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updated: 9/21/2011 3:53 PM

Exiled to the den: This fall is a time to heal

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  • Daily Herald outdoors columnist Mike Jackson, who was inducted into Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame at the America's Outdoor Show in Rosemont last January, will be sitting out the fall hunting and fishing season as he recovers from lung cancer surgery.

       Daily Herald outdoors columnist Mike Jackson, who was inducted into Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame at the America's Outdoor Show in Rosemont last January, will be sitting out the fall hunting and fishing season as he recovers from lung cancer surgery.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

By Mike Jackson

Daily Herald Outdoors Writer

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It appears I will miss this year's caribou hunt. The same can be said about following the waterfowl migration starting in northern Alberta.

And yes, I will be on the sidelines when friends start their fall ritual of flinging huge slabs of lumber or plastic in hopes of creating some interest in the musky department.

I will miss all of that -- and probably even other marginally strenuous outings as well.

You see, I have been relegated to the couch. In her effort to be accurate, one of my daughters says I am exiled to the den for the next two or three months.

All of the prior warm-up is in reference to my healing process.

I spent some time on the operating table Aug. 26. A couple of surgeons carefully picked their way through muscle, nerves and bones to remove the scourge of mankind from my chest. I was diagnosed with lung cancer in July.

Before the actual surgery, I sequestered myself in my basement office and spent countless hours trying to sort out who was going to be the recipient of my fishing and hunting gear.

When I arrived at the oncologist's office for the initial consultation, I couldn't help but notice several men wearing fishing t-shirts and hats. Could this be a support group in the offing?

Even though the original oncologist told me the cancer was just a small node (not a tumor), I was convinced that my desire to have my ashes spread over Lake Minnetonka near Minneapolis was closer than I had originally anticipated. I asked this doctor to please save my life. He replied that it was going to be relatively easy to accomplish.

And yes, I was a smoker, and had listened to the reformed, the anti-smoking evangelists and others who hated the filthy habit. I heard their words of caution, and of course I ignored everything.

My doctors caught this cancer early. In fact, I had been in the hospital for another issue when one doctor suggested I undergo a body scan. And just like that, the screen lit up, pointing to that little subversive sneak attached to my lung.

So, because I tend to go into my little-boy mode at times, I became depressed and scared. I later learned from cancer survivors that depression and fear are common elements patients encounter in the beginning stages of the journey.

Before the surgery I became even more terrified of the process. I do not handle pain very well, and I already knew the surgery and the post-op program was going to be a real doozy, pain-wise.

And so I went to sleep in an operating room that seemed more like a commercial walk-in freezer than a sterile environment.

When I awoke some hours later, I realized I had survived the invasion of the body snatchers, and all I had to do was start swallowing every pain pill handed to me.

I spent considerable time in intensive care and was then transferred to some cave-like place that seemed like an update on a Native American medicinal sweat lodge, where the healers do their magic by chanting and burning incense. At least that's how it felt to me.

I was told I would be attended to by the staff for about four days. I never ate a morsel of food, which was good in one regard.

I found myself, at times, doing the backstroke while floating on a sea of white, puffy clouds. One nurse suggested I was whacked out from the constant morphine IV drip. Who am I to argue?

So here's the bottom line. The surgeons removed the malignant node from my lung. And they removed a jumbo section of the lung as well. They then told me they didn't believe I needed radiation treatment or chemotherapy. How lucky can a guy get?

Now, if I could only heal a lot faster, I could still make the migration hunt.

• Contact Mike Jackson at angler88@comcast.net, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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