McLaren Flint Foundation
Reel Recovery

Reel Recovery:
Men helping men face their fears in the fight against cancer

McLaren Ever Living Tree

A combination of fresh air, physical activity and "courageous conversation" often set the stage for feelings and emotions to surface.  Reel Recovery gives men the chance to open up, learn a new skill, form lasting friendships and gain renewed hope as they confront the challenges of cancer. 

A lot of guys enjoy fishing and hanging around other guys who like to fish.  They enjoy the outdoors, healthy competition and getting their hands dirty.  They normally don't enjoy emotional exploration of their deepest fears, but the men who attend Reel Recovery fly-fishing expeditions are more than just regular guys.  They are cancer survivors.

Reg Tidball, a GM retiree from Genesee, and Daniel Anbe, M.D., a retired cardiologist, were among the survivors in attendance last June at a two-day Reel Recovery expedition held at Ranch Rudolph near Traverse City.  These new friends spent time with 10 other patients who were learning to cast their lines and express their feelings about facing and overcoming cancer. 

The retreat gave these men the chance to let down their guards and talk with each other, asking questions like 'Did you get a second opinion?' or 'What was that treatment really like?

Tidball, who heads up the Us Too support group at McLaren and is vice president of the Prostate Coalition of Michigan, called the experience "life-changing".  He credits the professional facilitator who worked with the group for sparking frank conversation and starting the bonding process.  "It was required that everyone speak up, and they gave us questions to think about before the next session," said Tidball.  "There were friendships made and tears shed"

Dr. Anbe, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2009, initially thought he would attend Reel Recovery to gather information and be an interested observer.  He was surprised at how many feelings he had to share and how emotional and healing the process was.  "The questions got more profound, starting with 'Who are you?' and ending up with "What do you still have to accomplish in your life?'

The final day, we all stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle, our fishing guides standing with us, as the facilitator gave a final thought before sending us on our way.  It was very emotional.  I wish everyone could experience this," he said.

How it Began

Reel Recovery group photo

The program was founded in 2003 by a group of Colorado sportsmen who witnessed first-hand how beneficial fly-fishing was for a friend who was suffering from brain cancer.  They established the traveling retreat to provide the same opportunity for other men around the country who are battling the disease.

From the volunteer fishing guides to the rods, reels and waders, everything is provided for participants.  The Reel Recovery website states that adult men who are in treatment for or recovery from all forms of cancer are eligible to attend a Reel Recovery retreat, and all retreats are free to participants.  This is to ensure that men from all socio-economic backgrounds have equal opportunity to attend.  The organization provides meals, lodging and equipment and participants are responsible only for their transportation to the retreat location and a fishing license.  A signed medical release from a physician is also a prerequisite.

Moving Down Stream

Since participating in Reel Recovery, Tidball says he learned so much, not just about cancer, but about leadership.  He now plans to support the cause as a sponsor.  "You've gotta pay it back.  I never would have guessed (before diagnosis) that I would be involved with a support group or anything, but there is a need.  This was really good," he said.

We all helped each other, and our facilitator got into our heads and our hearts," said Dr. Anbe, "It was powerful".

If you would like more information on Reel Recovery please contact Missy Smith at (810) 342-4077 or visit