Time away from cancer's cares

"Cancer sucks" read the brightly colored pin on the men's fly-fishing attire. Eleven men were out on the Pleasant Valley Fly-Fishing Reserve on Thursday for the fourth annual Reel Recovery retreat.

Reel Recovery is a program for men who are dealing with cancer, whether they are in remission or still receiving treatment.

The two-day retreat consists mostly of men fly-fishing, eating and using the retreat as an escape to focus on themselves.

Expert fly-fishers from the High Sierra Fly Casters club were there to show participants the ropes. Fishing takes place during the day and in the evenings the men gather for "courageous conversations," a time when they can share their experiences with cancer with each other. Funding from the program comes from the Carson Tahoe Medical Group and participants stay at the Creekside Lodge in Markleeville.

Most of the men who participate in the program live in Northern Nevada, and a few have come as far as Southern California and Phoenix. Men can only take part in the program as a participant once, but many come back the next year to help out as a fishing buddy.

Fishing vests are given to each new participant as part of a tradition of the retreat, said Jim Norton, a former participant and current alumni of Reel Recovery.

"Each participant signs the vest with their name and date, and then the vest is handed on to participants the next year," Norton said. "It's a neat little tradition."

Participant Tony Tedesco has been cancer-free for 12 years.

"When I first found out I had it, it didn't really bother me," Tedesco said. "I didn't let it get me down. I just wanted to get it out of me and get on with my life."

Tedesco said he was encouraged by his daughter to apply for the retreat after seeing an article about it in a fly-fishing magazine.

"I have some experience," Tedesco said about fly-fishing.

Tedesco traveled all the way from Simi Valley in Southern Calif. for the retreat, and he said the program has been a positive experience and that he would like to return as an alumni the following year.

"I would like to volunteer, help the next guy," said Tedesco.

George Carlson, from Elko, has had a different kind of experience.

Carlson has stage four terminal cancer in his colon and liver and was volunteered for the program by the Nevada Cancer Institute.

"My daughter Hannah is my world," he said. "And she said, 'You need to do this.'"

"Anybody that wants a life-changing experience should experience this," Carlson said of the program. "I'm really happy they have a retreat like this. This is something that should be noticed."

"fly-fishing is awesome," said Carlson. "The hair stood up on my arms when I caught a fish. The thrill of learning something new is exciting."

"I've bonded with every one of them," Carlson said of fellow participants. "Men - people - with cancer have their own bonding technique. They realize acceptance and bond with people who know the disease. I've learned things to do, things not to do. This is a fabulous bunch of men."

Whether in remission or going through treatment, most of the men agree that keeping busy is the best way to make peace with yourself, and that the retreat is a great way to stay positive.

"I'm going back into the world with a positive outlook on life," said Carlson.

"You can't let it get to you," Tedesco said about cancer. "More stress creates more trouble. You have to make the best of every day."


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