Relaxing on the couch after work, studying the Idaho Statesman, you hear an annoying rattling, but there’s no one else in the room. You put the paper down and look around. The sound is gone. A month later, you pick up your toothbrush and your right arm doesn’t move fast. You check your biceps in the mirror and see the same reassuring bulge on both sides. Everything is fine again until a hovering office colleague asks why you’re mad. You tell her you’re perfectly fine with her, but she won’t leave it alone. She says she can see it in your face. And furthermore, you don’t swing your right arm when you walk, so you must have had a stroke. You want to tell her off but instead go out of your way to smile. And swing your right arm.
You worry from time to time. Could you be taking stress to bed with you? Your wife says you yell in your sleep. You see the doctor who does a complete history and physical and gets a CT scan. He finds nothing unusual but fixates on your infrequent bowel movements.
“Get more rest,” he says. “And don’t forget to exercise.” Continue reading →
Cancer is a scary word. Whenever it’s uttered, most of us naturally recoil, if only subtly.
“When people hear you have cancer, they get scared, especially at first. They act like it’s contagious,” Jeff Entringer said last summer, as we bounced in my old pick-up down the dusty roads of Idaho’s spectacular Copper Basin, in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. “The funny thing is,” Jeff said, with an easy smile, especially for a guy battling prostate cancer, “there’s nothing to be afraid of. Being afraid is the last thing you need to be around someone with cancer. What you really need to be is a friend.”
Those words were a reassuring and solid reminder for me, while I spent my first weekend volunteering as a “fishing buddy” for the Idaho chapter of Reel Recovery, a national program founded in Colorado in 2003. For three years now, thanks to the tireless work of Dr. Dick Wilson, Idaho has been hosting an annual fly-fishing retreat, free for men throughout the Gem State who are coping with any form of cancer. Each weekend-long retreat run by the grassroots nonprofit organization hosts about fourteen participants and at least that many volunteer fishing buddies, inspired by the simple motto, “Be Well! Fish On!” In between angling sessions, a handful of Reel Recovery staffers lead the participants in “Courageous Conversations.” And courage is something you learn a lot about when you go angling with cancer patients.
Continue reading →