River retreat nets host of survivors
Breast cancer survivors bared their souls at a luxury retreat near Murchison over the weekend, and learned a new skill as well.
The nine women, mainly from Nelson and Marlborough, took part in the local programme of Casting for Recovery at the Owen River Lodge. The programme is part of an international and New Zealand nationwide non-profit and educational programme for people of all ages and at all stages of breast cancer.
Casting for Recovery provides retreats at various times of the year and at different locations at no cost to participants. They are given fly-fishing instruction and breast cancer information in a setting that "helps lessen isolation, and provides a recreational activity with both physical and emotional benefits".
Lodge owner Felix Borenstein offered the lodge for the five-star weekend that included gourmet meals, massage and beauty therapy and lessons in fly fishing. It was the second time he has been part of the programme, which first ran in New Zealand in 2010 when it was held in Rotorua, and the third time it has been held in the South Island. Borenstein said he was a keen supporter of worthy causes and Casting for Recovery was a very good charity.
Those selected by ballot to take part arrived on Friday evening as strangers, and left on Sunday afternoon as close friends.
Nelson oncology nurse Deirdre Walker, who was one of five "pink ladies" volunteers helping out, said the connections made at such retreats were invaluable for validating how each woman felt on the cancer journey.
Nelson Primary Health Organisation facilitator Kate Miller, who was also a weekend volunteer, said the retreats provided a forum for the women to discuss issues they might not normally talk about. She said the women were at the stage they were focused on moving on and recovering.
"I've been doing this for three years and it's just incredible the difference it can make to these women's lives. By the last day it's amazing the closeness among the women."
Saturday started with instruction in casting with professional fly fishing guides Peter Carty of Murchison and John Boyles of Ikamatua.
Heather Plowman, of Nelson, who is recovering from her second round of treatment, said she always wanted to try fly fishing. She was drawn to the serenity and beauty of the river.
"I was surprised I could do it as I thought I would be bumbling around."
Plowman was first diagnosed in 2007 when living in Gisborne. She and her husband moved to Nelson, and it was when she went for her five-year check they found another lump. A double mastectomy and chemotherapy followed. She finished her last round on Thursday.
"Treatment is often not as bad as you think it's going to be."
Dianne Harris, who has moved to Nelson from Cheviot, described the weekend as fabulous.
"I first learned about CFR in a magazine and thought, ‘how cool would that be'. My husband is a fly fisherman, but I said I wanted to be taught by an expert."
Lyn Couchman, of Blenheim, said the weekend had been "absolutely amazing".
"I'm an outdoor girl and I just love the hills and the river. All the ladies here are just so nice."
Couchman's cancer was caught by a mammogram.
"It was very small but very deep, but I'd have to say that waiting for the biopsy result was the worst part of it all."
She was treated with surgery and radiotherapy. "Being somewhere like this is so good because you can talk about things and get feedback on things like the pain of healing from radiotherapy.
"It's been inspiring knowing there are so many people out there for you. It's nice to come here and just feel that connection, and it's nice to be treated like a queen."