Building a community of men with cancer through fly fishing and mora support
Writer: Sandy Mann
When you’re fishing, you don’t think about your cancer.
Few words can bring fear and dread like the word “cancer.” At one point or another, all of us are affected by cancer whether personally ourselves or with someone we love. I recently had the privilege of spending time with three gentlemen who volunteer with Idaho2Fly, an organization specifically formed to help men with cancer and their immediate families rise above their disease with support and education all the while fly fishing beneath the beautiful Idaho skies, two of these gentlemen knowing firsthand what being diagnosed with cancer is like.
Idaho2Fly began in 2013 when Dr. Dick Wilson, a local neurologist, saw a need for men with cancer. As few resources are available specifically for men, the idea behind Idaho2Fly was to have something local to help build a community through a fly fishing retreat. Not only could men garner information about cancer and what to expect after being diagnosed, but they could enjoy time fly fishing, no prior experience necessary. Over the years, the organization has grown into an amazing resource for men currently with cancer or who have recovered from cancer as well as loved ones affected by those difficult diagnoses. They now offer three fly fishing all-expenses-paid retreats per year, one-day fly fishing trips on the Boise River every other month, and a reunion picnic for men and their families in September. In addition, Fly Fishing 101 classes take place weekly on Facebook during March and April. Because retreats went on hiatus during the Covid crisis, Zoom meetings were added as well as a new “Buddy Program” was started to help keep the lines of communication open and fill in between retreats so that participants can have someone to talk with anytime. Recently videos have been added to their website, idaho2fly.org, about specific cancers that are unique to men, with plans to add more videos in the coming years to cover as many cancers as possible. And they are planning a special day at a Boise Hawks game.
Keith Murphy, Idaho2Fly’s current president, started volunteering in 2016 when Wilson found out that Murphy was an avid fly fisherman who also taught fly tying classes. According to Murphy, approximately 4,400 men in Idaho are diagnosed with some form of cancer yearly. In Ada and Canyon counties, roughly 1,600 men are diagnosed each year. “There is a tremendous need out there for cancer resources for men. Only about three percent of these men participate in Idaho2Fly’s programs.” Murphy adds that it is important that men who’ve had cancer get involved later on as inspiration to men newly diagnosed.
Steve Drabek, who now volunteers with Idaho2Fly, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and participated for the first time in 2019 at a retreat. He said the day he found out he had cancer was one of his worst days. A nurse referred him to Idaho2Fly, and after attending the retreat, the experience was life-changing. He’s been able to communicate better with his wife about his cancer, and his perspective on cancer totally changed. He’s able to say that cancer may take you one day, but Idaho2Fly helped him see “that you have a lot of life, a lot of friends, and a lot of things you can do.” Likewise, Doug Zamzow, after his bladder cancer diagnosis in 2016 and reading about a bladder cancer survivor in one of Idaho2Fly’s flyers, decided to attend his first retreat. He has since attended every retreat as a Fishing Friend, someone who goes along one-on-one with a guest during a retreat.
Idaho2Fly is an amazing resource for men with cancer as well as being a place where men can get away from their cancer if for just a few short hours in some of Idaho’s most scenic locations. As Drabek says, “When you’re fishing, you don’t think about your cancer.” If you or a loved one is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, contact Idaho2Fly about all the many resources and activities offered. There are men who can walk alongside you during your illness and will always be next to you in the river when you cast that fly. If you would like to participate, volunteer, or donate, please contact them at 208.462.0402, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or see their website at idaho2fly.org.