishing mentors. There were other activities throughout the weekend that made it such an enriching and empowering experience."

Why fly fishing?

The gentle motion of fly fishing can be therapeutic for women who have had surgery or radiation to treat their breast cancer. Fly casting can increase mobility in the arm and upper body, making it an effective form of physical therapy. But the benefits of fly fishing are not just physical, Lovgren says.

Woman making a fly fishing lure.

“It invokes creativity with the fly tying, and the natural setting is a relaxing change of pace from everyday activities,” she says.

In addition to learning from experts about fly fishing and river and trout ecology, participants attend a question-and-answer session with some of the “talented, caring oncology professionals” who Lovgren met as a Nebraska Medicine patient after her 2010 diagnosis.

Nebraska Medicine oncology physician assistants Michelle Holmstrom, PA-C, and Judeen Andrews, PA-C, have volunteered with Casting for Recovery Nebraska for more than 10 years. They answer questions about topics such as:

  • Side effect management
  • Anxiety
  • Sexuality
  • Neuropathy
  • Weight management
  • Ongoing research

Other retreat leaders include a licensed mental health social worker, fly fishing instructors, a participant coordinator, photographer and a hospitality chair.

“Our all-volunteer team, including Judeen and Michelle, are remarkably passionate about the women who come to our retreats and who tell us the experience has enhanced and changed their lives,” Lovgren says.

The next Casting for Recovery retreat in Nebraska will take place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. Applications are open until July 20. The Nebraska chapter is also helping a South Dakota chapter plan its first retreat this year. To apply for a retreat or learn more, visit