The big one that almost got away

EVERY year since my two boys were little, it has been a family tradition for my husband John and me to take them to a marvellous resort in the north woods of Minnesota appropriately named "Grand View Lodge" because of its spectacular perch overlooking majestic Gull Lake. It is a short three night, four day visit, but just long enough for us to get away from the city, relax, and spend some quality time together.

We go on the same weekend, stay in the same cabin, and do almost the same things every year in an effort to establish a sense of tradition that we hope our boys will carry on for many years to come. One of our days is spent hiring a fishing guide and fishing to our heart's content (or the legal limit - whichever comes first).

The year I was going through my treatments for breast cancer, I was particularly looking forward to our trip as I had already been through six months of chemotherapy and 33 days of radiation. I knew that Grand View would be just the thing to get my mind off my situation and help me focus on positive memories of days gone by as well as future dreams of years on the lake together with my family.

On the day of our fishing excursion, the alarm went off at 5-30 a.m. so we could eat a hearty breakfast, get dressed and be on the dock by 6 a.m.. It was a cloudy, overcast day - perfect for fishing. Our regular guide Mark showed up on time, and we took off for a day of delight.

"Mom," my youngest son Brooks, who was eight at the time chipped in, "are we having our annual contests?"

"You mean 'First Fish', 'Biggest Fish', and 'Most Fish'?" asked Tim, 11 years old and already an experienced fisherman. "Ha, just watch! I'll win them all this year!" Let the competition begin ...

We found our first fishing hole and with Mark's help, all hooks were baited and lines were dropped. An hour went by without a nibble when Mark offered to move us to another part of the lake.

Eagerly, we all dropped our lines in the quiet still of the morning, only a few signs of life starting to surface on the shore as cabin owners and guests started waking with the rising sun. Again, time sped quickly by and still not a bite. Hours passed as we would fish for a while, move to a new location, and try our luck again. You could see the disappointment on the boys' faces as the day turned into afternoon and nary a fish was to be seen.

Our guide apologised up and down for our bad fortune and suggested we call it a day. Each of the boys asked if they could throw out one last cast, and we agreed as I started putting away the remnants of lunch and picking up the boat.

Suddenly, Brooks screamed with delight. "I have got a big one!" We all eagerly watched and waited as he struggled to pull what appeared to be a keeper through the water. He pulled and reeled, all eyes upon him when what should appear on the end of the line but the wig from the top of my head!

I gasped and reached to feel my baldness when the boys and the men burst into laughter. I could not help but laugh along with them as Brooks proudly removed my hair from his hook and announced, "First fish, biggest fish, most fish - a clean sweep!"

We laughed all the way on the ride back to Grand View, the day's disappointments far from our thoughts. Several years have passed, and I successfully completed my treatments for cancer. We have continued our annual trips to Grand View Lodge. Every year on several occasions throughout the weekend, someone will bring up that story, and we all laugh at the wonderful memory and the big one that almost got away ...


Christine Clifford is CEO and president of The Cancer Club. She is the author of two award-winning books entitled Not Now ... I'm Having a No Hair Day: Humor and Healing for People with Cancer and Our Family Has Cancer. Too! especially for children. E-mail her at canclub@primenet.com or visit the website at: www.cancerclub.com

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