Following a year of planning and execution — and just in time for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month celebration — local fiber artist Barbara E. Cohen handed out a dozen knitted and woven pink scarves at the finale to the weekend-long Casting for Recovery local chapter’s annual retreat Sunday, Oct. 1 in Angel Fire.
“I decided to gift pink scarves to the 2017 participants after I was lucky enough to attend the 2016 retreat in Angel Fire,” the artist said. “The organization wraps women in love and friendship in a somewhat magical way while learning how to fly fish, and the Pink Sisters who attended last year wanted to ‘pay it forward’ by doing something special for the women coming after us. One incentive was to show this year’s participants how much we have in common with breast cancer survivors we have yet to meet.”
The project was the culmination of a year in which the artist wove and knit pink scarves, using a wide range of pale and hot pink yarns donated by 25 weavers, yarn shops, and Casting for Recovery supporters in New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. Donors stayed in touch and watched scarves in progress through the artist’s and the Pink Sisterhood’s Facebook pages, where photographs of yarn donations and in-progress and finished projects have been posted regularly for the last 12 months.
“I had this brainstorm about a week after I came home from last year’s amazing retreat, and I invited everyone to donate yarns so that I could realize my vision of seeing the next group of women with warm, attractive pink scarves made just for them,” said Cohen, who works in the admissions office at the UNM-Los Alamos branch. “This project gave me a positive focus during treatment, which otherwise might have felt like a tunnel without light at the end.”
Like the women who have breast cancer – which affects one in eight American women — each scarf was unique, and every woman was able to choose a feminine or sturdy, pale or bright pink, solid, lacy or striped scarf of her choice. Members of the 2016 Pink Sisterhood – which included women from White Rock, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Lunas, and towns in the Texas Panhandle — wanted this year’s participants to end the weekend on a very upbeat note, despite the challenges many still face to maintain a high-quality life while battling breast cancer and undergoing treatment.
Casting for Recovery is a national organization established in 1996 in Vermont and headquartered now in Bozeman, Montana, that provides free fly-fishing retreats for women who have had or currently still have any form of breast cancer. The local chapter serves women in New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and Southern Colorado, and women are selected for the free-to-participants retreat by lottery each year.
This was the eighth year local organizers have hosted a retreat, which provides therapeutic fly-fishing lessons and counseling support/breast cancer education for women undergoing treatment for breast cancer at any stage, including women with metastatic (stage 4) disease. Thanks to the retreats, participants find inspiration, discover renewed energy for life, and experience healing connections with other women and nature. CfR serves women of all ages, in all stages of breast cancer treatment and recovery, at no cost to participants.
National sponsors include Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, Stevinson Automotive, Sage, Sisters on the Fly, Simms, Ashford Hospitality Trust, and Orvis, and the organization has more than 1,600 volunteers who offer more than 55 retreats that serve about 800 women each year. To date, more than 8,000 women have been served through CfR retreats nationally.
Last year’s and this year’s retreats were held in Angel Fire. The 2018 retreat is already set for Oct. 5-7 at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron. Applications will be available at castingforrecovery.org or may be obtained from the fiber artist via Facebook.