I could tell you, and I have, about the damage cancer, and melanoma, has wrought in my own life. I lost my hero and best friend, my father, I lost my health, which in truth was my own fault… but show me someone who deals with the loss of a parent at 27 and moves forward healthfully and I’ll show you a liar.
But I choose not to focus on or look at these things. Cancer has brought much more hope into my life that one might imagine. On the road with Catch a Cure, I saw the absolute best in people: Human beings willing to give of their time and energy to fight for the cause.
Few things in my life have felt better than donating the money I was able to raise to the Melanoma Research Foundation. I found Rick Roth, a man who embodies the spirit of selfless dedication better than most. The people at Hanes donated the T-shirts to be sold for the cause.
People who I have never met and barely talked to have shared my posts through social media to help spread the word.
It’s a funny thing, that when you start to move a stone away from the darkness, so that there might be light… you don’t need all the strength it would take to move that stone alone. If you start to push, so many others come to your aid. It is easy for many of us, and I’m as guilty of this as anyone… to look at that enormous boulder, to see a problem as seemingly insurmountable at cancer, and to let it lie.
But if just approach it with faith, both in ourselves and in those around us, “mighty forces come to our aid.”
Like many life lessons, this one comes thank to a little bit of painful realization. Have you ever yelled the following:
“Hey! Hey get in here! It’s one of those commercials with the starving kids from a third-world country, grab your credit card!”
What? No? Huh. Me either. If it was a choice between watching those for an entire day and shooting the only television I owned, well… it’d be a toss-up. Not that I don’t feel bad, I wish we didn’t live in a world in which children could even be starving, but we do.
In 2010 I fished my way around the country through Outdoor Life Magazine. Truth be told I had a good job with tremendous people at On The Water Magazine, but was racked by anxiety and felt as though I’d get to some age, whatever age you arrive at without noticing time passing by, and regret not doing something absolutely ill-advised, dangerous and impulsive on a large scale. And at that point in my life I was so intensely nervous, that anything that happened to me out there seemed to be a risk worth taking.
Up to that point I’d lived life mostly by the book, straight-A high school student, triple-majored in college, worked just enough to feel like I’d earned something and settled into a good job. To this day I have no idea how I quit a full-time job at the age of 24. I’d beat that kid senseless if I could, but luckily he took care of that on his own, albeit in different ways.
Since then I’ve lost my Dad and a lot of other things and made enough mistakes so that if I stopped now, I’d still have met my quota for the rest of my life. But I still love writing and water. So here I am in Florida trying to use those two things to strike back at Cancer.
Except it’s not going as planned. People hate cancer but they hate a lot of things and there’s only so much we can do. And truthfully, when we’re not working to keep the lights on, it’s nice to have a little fun. But the people at Buff found the courage to get on board and pony up their hard-earned dollars. The guys at Outdoor Sportsman Group and Florida Sportsman got behind me, so this is the least I can do.
I looked back at a video of that 24-year-old kid before he quit his job to fish the country today, to see what the hell he was thinking. He said “I can’t tell you what I’ll catch or guarantee what I’ll find, but I promise that I’ll keep fishing and point the camera at as much cool stuff as I can.”
An uncle of mine is fond of the saying “Let ’em go while they’re young and still know everything.” I gather that it’s meant to be mostly sarcastic but in this instance, that 24-year-old guy knew more than the one writing this, who thought he’d just wave a wand and have people bring him to fish because his cause was worthy.
The world is full of worthy causes and you “especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously,” (Hemingway). “But when you get the damned hurt, don’t cheat with it.”
This might, when I’m finally obligated to return home for graduate school in the Fall, be a blog about “trying” to catch a cure and the many reasons it was harder than I thought it’d be. But to quote Good Will Hunting … “At least I won’t be unoriginal.” (Which yes, I know, is ironically unoriginal). Maybe it will be about why trying to find a cure is so hard, because cancer is depressing and it hides in the dark corners of our conversations.
It won’t be a collection of fish pictures and a generous donation from good sponsors that is forgotten in time, by me anyway. There is only one thing we can control about ourselves, although that can be easy to forget. Luckily it’s the only thing that matters. When God sent his Son he sent the way and the light, yes, but the first thing is what us writers cling to. It’ll be the truth.
Today, my father would have been 79. But this isn’t going to be some sappy tearful post about his attributes and accomplishments. The world if full of tremendous people and he was one of them. Rather, it’s about something he knew that it has taken me a while to learn. There are many wonderful things about being alive, and certainly we could all wax poetic on our particular favorites. But if life is undeniably about anything, it’s about work. (If you’re not of this mindset, try not working and see how long you’re still alive). I’ve been blessed to have this opportunity to raise money for a good cause, but it’ll take more work than I initially thought.
I did not, for example, know how drastically the Florida bass fishery changed in the summer, becoming an entirely different animal with lower water levels and soaring water temperatures. Finding and catching bass, or changing my approach, is going to take more work than I would have thought.
You know that moment when you first get in your vehicle in the summer and the internal temperature reading is some astronomical three-digit number because it has been sitting, baking in the sun? Then once you open the windows and get moving that number falls to something more accurate? In Florida in June… that number doesn’t fall.
And while fishermen and guides are sympathetic with my cause, everyone’s got a cause and sympathy is about the only thing that’s free. So rather than ramble on about the man, how he inspired and inspires me, I’ll do something he’d do in a difficult situation: get to work.
One angler's attempt to strike back against skin cancer.