Jackie Greene, 67, of Catawba County, said that in September 2004, one of her three sons was killed in a car accident. A month later, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 2006. In 2012, Greene was diagnosed with breast cancer. She ended up in the hospital in a wheelchair, she said.
While Greene was in the hospital, she prayed for a way to help others through fishing, she said.
Once she was able to walk, her doctor told her about Casting Carolinas, a fishing group specifically for women with cancer. She said she went on a retreat with the group and decided to stick with them.
Greene spoke of her love for fishing and how her volunteer work led her to a hall of fame membership in the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians. The museum’s website says Greene was “inducted for her many contributions to fly-fishing as a volunteer leader, conservationist and fly fisher.”
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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is Casting Carolinas, and how did you become involved?Casting Carolinas does free retreats for any woman that has gone through any type of cancer, in any stage of recovery, from North and South Carolina. The retreats are totally free. The women go online and register; they pay nothing but the cost to get there. At the retreats, we teach them how to deal with cancer, ways to deal with bad news, and we teach them how to go fly fishing.
On the last day of the retreat, we actually put them with a local guide. They get a free half-day guided trip on the water fishing that day. The retreats are typically held at Johns Island, South Carolina, and at Lake Logan in Canton, North Carolina.
As soon as I went on my first retreat, they called and asked me if I would become a participant coordinator with them, and I did. Now, I am on the board of directors. I have worked since 2015 with Casting Carolinas.
What other fly fishing groups do you work with?
At Casting Carolinas, I learned about Hickory Trout Unlimited, so immediately I joined. I’ve held a couple of positions. I’ve worked with the women’s initiative, been the vice president and president. I’ve been president for several years now.
At a Hickory Trout Unlimited meeting, I met Alen Baker, the founder of the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians in Bryson City. I’ve been with the museum since 2015. I am currently the director of the hall of fame at the museum.
This last year, I was inducted into the hall of fame as an ambassador to the sport of fly fishing. So it’s for all the things that I do for other people and the sport.
What inspired you to want to help other women?
It’s just a natural thing to want to help other women, especially other women who are going through the same thing I had gone through.
People don’t realize the depth of fear the word cancer actually brings upon someone. Casting Carolinas has developed ways to help women not go into that fear. We teach them how to go through that and make hearing bad news not so bad. It’s all how you handle the news.
When these women watch other people deal with it, and how they can talk to other women, it’s therapy for them. It truly is therapy, even though we don’t call it therapy. What they get out of going on these trips is amazing. Some of the things women write to me are so uplifting it’s hard to fathom how they got so much out of what we do at Casting Carolinas.
How did Casting Carolinas help you?
It was fishing, you know? I’ve lived fishing since I was a child. Before cancer, I had bought my first fly rod, and hired a guy to teach me how to cast it for a half-day. I caught six fish, and I was in heaven. In the next month, I got the news about having cancer. So when I went to Casting Carolinas, I was learning something that I really was curious about — fly fishing.
A lot of people see fly fishing, they think it’s so hard, they can’t do it. We can teach them all to fly fish. They can do it. Some of the women love it and want to fish every week. Other women may never fly fish again, but they still want to work with the Casting Carolinas. It’s a group of amazing women who work together for free to put it all together and help women help themselves.