Oakwood Foundation sponsors ‘Reel Recovery’ retreats

When Ray Dedo learned about Reel Recovery fly fishing retreat, he jumped at the opportunity to take part—even though he was not an avid fisherman.

Reel Recovery is a national non-profit organization that provides fishing retreats at no charge to men who are recovering from cancer. They are paired up with other survivors and led by professional psychosocial facilitators and expert fly-fishing instructors at the three-day retreats designed to help them relax, reflect and discuss their experiences. The Oakwood Foundation funded the retreat for four cancer patients, including Dedo.

“It was a great opportunity to get together with people who had gone through the same thing I went through,” said Dedo, an accountant whose primary care physician was concerned with the results of a recent PSA test. Only 59, Dedo said the results—and the ultimate diagnosis of his prostate cancer—took him by surprise.

“I had no symptoms at all. I just went in for a physical,” he said. “I was more worried about my cholesterol.”

Dedo had his last radiation treatment in July, and said he’s feeling better. He said the retreat sounded interesting because he didn’t know any other survivors, personally. Men don’t typically discuss health topics, he added, and many don’t even go to the doctor.

“Unless you have something in common, it’s hard to relate,” he said. “This gives you a chance to discuss things you never thought you’d be able to discuss with anyone else.”

Reel Recovery was founded in 2003 by a group of avid fly fishermen in honor of their friend, co-founder Stewart Brown, who passed away from brain cancer shortly after the first sponsored retreat. They have put on about 150 retreats in 18 states since then, including 23 this year, according to Stan Golub, executive director of Reel Recovery.

“This is our 10th year of operations and our 8th year serving men in Michigan. As every one of our retreats has been totally free to our participants, the support of organizations such as Oakwood is critical to us as we sustain and grow our retreat program in Michigan—and all across the country. ”
Reel Recovery has put on retreats in Michigan since 2005 and helped more than 100 men, he said. This is the first year the organization put on two events in the state, the most recent of which took place at the Barothy Lodge in Walhalla, MI.

While there, Dedo said he and his Oakwood-sponsored companions learned the importance that faith, a positive attitude and a sense of humor plays into recovery. He also learned that the ‘Big C’ was not ‘cancer,’ but ‘courage.’ He called it a life-changing event and said he plans to keep in touch with the other participants.

“It’s the whole process of knowing you’re not alone,” he said.

Dedo’s luck in the river wasn’t quite as good—he said he only caught a few branches and some sun, even though he saw plenty of fish—but he has since purchase fly fishing rods and plans to introduce his sons to the activity.

“I thought it would be a great thing to do with them,” he said.

CUTLINE: Ray Dedo (above, left) and Ralph McPharlan (right) were two of the four men who attended a recent Reel Recovery fly fishing retreat, through funds made available by the Oakwood Healthcare Foundation. At the retreat, they teamed up with counselors and fly fishing 'buddies,' like Gary Westcott (back).