Reel Recovery: An Idaho retreat to help men fighting cancer

Credit: Travis Swartz

Reel Recovery: An Idaho retreat to help men fighting cancer

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by Karen Zatkulak

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KTVB.COM

Posted on June 10, 2013 at 8:04 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 9 at 6:34 PM

BOISE -- It's a fight no one wants to face -- the battle against cancer.

But a program in Idaho is helping men pull through that struggle, with a few friends and a fishing rod.

It's called Reel Recovery, and this will be the fourth year for the retreat.

THE REEL RECOVERY PROGRAM

Each time, about 14 men, with different forms of cancer at different stages, participate in the event.

Reel Recovery is a national program that hosts 24 retreats every year, in many different states.

Neurologist Dick Wilson visited a retreat in Montana in 2009, and decided it was something Idaho needed to offer.

"I said 'Wow! Idaho needs to have this program.' Just what I saw in terms of the inspiration these men develop in the course of the weekend, the hope that they gain from the program, I said 'we need this,'" said Wilson.

So, the next year, a three day retreat was started in Idaho, near Sun Valley.

It takes places at the Wildhorse Creek Ranch, far from the distractions of every day life.

Each participant attends for free, all that's needed is an Idaho fishing license.

But when the men aren't fishing, they take part in group counseling sessions, sharing their stories and their struggles with others.

AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

Don Behrendt found out he had prostate cancer in 1999, and decided he would not hold him back.

"You say 'oh okay, so I got the big C,' and that is always the toughest that first meeting with the doctor," said Behrendt.

In 2012, he heard about the Reel Recovery program and decided to give it a try.

Behrendt had been wanting to learn to fly fish for years.

He told us he loved every moment, and didn't want to leave on Sunday.

"I will tell you that the fishing is one thing, but the actual sitting down and having the conversations and talking about it, it's a good release," said Behrendt.

He said he met men that inspired him, men who were struggling against worse cases of cancer.

"When you are talking to other men and hearing their story and how they came about getting cancer and how they are dealing with it today, you can't beat that," said Behrendt.

Wilson is the coordinator behind Idaho's Reel Recovery and told us it's an experience that changes the lives of those fighting for life.

"The camaraderie and the support that the individuals get is just incredible," said Wilson.

He said the time outside and sharing stories brings out emotions that help men heal.

"You're out on a beautiful stream with another person in a beautiful time of the year, early August and you're trying to catch a fish, and that in itself is therapeutic," said Wilson.

As for Behrendt, his battle against cancer still isn't over, but he's certainly caught much more hope to overcome it.

"When you go to sleep at night you pray you will make it to the next day, next month, next year, and then when you wake up the next day you say 'thank you God, I'm here and let's go on with it,'" said Behrendt.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

This year's retreat will be held August 2 to August 4 at Wildhorse Creek Ranch.

You can find more information on the national Reel Recovery website.

The program is still looking for volunteers, including fly fishing buddies.

You can also donate through to the Reel Recovery of Idaho program, through the Idaho Community Foundation.

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