A Regenstrief Institute research scientist volunteered her time to offer support to breast cancer survivors during a unique retreat. Shelley Johns, PsyD, served as a psychosocial facilitator at a “Casting for Recovery” weekend in Plymouth, Indiana June 21-23.
During the two-and-a-half-day retreat, 14 breast cancer survivors learned how to fly fish while also receiving support and bonding with each other. “Casting for Recovery” was founded on the principles that the natural world is a healing force, and that women with breast cancer deserve one weekend free of stress to experience something new and challenging in a safe environment.
“These 14 survivors taught me – by their example – about embodying grace and resilience through indescribable challenges,” said Dr. Johns. “Throughout the weekend, we shared a few healing tears, as well as hugs, laughter and a sense of accomplishment.”
The weekend was provided free of charge. In addition to Dr. Johns, a second psychosocial facilitator, a surgical oncologist, and an oncology nurse assisted with the retreat. Hosts for the event included two hospitality specialists and three fly fishing experts. The organizers keep a low staff-to-survivor ratio to ensure safety and that every survivor’s needs were attentively met.
Dr. Johns’ research at Regenstrief focuses on cancer survivorship. In her research, Dr. Johns has developed and tested novel behavioral interventions to address the most common sources of suffering for people with cancer and their families. She volunteers for “Casting for Recovery” and other local survivorship programs as a way of giving back to the community that supports her research.
In addition, Dr. Johns learns from the people who participate. “Survivors who take part in these events generously share about their needs that often go unmet in healthcare,” said Dr. Johns. “As a researcher, I learn much more about the gaps that need to be filled in healthcare over conversations at the fire pit than I could ever learn any other way. I am grateful that so many survivors have been willing to share their thoughts and feelings with me in this authentic way.”
In addition to her role at Regenstrief, Dr. Johns is also a board-certified clinical health psychologist with the Eskenazi Health Palliative Care Program and an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.