I listened to my live streaming church service on April 4th on my computer. A text from Aaron’s wife, Lesley, popped up on my cell phone: ” Please pray for Aaron and tell everyone you know to pray..he just went away in an ambulance-possible stroke or seizure’’. Now and then, something unexpected comes along in our lives that we can never prepare for, which was that time for our family. It would also be the end of life the way we knew it.
On April 4th, Aaron and his friends Robbie Stanford and Tucker Smith launched Aaron’s boat on the Alabama River to start their day of fishing. Aaron thought he was having allergy problems and took a hit of Flonase. A few minutes later, he told the guys he wanted to lay down on the boat and take a nap. Robbie shares that he went into a seizure as soon as Aaron laid down.
Robbie and Tucker took quick action and called Lesley, got the boat back on the trailer, and raced to get Aaron home. They called an ambulance to meet them on the way back to Aaron’s house. Robbie and Tucker had never been so scared, but they did everything right. Tucker tried to keep Aaron conscious while Robbie drove like a jet pilot on the curvy roads while listening to the song “God is Not Dead” that mysteriously came on the radio. Aaron remembers that and still talks about it.
When Aaron woke up in the hospital, he was informed he would have brain surgery with no promise of a good outcome. On top of that, he could not have his wife there before, during, or after surgery because of the Covid virus. The feeling of loneliness was terrible.
He was diagnosed with two large GBM grade 1V tumors that are fast-growing.
Before surgery, his nurse asked if she could pray for him. He gladly accepted. Aaron didn’t know that he had many family and friends already praying for him but soon realized the prayers worked.
When he woke up after the first surgery, the staff was ecstatic because the first tumor near his temple, and some of the tissue around it, were successfully removed. He was also one of the rare brain surgery patients to go home within 24 hours of the surgery. Credit that to his extreme good health and desire to be with his family.
When he went back for a checkup, the doctors were amazed at how fast his skull had healed and how well he was doing. Previously, the doctor determined the second and deeper tumor near the brain stem would be inoperable. Now, he felt it would be better to go back in and take it out. That was Aaron’s desire as well.
A second surgery was performed a few weeks later, and the tumor and some tissue were successfully removed. Once again, he went home within 24 hours, and once again, everything healed quickly.
His head was cut open in the same place for both operations with 25 staples, each time in the same spots. Aaron says that removing them was the most pain he had throughout this ordeal. I think he went fishing that afternoon! His new motto is “fishing is my medicine!”
Maybe after two serious brain surgeries, we would expect Aaron to catch up on some TV shows and relax a little, but no chance for that. For the past four months, he has been working out on big machines in his basement, running about four miles a few days each week, and fishing every time he can get someone to drive him. All his friends and family call it #drivingamart! We’re hoping he gets to drive again by mid-October.
He takes a lot of supplements with his medication and sticks to a diet that discourages cancer and will help him maintain his health. Even now, he repeats over and over how great he feels, especially after working out and running.
During recovery, he did many radio shows and fished two major MLF tournaments back to back. His whole family went along so they could reunite with their fishing families. They even stopped in Illinois on the way home for a quick visit with my sister and her family.
In July, he asked me to visit him in Alabama, and of course, I did. We had planned to go fishing every day, but Aaron came down with a stomach virus and was sick for two days. But on the third day we went fishing and two more days after that, each time on a different lake.
Do I need to remind you what the weather is like in Alabama in early August? I hate humidity, and Aaron kept reminding me that it was the hottest and most humid day of the whole year!!! People talk about Aarons's stamina, but it’s in his genes because his mama held her own fishing all day long in the worst conditions. For me, it was all about enjoying every minute of being with Aaron. We spent time sorting through tackle and working out on his machines on a rainy day. It’s incredible the stamina and energy he has. He’s just like the energizer bunny!
He now gets eight hours of sleep every night since learning that getting just two or three hours a night (because of tackle prep) for the past decade may have contributed to the cancer. It’s eight hours a night from now on, which Aaron highly recommends to everyone.
So now it’s September, and Aaron and Lesley have planned a backpacking trip in the California mountains with two friends. In October, he and his friend Gary will drive to Lake Mead to prefish and then fish the US OPEN, which I will be fishing as well. In November, he has another MLF event, and I might be able to travel and stay with him if allowed.
It’s terrific that MLF has done so much to make it possible for Aaron to fish again. So far, the only event he missed was the Heavy Hitters that he had qualified for, so he still got a paycheck. On top of that, the fishing community has gone over the top to support Aaron and his family through this crisis with prayers and finances. Next month an online benefit tourney for Aaron’s medical bills will take place between October 3rd and 18, 2020.
The critical lesson is this: anyone of us could be gone tomorrow, and that confirms that we should live our best life today, love our family and friends and do the things we enjoy doing. For years Aaron has shown compassion for others, and now he knows first-hand what many have gone through or are going through, especially dealing with cancer. Our family lives to be a comfort and inspiration to others. We know God doesn’t make people sick, but He does heal them. While I was finishing this article, the movie “God Is Not Dead” showed up on TV, and the message in this article is confirmed, God loves us. All of us!
Editor's note: Aaron passed away November 4th, 2021. All of us dearly miss him at BassResource.