Monday, May 24, 2010

Now we know, so do something about it!

It wasn't what I wanted to hear, when the doctor said I know exactly what that is. The small growth (that looked like a red pimple) on my face had continued to reappear in the same location each and every time I removed it. After a number of years I decided to get it looked at, and as I suspected it was skin cancer. When you first hear the word cancer from your dermatologist it makes you think the worst of course, but after listening to his consultation and doing a little research on my own, I knew that everything would be OK.

We scheduled the outpatient surgery as soon as possible because my doctor said the longer I waited the worse the growth would be and the less chances of containment of all of the cancer cells. I of course was in complete agreement with that and made the arrangements to have it removed. The procedure is called MOHS surgery. The growth ( in it's simplest explanation ) is scraped layer by layer, and it's cells are tested at different stages of the surgery, until they have determined that all of the cancer has been removed.

I'm going to describe to you the days events of the outpatient surgery and I want you to keep in mind that this cancer could have been prevented if sunscreen as we know it today, was used on my fair Irish skin during my youth.

The surgery began with the doctor drawing some markings on my face and explaining to me where the incisions would be and then how the growth would be removed and tested. There would be some waiting periods while the cells were walked down to the lab for microscopic analysis. This he informed me would be the difficult part. There would be three or more times that I would have to wait for the results. Sometimes the cells would be removed by the third attempt, and other times it could take much longer. There was no way for him to tell until he began, so he asked me to be as patient as I could. After the removal there would be another hour and a half or so until the reconstruction stage would begin. That part would take a couple more hours. It was going to be a long day!

During the surgery I received as many as 16 shots of localized anesthetic to help with the pain, but I will tell you I felt the pressure the entire time, and I could hear every scrape of the doctors instruments as he removed the cancer cells from my face. It is not something I ever want to experience again, even though, up to fifty percent of the people who have this surgery performed eventually will find another growth in a different area, at some time in their life. The damage to my skin was already done and there wasn't anything I was going to be able to do about that. I learned through my own research that I could only protect myself from further damage from the sun by using a good quality sunscreen every day for the rest of my life.

When the test results came back after the third waiting period, the doctor informed me that I was lucky, and he had removed all of the cancer cells on the third attempt. This made me quite relieved knowing it would help to speed up the remaining reconstruction stage. He asked if I wanted to see what he had removed and handed me a mirror to look at my face. I was in complete disbelief at the size of the hole that was now under my right eye and next to my nose. If you can believe me, it was about the width of a dime but as deep around as a good sized marble. I was now a little scared as to how he was going to put this hole back together. Wouldn't you know it, time for lunch, and I was instructed to go sit in the waiting room for an hour and a half or so and then the reconstruction would begin.

After his lunch, the doctor then again drew some markings on my face to explain to me how he would repair the hole. It would be necessary to make three more incisions to be able to pull skin and muscle together so that it would heal as normal as possible. He would use my existing lines on my face for the cuts, one would extend down the entire side of my nose. This part of the day took about three hours and I ended up with a total of fifty six or so stitches that would dissolve over time. I can tell you that it took a couple of years for all of the stitches to disappear. Most of them on the surface were gone quite quickly, a month or two is all. The ones underneath took many years to come to the surface and I could feel them from time to time. The doctor told me I would look "normal" in about a year and that within three years or so I wouldn't be able to see much of anything. He was right and unless I point it out to you, you probably wouldn't even notice my scar.

I wanted to share with all of you this experience so that you will remember how important it is to wear sunscreen when you are outdoors! This is not something you can take lightly. If you don't want to do it for yourself than at least do it for your children. The effects of sun damage and sunburns may not show up until you are much older, but are completely preventable. Our parents did not have the products that we have available to us today to protect ourselves and our kids from the long lasting damage from the sun. It takes just a few minutes to apply and it will save them from having to go through the long and painful couple of days that I did. Ask your dermatologist what they recommend for your type of skin. I use an SPF rating of 45 and I have never been burnt while wearing sunscreen. Store a few extra bottles of sunscreen in places where they are readily available. Keep one in the boat, one in the camper, pool or beach bag, etc, and follow the directions accordingly and you will be protecting yourself and your children from the damaging effects of the sun.

Now go out there and catch a few fish this summer, and feel good knowing your family will be protected. Enjoy the warm sunny days ahead, and don't forget to Cast Across America!

Cast Across America is an organization dedicated to the promotion of fishing both recreational and for sport. Join us on Facebook at Cast Across America, Twitter at CastAcrossAmeri, and on the web at

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tasmanian Crappies

I have never witnessed anything quite like what I experienced last week up in Vilas County, WI. We were out fishing around 6:00pm after a long day of scraping paint off of the cabin. My brother Kevin and I were trying to catch a few pan fish for dinner, and we had made a few drifts over a known Crappie hot spot. I deducted after the first 3 passes that the fish must not be around, since we weren't marking any on the Lowrance and hadn't placed any into the live well. He instructed to me to be patient, wait it out, and that the Crappies would be biting like crazy around 7:00pm. He told me to be ready because it only lasts for a while and then they will just stop biting. I didn't believe him. What happened in that next hour was similar to something out of one of those old made for TV movies about the Piranhas that escape into the lake. We hit that magical time and I watched as Kevin caught Crappie after Crappie on what else? Crappie Minnows. One rod was set up with a split shot and hook, the other with a Thill float, split shot and hook. At first he caught the majority of them on the rod that was off the bottom, but as the sun continued to set, the fish began to come to the surface, and once the bait hit the water, the Crappies were all over it like the Paparazzi trying to get a picture of Britney Spears as she heads out the door of a Starbucks.

After watching this unbelievable event for a half hour or so, and taking a tongue lashing from Kevin for not fishing with a smaller hook, ( I was fishing with a 16Th oz Road Runner ) he had now by himself caught a limit of Crappies while releasing the smaller ones in between, and letting a few of the bigger ones go to help maintain the fishery. During the frenzy, he was back and forth from fishing rod to bait bucket to the other rod faster than Taz from the Looney Tunes cartoons. His hands were freezing from baiting the hooks and removing the fish, while mine were warm and toasty from my neoprene gloves. As cold as he was, he never quit working until the bite was over. Just as he had predicted, as quickly as they came they were gone. The Lowrance was now blank again, like the fish had vanished into some other dimension. It truly was like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Now you know why Bryan calls his uncle Kevin "The Crappie King".

A couple of days later after seeing this go on for two nights, I realized that I must find a new way to catch those Crappies while showing Kevin that I was not about to freeze my hands while baiting my hook. I went to Ray's Bait and Tackle ( You can sometimes see Ray ice fishing with John Gillespie on Wisconsin's Waters and Woods ) and picked up a couple of slip floats and a few Mini-Mite jigs ( pink & white ). Rain came in and washed us out on Wednesday night. Thursday I stayed in to clean some fish and start dinner, so I had to wait until Friday evening to try my method.

Friday evening came and I fished with my slip float rig with the Mini-Mite jig, and it worked just like I had planned. At the start of the frenzy I was catching them much deeper in the water column and as the evening progressed I was catching them right at the surface. The only change I had to make, was to position my stopper a little shorter so the jig wouldn't slip to deep. It was an efficient way to catch a bunch of Crappies without having to mess around with baiting my hooks and for a while I might have even caught a few more fish than he did. The window of opportunity to catch fish was short lived for sure, so the time I saved by not having to re-bait was definitely worth it. Kevin has always been able to out fish me when it comes to pan fish. I am used to being slaughtered in any gentleman's contest we might have, but on this particular night I think I might have had the upper hand and I don't think I will forget that one for quite a while!

A couple of other notes from the week. Todd Rutkowski ( Cast Across America Founder ) caught and released a nice 34.5 inch Northern Pike that he caught on Little St. Germain Lake on a Road Runner and a Minnow. It was Todd's second Pike of the night the other being around 32 inches but a real fatty! You can see Todd's 34.5 inch er in our Angler of the Week section. Post your photos on our Facebook page at Cast Across America and you could be our Angler of the Week! Kevin missed a nice Walleye 5 lbs or so that straightened his hook. So the fish were biting even with the cold nights and north east winds for most of the week, and we only fished a couple of hours each day!

Remember our official website should be completed soon. It is a difficult task to get everything up and running while still fishing as much as we possibly can. I know it will be worth the wait!

Cappy's Pond on Youtube