Reel Recovery: How fishing helps cancer patients cope


by Monika Diaz / WFAA


Posted on April 11, 2012 at 10:22 AM

GLEN ROSE, Texas — On the banks of the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas, Katy resident Harry Molder suits up, from the boots to the rod, for a lesson in fly fishing.

"Getting outdoors helps me forget about the things that I have to go through," Molder said.

The lesson goes beyond getting the catch of the day.

Molder hopes to reel in hope and healing as he struggles with the cancer that changed his life.

"Seeing how hard it is for my wife. It's really hard for the spouse," he said. "How do you help your spouse get through it, because it is really hard for them, too."

Molder isn't alone.

More than 13 men recovering from cancer or in treatment joined him on this retreat, called Reel Recovery.

"There are a lot of similarities between fishing and hooking... the river of life and the river that we fish in," said volunteer Tom Misfeldt. "Many of these men, the disease is so bad that they'll give up on their life, and we try to encourage them to get back in the river of life and go on."

The program's mission is to help men coping with cancer confront their emotions and speak from the heart. Psychologist Martin Deschner leads the men's group sessions.

"When we grow up in a situation where men are supposed to be tight-lipped; they are supposed to not cry; they are supposed to be in command and control — all of that goes against being able to deal with this profound change in their life when they have cancer, even if it's not a death sentence," Deschner said.

The highlight of the retreat is the vest ceremony. Each man gets a fishing vest with names of survivors and of those who have passed away.

Ted Warren signed his name on a vest last year. He came back as a volunteer for this retreat because it gave him a renewed vision to attack his prostate cancer.

"I felt like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders," he said.

Doctors gave him less than five years to live. Warren said Reel Recovery motivated him to focus on the legacy he wants to leave behind.

"I try to have experiences with my family that'll leave memories — good memories — for them about their grandfather," Warren said.

It's that perspective Harry Molder hopes to take home.

"I think it will take the edge off of it a little bit, and I think I'll be able to handle it a little bit better, so I think it will be really good for me," Molder said.

Lifting spirits, connecting with nature, building a brotherhood — one retreat at a time.