By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor


This is a love story.

A love story about a man and the water and the relief it provides him.

When Jonathan Henry is on the front deck of his Charger bass boat, he doesnt have synovial sarcoma, one of the rarest forms of soft tissue cancer known to man.

He isnt flying off to Texas to see one of the top sarcoma doctors in the field, hoping his tumors havent grown or spread.

He isnt the guy who struggles to get out of bed most days and gets his butt kicked by a daily dose of chemotherapy pills every now and then.

He isnt the rail-thin, bald-headed guy whose wife has to dye his eyebrows brown to maintain some normalcy in his appearance (the pills turn his hair white).

You cant have a conversation with someone who has white eyebrows, Henry says.

When Henry is fishing, either in an FLW Tour event or during a guide trip at Lake Guntersville, hes free. Carefree. Cancer-free.

For all the sad parts and the parts that suck, Henry says, the one great thing about it is fishing tournaments because being out there on tournament days are the times I dont have cancer. On derby days, I totally forget that I have cancer. Thats the great thing about it. Its all worth it because this is the only place I can get away from it.

No matter how bad it sucks, I always have fishing.

Desire to Inspire

Henry received his diagnosis in the fall of 2015 and endured a rigorous four-month long chemotherapy regimen. His hair fell out. He lost a bunch of weight. Hes still dealing with the side effects.

He knows hell never get that Youre cancer-free phone call from doctors and he still makes regular trips from his home in Grant., Ala., to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, but now they are every three months rather than bi-monthly.

He still has tumors inside him, but theyre smaller than a golf ball and havent grown. Surgery isnt a viable treatment option, though, because his doctors have told him the form of cancer he has likely has already spread microscopically.

So, hes now committed to making as many casts as he can possibly make with the hope that his determination and newfound faith might inspire someone in a similar situation or bring a ray of light to someone going through a dark time in their life.

I want to be known as the guy who has cancer and went fishing anyway, he said. If they can see what I did and get one more day out of life, then so be it. Im here for them. Im not here for the healthy guys. They dont know a problem until they see a slick-headed guy pushing an IV pole down the hallway.

I post on cancer forums just to share with people that Im doing this. Its like saying, You can go walk your dog tomorrow. Get up and do it. Its okay. Im fishing the Tour.

Henry said he has relied on his faith through his cancer journey and implores others to do the same.

I found religion through this experience and Im able to reach people about religion and the disease, he said. Im comfortable opening up about either one now. I dont think you can mentally handle this without some sort of religion.

I Still Know How To Catch Em

Through five events, Henry is 109th in FLW Tour points, a respectable marker considering what he deals with on a daily basis. Sure, he has stories of lost fish and woulda, coulda, shoulda done this or that, but those arent important.

His stamina isnt what it used to be and probably never will be. He skips practice days or cuts them short because of fatigue. Every night before bed, he swallows four pills (a protein inhibitor) and every so often those pills turn his stomach upside down.

But he wasnt going to let any of that stop him from achieving his goal of competing at the highest level of the sport. Jason Christie, who used to room and practice with Henry when he fished the FLW Tour, maintains that Henry is among the best fishermen hes ever been in a boat with. Henry has won an FLW Series tournament and had a runner-up finish in another, but the Tour is what he always aspired to.

Its a major accomplishment, Henry said. Its what I always wanted to do, the level I always wanted to fish at. When I got sick, my goal was to live. Now Ive made it so this is a life accomplishment. When I was laying there in that chemo chair, thats what I thought about: I just want to fish again.

My only issue is my body isnt there like it was. I dont know if its coming back, to be honest.

Only part of his left lung is functional due to the cancer and as a result he suffers from scoliosis, a curving of the spine, that has led to other challenges.



FLW
Photo: FLW

Henry hopes his story inspires people in situations similar to his to not give up fighting.

Your lungs help keep the spacing in your ribs correct so without that lung pushing out, one side can collapse, he said. The spacing in my ribs isnt what it was. Thus, I have scoliosis. It isnt painful, but it hurts from time to time. Its caused issues in my shoulders things you dont even think about.

Hes done physical therapy and massage therapy, but still his body isnt as responsive as it once was.

My mind is still okay, he said. I still know how to catch em.

Different Kind of Grind

Fishing has been Henrys life, job and passion for many years. He operates the Bass Whacker Guide Service at Guntersville and used to be on the water up to 300 days a year.

Now, his energy gets sapped quicker, especially in warmer weather, and hes noticed hes not as efficient as he used to be on the water.

Im starting to notice Im not covering water as well as I used to, he said. Id get a couple bites and tear down every bank that looked the same. Now, Ill hit three banks and say, Im good. Just physically, Im not as good at covering water.

Its not an excuse. Its just his reality. Hes already pushed harder and further than most would in his situation and he plans to continue on this course because it offers him that escape.

I can stay home and draw unemployment or disability, but I cant get away from cancer, he said. Its at the house, its everywhere. People ask how Im doing and I know they dont really want to hear it, but Im getting more comfortable with telling the truth. Im probably going to die.

I love to hunt, but I cant get away from it because its so quiet out there. Tournament days are the only place something cool enough and fun enough can happen to clear my mind from cancer.

Many of the companies that sponsored Henry prior to his diagnosis Scottsboro Tackle Company, Pradco, Falcon Rods, D&E Landing, Air Hydro Power are still supporting him. His gratitude for that is immeasurable, he says. Its helped him focus more on fighting his daily battles that are now part of his routine.

Im always going to have to deal with it. Its more than a fear. Its a definite, he said. I still have it. They did as best they could to get rid of most of it. Some people get longer than others; some people get shorter than others.

Through social media, Henry has connected with other people who also suffer from various forms of sarcoma. He says its helped him understand his situation better.

Ive been able to meet people who have this disease, he said. Back in the '80s, before the Internet, youd never know. Now, you can share stories and doctors and ideas.

Hes thankful hes bounced back to the point hes able to lead as normal of a life as possible.

Some people find out they have it and then pass away, so Ive lived longer than most, he said. This thing is eventually going to kill me. I just hope its 30 years from now. This isnt a cancer you get good from. Its a lifelong thing. Its a bad dude. Every day is a blessing.