Note: I wrote this story for Sunday's New Castle Courier-Times. Breast cancer survivor Kandi Rutledge remains so moved by attending a Casting for Recovery fishing retreat, an experience that changed her life. She pays it forward as a volunteer for the unique organization that helped her so much. She wants those with breast cancer at any stage to know that they may apply to attend these free retreats.
KNIGHTSTOWN — Kandi Rutledge remembers how touched she was by the warm cookies.
The memory of the unexpected treats brought to her at a 2005 retreat for breast cancer survivors reminds her of why she volunteers for Casting for Recovery, a national nonprofit organization that offers support and educational programs for breast-cancer survivors.
There are two annual two-and-a-half-day retreats each year in Indiana. “This is just like being in a unique world, a perfect world in a way,” Rutledge says of the retreats, which take place at Wooded Glen Retreat & Conference Center in Henryville.
Breast-cancer survivors at any age or stage can still apply for the Sept. 7-9 retreat. Applications are due by June 29. Fourteen are chosen randomly from submissions. To apply online, visit www.castingforrecovery.org.
Since she attended as a survivor, Rutledge has returned once since then as a team member to serve guests.
“To fish is hope,” says Rutledge. “Whether you catch, whether you fish, it’s being in nature and being with others who are survivors."
She says much of the retreat’s joy, in fact, is being with those who have been or are going through what you have. She had fished for years but had never fly-fished until the retreat. Fishing is a reason to get together, but it doesn’t have to be the main reason. In fact, it probably isn’t for most or many who attend.
‘Like a queen’
Rutledge talks about “being treated like queen,” and she mentions the lavish meals, comfortable rooms, bonfire, walks on the trails and yes, instruction in fly fishing, that were part of the weekend. There are also professionals such as psychologists and an oncology nurse or doctor there, and information about support groups and other aspects of the breast-cancer journey.
There are even reunions with the survivors you meet during the weekends. This is the 13th year for the Indiana retreats.
Funding comes from a variety of sources, including individual, organization and corporate donors and grants. She mentions that at the retreats, there have been women as young as 28 and as old as 80, a mother-daughter duo and a woman who is blind.
Along with the emotional connection she finds with other survivors, Rutledge points to experiencing the newness of life in nature and the development of range-of-motion skills often needed by survivors, found with the motion of fly fishing.
If transportation there is a problem, Casting for Recovery will find them rides. She says if selected, it is important for the attendee to compile doctor clearance and the proper medical paperwork.
At age 72 now, Rutledge is a 21-year breast cancer survivor. “If that would give somebody hope, just seeing that someone is 21 years out, that’s what I can do,” she says.
Rutledge worked in the medical field and is now retired. Married to Don, they have a son, Matt, and two deceased daughters, Tami and Anneke. The couple also has nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
She says the good Lord has been with her in her struggles. “He’s been the anchor all the way through,” she says.
Stephanie Probst, also of Knightstown, attended the Henryville retreat last summer. Like Rutledge, she is doing well physically, four years out from HERS2 Stage 4 breast cancer.
She found out about the retreats from information in her doctor’s office.
What she likes best about the experience is having “14 brand-new lifelong friends.” She also loves to fish and has found that the motion involved in fly fishing has been helpful to her own arm movements.
“Fly fishing showed me I can work at it and get it back,” she says.
What she learned about fly fishing at the retreat has led to a new hobby which also serves as therapy. Probst, 55, works in quality control for Keihn in Greenfield. She is married to Jeffery and they have three sons: Bret, Anthony and Nick, along with two granddaughters.
“The retreat made me see how therapeutic fly fishing is; not only physically but it is very relaxing too.”
For more about Casting for Recovery, contact Rutledge at email@example.com or call 765-465-5570. The national website is www.castingforrecovery.org.
Like flipping a switch, dark to light, I saw central Indiana go from winter to spring yesterday. On a warm but windy day, I witnessed the change when I stopped at the grocery store after work.
I couldn’t get through the entrance without noticing the change. There, bringing color, refreshment and, yes, spring, were flats of annuals. Vibrant purples, reds, yellows and oranges abounded. After a winter and early spring of browns, grays with the occasional white dusting on top, this moment could have been inside a botanical garden, but no, it was only Kroger.
Still. I’ll take one of each. Oh wait, no I won’t. But I wanted to as the frail-looking, but deceptively hardy pansies danced in the breeze.
This morning I got up to go to Weight Watchers, sliding into my spongy flip flops until I got ready to leave. By then, I realized that yes, something had changed, and I could wear them out! Never mind that I haven’t gotten around to painting my toenails yet in 2018. I was in flip flops and not freezing. And I will continue wearing them until one October day when I realize that it’s time for socks and soles with leather uppers.
The sun shone, there was a loss on the scales (best news of the day) and I greeted a snowbird from my church who is back. We chatted about the day and the sunshine. I mentioned the wind. She wasn’t fazed, the sunshine overriding any such inconvenience. “I’m solar powered,” she beamed.
Also in the course of getting ready to leave the house this morning, I got a call on my cell phone from a reader with a story idea, and an instant message from another with information about a story idea of her own.
So it’s not just me. Midwesterners, tired of the late snows, the winter coats still on the racks by their doors rather than swathed in dry-cleaner bags for the summer, are coming back to life! As I type this, I hear roofers down the street working on a house. Last night as I pulled into our neighborhood, there was the delicious, distinctive scent of newly mown grass, an Irish green right now from all the moisture.
Sometimes spring comes late to these parts. But it’s here. It’s finally here.
The calendar has read "spring" for a while now, but only yesterday did I feel that familiar spring in my step that comes with the year's second season. The sun was shining, and those gathered at Senior Living at Forest Ridge formed an attentive audience for my program, Posted From Home Row.
This was the roll out of a new speaking program that isn't focused on my books, or their themes, but on an assortment of essays or blog posts chosen to fit the occasion or the interests of those to whom I am speaking.
My thanks to LauraLisa Stamper of Senior Living for inviting me a couple months ago to put yesterday on the calendar. Topics covered included a post about my mother's best advice -- to take typing my freshman year of high school, saying I'd always use it; one about my dad's best advice, not to wish time away (and a heavy dose of basketball included as the set up for his memorable comment) and a piece about shopping with my retired husband (who now likes to accompany me but still maintains that he's "not ready to solo."
We had a lively discussion following my reading the essays, and I look forward to the rest of my spring schedule of programs. Back in the saddle!
If you or your organization, club, church or book club need a program, you can find me here, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is sunny again, and Friday it's supposed to be in the 70s! Looking forward to warm days, sandals and all good things that the warmer months offer.
Yesterday a letter (and pop-up card) arrived from a woman named June whom I have never met, but who saved newspaper clippings of my articles as well as copies of her magazine for women, to share with a friend of hers, Linda, who lives in Liberty, my hometown.
I should say lived in my hometown, because June's letter yesterday was to tell me that her friend passed away in February. June had told me that Linda had been to one of my signings, and asked if I would send her friend an encouraging note. I did just that a couple times, wishing her well in battling her illness. I am sorry to hear that she passed.
In this throw-away as well as often paperless society we live in, I'm touched to know that someone would actually take the time and effort to save articles that I write and that someone else would be happy to get them.
Yesterday's letter, which arrived in the bright green envelope above, is the latest in my stack of reader snail mail. This stack was started when my second book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, came out approaching two years ago. I filed away the mail that had arrived after the first book, up until summer 2016.
The envelope on top of the stack is what I mailed back to June. You'll notice a sticker of a bird. I like to put stickers on my mail because I like getting letters with stickers on them. I always tell them at work that when I get a handwritten envelope with a sticker on the back (or sometimes on the front in one or more corner), I know that person "comes in peace."
Often I'm asked if I'm working on a third book. I can't say it won't happen, or that it will. But I can promise you that not a day passes when I'm "not" writing one thing or another: features for the newspaper, emails to a variety of friends, upcoming programs and something new in recent months: Wednesday devotions for Ovid Community Church. I have the Wednesday slot and I'm trusting the Holy Spirit for continued inspiration. If you are interested in seeing them or other devotions and posts, let me know and I'd be happy to add you to the group. (Email me at email@example.com.)
Meanwhile, I invited June, and I'm inviting you too, to my free program at Senior Living at Forest Ridge in New Castle at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 10. There's a free brunch, then program and the promise of a "lively discussion." I'm bringing a door prize and yes, a few copies of my books, if anyone is interested in buying signed copies or visiting with me after.
If interested, give Senior Living a ring at 765-521-4740 and tell them you'd like to attend. If you don't know where it is, put 2800 Forest Ridge Parkway in your GPS. The program is for the monthly Social Society and community members are welcome.
Meanwhile, let me say I'm grateful to those who continue to read these posts, take The Courier-Times, read my books or inquire about what I'm working on. Read on and I'll write on, good Lord willing.
So it's the February that won't end. But it's April, you say? Yes, that's pretty much my point. It's cold and snow is flurrying just beyond our central-Indiana windows as I write this.
Indeed, it's a perfect day to talk about summer shoes. I'd rather be walking in them, but since that isn't likely to happen until, oh, about August, the way things are going, let's at least talk about sandals.
Believe it or not, I'm not a shoe person. When it comes to feet coverings for fall, winter and early spring, my shoe wardrobe includes one brown pair, one black pair, one pair of sneakers and some boots. The irony is that I have no odd sizing issues, wearing either a 7.5 or an 8 M. There are tons of shoes to choose from on the market and I don't like any of them.
But sandals? The shoe's on the other foot. For one thing, my feet love summer. They particularly like thick, spongy flip flops and open air all around. Most of these models tend to come with bling on top, which I could do without, but I'll take them for their comfort and ease of wear. Even though the spongy ones are my comfort zone, my favorite personal pair of sandals are the black patent-leathers in the upper left-hand corner.
When I was a small girl, I had a pair of bright green patent leather sandals. I loved those shoes! Patent leather isn't the easiest shoe to find for an adult, but these remind me, somehow, of those shoes. Plus, they are amazingly comfortable. More so than a sneaker. I am not a sneaker person.
I like the red shoes. They make me feel stylish, but the color is limiting in what I can pair with them. The ones that get the most wear for church and work are the two neutral-toned pairs, platform-cork numbers that are pretty comfortable and make me feel of normal rather than short of stature.
The black ones, lower middle, are in a bit of a rough state. These will likely be my yard shoes this summer. They're comfortable but well-used.
My least favorite among the summer roster are the coppery-tone ones with the beads in the upper right-hand corner. I've had them two or three years -- maybe longer -- and I think I paid more for them than for any in the group. They aren't particularly comfortable. But they are well-made and I will probably still have them around a decade from now.
I put the sandals together for a photo not originally for this blog post. In fact, the photo inspired the blog post. The idea is to photograph the abundance of my summer shoe inventory so I'm not seduced by shoes I spot and don't need. This way I can call up the phone photo in the midst of temptation.
How about you? Are you a fan of summer sandals? Is an inventory of nine an obscene number? How many summer shoes are in your closet?