I have had the privilege of volunteering with Casting for Recovery (CfR) for the past five years. CfR is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1996 in Vermont by two women, one a breast reconstruction surgeon and the other a professional fly fisher. Their mission was to enhance the quality of life for women with breast cancer through a unique program that combines breast cancer education and peer support with the therapeutic sport of fly fishing. Two-and-a-half-day weekend retreats are open to breast cancer survivors of all ages, from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, in all stages of treatment and recovery and are FREE to participants.
The retreats offer opportunities for women to find inspiration, discover renewed energy for life and experience connections with other women and nature. On a physical level, the gentle, rhythmic motion of fly casting is similar to exercises often prescribed after surgery or radiation to promote soft tissue stretching. And on an emotional level, women are able to experience a new activity in a safe environment amongst a support group of peers and a reprieve from every day stresses and challenges of their cancer.
In September of 2017 I was asked to speak about CfR at the 3rd Annual Central Texas Veterans Conference on Moral Injury. After my presentation and discussion about the inaugural military retreat conducted in West Virginia for military women across the nation, both veterans and active duty, I had an opportunity to speak with a member of the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC). He was impressed by the service that CfR provides and suggested we apply for a grant to help fund a Texas retreat for military women. In 2018 CfR-Texas was awarded a $30,000 grant by the TVC Fund for Veterans’ Assistance.
In April 2019, CfR-Texas held its first retreat for 14 military women in all stages of treatment or recovery from breast cancer at Camp Capers in Waring, Texas. This retreat was inclusive of all 5 service branches (including National Guard and Reservists), race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity. Medical and psychosocial sessions provided support for women dealing with issues related to their military and cancer experience. Oncology chair massage was provided along with education about the difference in receiving massage before and after a cancer diagnosis and treatment. (CfR-Central Texas is the only location that offers oncology massage at their retreat.)
There was an incredible camaraderie and support amongst these strong, patriotic American women. Their experiences of both a military career and breast cancer are a powerful bond. They shared their worries, hopes, and dreams and developed friendships that will no doubt last a lifetime. By the end of the weekend there was no doubt in the staff or participants minds that there is a need for more support groups and events for this special group of women.
And there was NO doubt in my mind that oncology massage therapists must continue to provide education to our clients concerning the risk factors associated with massage and cancer. Eight of ten retreat participants who received a chair massage were unfamiliar with risks for lymphedema, contraindications, and types of massage that are appropriate given their breast cancer and treatment regimen.
Mary Liebermann is a member of Oncology Massage Alliance, retired Air Force RN, 14-year breast and 24-year melanoma cancer survivor, and member of the New Braunfels Search and Rescue team who loves to spend time RVing and fly fishing.
OMA is once again teaming up with RE: Cancer to help benefit their cause. OMA therapists gave free chair massages to the participants who are cycling to raise money for RE: Cancer, a nonprofit that provides support services to those impacted by cancer, as well as their family, friends and caregivers.
OMA offered chair massages to cycling participants on Saturday from 10:00am to 2:30pm at the Dell Jewish Community Center
Pete and Destiny give chair massage to participants.
Ashley Hiatt and Clare Landy along with Yvonne Larue (taking the pic) spread the word about OMA.
OMA massage therapists participated again this year in the Komen Race for the Cure event on Sunday, September 24th from at 6:00 am until 9:30 am. Our Therapists provided complimentary chair massages for survivors during the Race in the Survivor Tent. This year’s race started at south Congress (see below), by the Austin American Statesman offices, just south of the river.
All of our OMA massage therapists are additionally trained in oncology massage. We had so much fun and helped to raise money for breast cancer research!
We wish to acknowledge the generosity of Betty Kuhl in honor of her son, Rob McComb Hill who has donated an additional $5000 to support OMA operations throughout 2017. Mrs. Kuhl is our patron for Texas Oncology Midtown in Austin, Texas.
We are so pleased to announce that Texas Oncology Central Texas has given Oncology Massage Alliance $19,750 donation to help us provide our program to more Central Texas recipients. We are extremely grateful for their generous donation!
Casting for Recovery (CfR) and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) teamed up April 21-23, 2017 to provide an all-expense paid retreat for female disabled veterans and active duty military women with breast cancer. OMA’s Mary Liebermann, a CfR volunteer staff member, retired Air Force RN, and 12-year breast cancer survivor, provided hand and foot massage and lymphedema education for the retreat participants along with fly fishing instruction.
CfR provides free 2 ½ day retreats that offer breast cancer education and peer support for women diagnosed with breast cancer through the therapeutic sport of fly fishing. PHWFF uses fly fishing to assist with the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled veterans and active duty military personnel through education and outings. When the two groups realized disabled veterans and active military women were recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disabilities from combat deployments, and breast cancer they saw an opportunity to conduct a pilot retreat to see if these women’s needs were more unique than the typical retreat participants they serve.
Thirteen women, ranging in age from the mid-30s to mid-60s, came together at Harman’s Luxury Cabins situated along the beautiful headwaters of the Potomac River in West Virginia. It didn’t take long for them to bond and share their military experiences as well as their challenges and needs in dealing with their breast cancer diagnosis. Undeterred by a chilly drizzle, the women and their fishing instructors ventured into the clear waters where several experienced the tug on the line and the shout out “fish on” when a beautiful rainbow trout gobbled up their fly.
“What an incredible group of strong, patriotic American women! Not only are they dealing with physical and psychological trauma from their military experience, but they also have to cope with a full-time job or an unexpected medical release from active duty service; how to raise kids or care for elderly parents; and undergo chemo, radiation, and/or surgery for their cancer and the potentially devastating side effects. The women shared their worries, hopes, and dreams and developed friendships that will no doubt last a lifetime. And they laughed hysterically with each other as they tried to gently handle one of nature’s most beautiful fish while trying not to take a dunk in the chilly water. By the end of the weekend there was no doubt in the staff or participants minds that there is a need for more support groups and events for this special group of women.”……Mary Liebermann, LMT
See https://castingforrecovery.org for more information about Casting for Recovery and future retreats for women with breast cancer.
On April 13th, 2017 OMA Oregon therapists provided hand massages to the Ladies of Hillcrest Committee as part of the 5 year anniversary of their financial support toward the Noel Lesley Infusion Center located in the Providence Medical Center in Medford Oregon. During his cancer treatment, Noel Lesley wanted to establish a comfort-centered infusion room setting that provided a nurturing atmosphere so patients could better relax and feel like family. After his death, his wife, Mary took this task on and through the generous help of Hillcrest Committee, Noel’s vision continues. With OMA now providing relaxation massage for the patients, his full vision is even more represented.
Patients consistently remark on how comfortable and relaxing the Noel Lesley infusion room is to get their treatment. With just three recliners and one bed, the staff can provide one on one care and individual attention. Providence also provides free meals to the patients and free hand and foot massages courtesy of OMA.
“I don’t feel like I’m in a sterile hospital getting chemotherapy treatments. It’s almost like going to a spa!” — cancer patient
OMA is featured in a Massage Magazine article by Seraine Page.
“In 2017, 1,688,000 new cancer cases are anticipated in the U.S., with more than 600,000 deaths projected from the disease, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society, Cancer statistics, 2017.
Massage therapy can play a role in pain-and-stress relief—and since 2011, Oncology Massage Alliance volunteers have done just that for 9,000 cancer patients throughout Oregon and Texas.”
This month in Texas, the national nonprofit Casting for Recovery held its first retreat exclusively for women with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer (MBC). OMA therapist, fly fishing instructor, and 11-year breast cancer survivor Mary Liebermann joined the all-volunteer staff at the retreat held at Camp Capers in Waring, TX.
Based on feedback from participants who attended retreats held around the country, CfR determined the need for a pilot program to evaluate whether or not the needs for MBC women were different enough to warrant retreats specific to that population. Feedback from the twelve randomly selected participants validated that their needs, concerns, and experiences were significantly different from the traditional women survivors who attend CfR retreats.
“These twelve women, ranging in age from the early 30s to late 60s, were totally awesome! They are learning to cope with their disease and trying to move forward with their lives, but MBC is always there for them. Being at the retreat gave them an opportunity to focus on learning the therapeutic sport of fly fishing; be one with nature as they walked along the beautiful and serene Guadalupe River with an eco-therapist; receive a chair or hand and foot massage; experience restorative yoga; and bond with women who are facing similar challenges. They voiced their concerns about how so much of cancer research is dedicated to prevention and early treatment, but not enough is being done to turn living with MBC into a chronic disease rather than an ultimate death sentence. Their voices were heard loud and clear and these women had a tremendous positive impact on each other and the CfR staff.”……..Mary Liebermann, LMT
See https://castingforrecovery.org for more information about Casting for Recovery and future retreats.