Comment

Taking a retreat to recharge

Providing a holistic retreat to improve patients' well-being.
Charlotte Weston and Denise Flett

As a breast oncology clinical nurse specialist (CNS) in London I teach, support and act as a patient advocate from diagnosis through to the end of treatment. I am particularly interested in developing support and communication tools to improve patients experience, confidence and well-being.

Psychosocial assessments often highlight a diverse range of challenges during and after treatment, including financial, family and work, isolation and lack of support networks. Health and well-being is often a concern with many women seeking advice on diet, exercise, stress and fatigue.

Weekend retreats

Casting for Recovery UK and Ireland (CfR) provides holistic, all-expenses paid, weekend retreats for women affected by breast cancer. The weekends include fly fishing education and instruction by qualified instructors and guides, advice and education sessions facilitated by a CNS and counsellor,

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As a breast oncology clinical nurse specialist (CNS) in London I teach, support and act as a patient advocate from diagnosis through to the end of treatment. I am particularly interested in developing support and communication tools to improve patients’ experience, confidence and well-being.

Charlotte Weston and Denise Flett
Charlotte Weston (right) and Denise Flett on a Casting for Recovery retreat

Psychosocial assessments often highlight a diverse range of challenges during and after treatment, including financial, family and work, isolation and lack of support networks. Health and well-being is often a concern with many women seeking advice on diet, exercise, stress and fatigue.

Weekend retreats

Casting for Recovery UK and Ireland (CfR) provides holistic, all-expenses paid, weekend retreats for women affected by breast cancer. The weekends include fly fishing education and instruction by qualified instructors and guides, advice and education sessions facilitated by a CNS and counsellor, the opportunity to meet other women and time for fun, rest and reflection in a beautiful environment.

CfR is a flagship project of The Countryside Alliance Foundation, a charity that aims to increase access to the countryside and help people appreciate its beauty and possibilities.

Along with my colleague, Denise Flett, younger women’s breast advanced nurse practitioner, I have acted as a medical facilitator on several CfR weekend retreats. CfR retreats offer an opportunity for women to address challenges and concerns faced during cancer treatment, visit the countryside and try a new activity. Exercise after breast cancer treatment has been shown to improve cancer-related fatigue (Brown et al 2011), quality of life (Ferrer et al 2011, Craft et al 2012), psychological outcomes and physical function (Fong et al 2012).

Taking part in the retreats has enabled me to network and consider wider issues in breast cancer care, exercise and community engagement – all in stunning natural settings. I have used Twitter during the retreats to share the experiences and promote the work of CfR, developing use of social media skills in a professional context.

Forging friendships

I have also been struck by how quickly participants and volunteers become at ease with each other and form new friendships. Warm-up exercises before the fly fishing sessions are enjoyable and tailored to women’s specific needs as a result of their cancer or its treatment.

Healthcare professional-led group and one-to-one sessions held before the women try their hand at fly fishing are tailored to their information needs; management of menopausal symptoms caused by treatment and lymphoedema are popular subjects.

The volunteers who guide participants in the fly fishing sessions are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Team spirit and a sense of achievement are evident. The final three-course lunch of the weekend is held in a waterside restaurant where each participant and volunteer is presented with a certificate during a moving ‘graduation’ ceremony.

Denise and I regularly meet with the director of CfR, Jill Grieve, to share ideas and help support the initiative, including promotional opportunities and amending the application form to include relevant medical information. We have also devised a survey to be distributed after each retreat to find out women’s information needs. This enables us to tailor topics to their interests.

Taking part in CfR has inspired me to think of new ways to improve access to activities for all patients after treatment.


Find out more

castingforrecovery.org.uk


References

  • Brown J, Huedo-Medina T, Pescatello L et al (2011) Efficacy of exercise interventions in modulating cancer-related fatigue among adult cancer survivors: a meta-analysis. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 20, 1, 123-133.
  • Craft L, Vaniterson E, Helenowski I et al (2012) Exercise effects on depressive symptoms in cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 21, 1, 3-19.
  • Ferrer R, Huedo-Medina T, Johnson B et al (2011) Exercise interventions for cancer survivors: a meta-analysis of quality of life outcomes. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 41, 1, 32-47.
  • Fong D, Ho J, Hui B et al (2012) Physical activity for cancer survivors: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 344:e70. 

About the author

Charlotte Weston

Charlotte Weston is clinical nurse specialist, breast unit, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London

@LottieWeston

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