A PAIR OF PROS RECOVER
A PAIR OF PROS RECOVER FROM MEDICAL PROBLEMS
During the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour, veteran pros Jarrett Edwards and
Mark Menendez were hit with life-threatening illnesses that ended their
seasons prematurely. Fishing fans will be relieved to learn that both
are recovering nicely and looking forward to returning to action.
Colorado's Jarrett Edwards was practicing for the Tour event at Clarks
Hill Reservoir when neck soreness from wearing a new helmet caused him
to get a check-up. That led to a diagnosis on March 31st of Hodgkin's
disease, a form of cancer. Left undiagnosed, doctors told him his life
expectancy would have been about 18 months. "That helmet might have
saved my life," he said.
Edwards and wife, Rebecca (high school sweethearts who celebrated their
first wedding anniversary on May 15th) decided on an immediate and
aggressive form of chemotherapy/radiation treatment.
"It's been a tough road so far, but there's light at the end of the
tunnel," the 25-year-old angler said. "We feel really good about it.
"I'm currently through my third chemo, which is the halfway point. I
have three more chemos to go, followed by a month of radiation. It's
always scary at first and the first chemo just about killed me -
literally. I was in the hospital for a week and a half, and my white
blood cell count, which is your immune system, dropped all the way down
to 140 when it's normally at 6,000.
"Luckily, things are looking up now, and I'm excited to get back in the
boat and do some fishing."
Edwards has had to endure a torturous chemotherapy treatment every other
Tuesday. With his latest dose of the second-strongest chemo cocktail
available, he said X-rays indicated that the "fist and a half-sized"
tumor near his heart appears to have disappeared.
"I feel so blessed," he said. "Chemo is really tough. The doctors told
me, 'Just remember that what's killing you now will heal you in the
end.' I believe it now. I know I'm going through hell for a reason."
During his darkest moments, Edwards has gained strength from the bass
"The support from the Tour anglers has been amazing," he said. "And the
fans - you think you have fans out there, but you don't really know
until something like this hits home. I've gotten 434 emails from fans so
"It just brings a tear to your eye knowing that people took five minutes
out of their day to give you a call or send you an email - to know that
you have a lot of support out there. I really rely on those when I have
bad days after chemo. I go back and read them, and suddenly my cancer
doesn't seem like such a bad thing."
With the end of his treatments in sight, Edwards is thinking more and
more about fishing.
"I've snuck out a few times and just played around on the water," he
admitted. "The doctors feel by the end of August I can be back in a boat
and out there firing away, so I'm hoping to make one of the Western
Opens. I really look forward to it.
"My goal is to get back to the Opens at the end of this summer, and I
really look forward to getting back on Tour.
"This whole thing changes you. Like it or not, it changes you, and you
look at things a lot differently."
Mark Menendez understands.
It was while practicing for the Lake Guntersville Tour stop that the
40-year-old Kentucky pro was struck with meningitis and had to be
hospitalized for more than a week. It began with an excruciating
headache, followed by a high fever. That led to a spinal tap that
indicated he had contracted meningitis, a life-threatening ailment.
Fortunately, Menendez had been taking antibiotics after periodontal
surgery for several months. Unknowingly pre-treating the meningitis
likely saved his life, according to doctors.
Since then, recovery has been slow, but steady.
"I'm coming back," the three-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier
said. "Things are starting to improve quicker now. I'm starting to fish
a lot more here around the house. I'm starting to feel a lot better.
"When I left Guntersville the doctor said recovery would take two to six
months. I thought I'd be back at it in a week or two, but she knew more
about it than I did. It still presents a lot of challenges, especially
endurance. The fishing part of it is not a problem. If he bites, I can
still catch him. Endurance is the thing I'm worried about right now.
"I don't have any leftover symptoms at this point. When I first got
home, my eyesight was severely affected; I couldn't see very well. When
the meningitis symptoms went away, the swelling on the spinal cord and
the brain went down and everything started coming back to normal."
At the time of his diagnosis, Menendez and wife, Donna, were adjusting
to life with a 6-month-old daughter and had just received word that she
was pregnant with a son.
"It made me just kind of slow down," he said. "The last six or seven
years I had been going wide-open running here and there.
"Getting some time at home gave me some perspective on what's really
important, and I'm kind of readjusting my schedule to do the things that
I need to do and spend time at home with my family. It really has made a
Like Edwards, Menendez is anxious to resume his career.
"I'm going to fish the Southern Opens," he said. "I'd like a shot at the
2006 Classic. By time the Tour starts again, I think I'll be 100
"The unfortunate thing about this is I lost my Elite 50 position, and I
won't be able to get that back for three years, but it's still better
being in the position I'm in and not looking at the backside of the
daisies, if you know what I mean."