LEARN Education REELING AND HEALING

THE MAGIC OF REELING AND HEALING FOR WOMEN BATTLING AND SURVIVING CANCER

REELING AND HEALING MIDWEST AND ITS FLY FISHING RETREATS CELEBRATING 14TH YEAR

Once a upon a time there was a woman named Roe Konopa (this is a true story—it’s just that Roe was magical and had magical moments happen to those she touched). Roe was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 1993. Although she had her moments, this did not stop Roe. She became active in the cancer group at the then Hackley Hospital in Muskegon. She was active in Camp Bluebird, planned parties for the cancer group and coordinated reunions with her angels—a group of women made up of childhood friends, women cancer survivors she met online and current buddies.

Then one day, just a few years before Roe died, she and Ruthanne Tsietsort, her partner in all things related to helping women with cancer, met Catherine Sero, a Chicago woman originally from North Muskegon who worked for Orvis.and was the first woman in the Midwest to become a fly fishing instructor for Orvis. Unbeknownst to Cathy, Roe had big plans for her. Roe saw the expertise, leadership and compassion in Catherine and like magic, Reeling and Healing was born.

Catherine is president of Reeling and Healing. “I only call myself that because I don’t know any other word—I am a volunteer and receive no compensation—it is 100% a volunteer organization and a 501c3. When Roe first approached me, my inner voice said “your life is about to change”. And it did—in a wonderful way,” Cathy says.

Every year several retreats occur in Grayling. Why fly fishing? The sport of fly fishing has endured for thousands of years. Its therapeutic powers are well documented. When the human spirit, combined with courage and faith to overcome cancer, encounter a river and the chance to fly-fish, well, magic just seems to happen. Years of experiencing the magic occur at the retreat programs shows this to be true. Each individual who participates in a Reeling & Healing Midwest Retreat Program is touched in a way that renews their spirit, their joy, their hope and their view of life. It truly happens—every—single—time.

“Getting into the river is life-affirming—if it weren’t for water we wouldn’t be here,” Cathy says. “Part of it is the comradery – cancer survivors can be very funny—and we are sharing—we aren’t the only one with cancer—in fact the word cancer rarely comes up—the retreat is all about living—in the truest sense of the word,” Ruthanne adds.

Roe died in 2004 and both Cathy and Ruthanne insists it is her memory that keeps it going. Having known Roe since I was nine and being one of her best friends, I can tell you she always knew how to choose the right people for the job—it is evident that Cathy and Ruthanne are very special women.

In the words of one participant: “Thank you for the opportunity to experience a retreat. The memories will be taken with me for the rest of my life. It was such a powerful time. I could never have dreamed I would have left with so much. I will be forever blessed because of my time in the river and women I met.”


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