Ok, I admit it. I really didn’t want to go to the last Central Open at Lake Texoma. I knew the fishing was going to be horrible and it’s just one of those lakes that I’ve never been able to figure out. But my co-angler on the second day of this tournament helped me see things in a different light.
That co-angler was Rodney Floyd. You see, Rodney is 11 ½ years into his battle with cancer, so to him, any day on the water, or alive for that matter, is a blessing.
In May of 1999, when most of us were concerned about the Y2K bug ending civilization as we knew it, Rodney was facing a far more real and deadly threat. A lump under his neck had been diagnosed as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system of the body, an important part of the body’s immune system.
Rodney’s treatment started with Chemo and continued into radiation sessions. In May of 2001, he was told his only chance of survival was to have a bone marrow transplant. Fortunately, his sister was a suitable match but there was still a tough battle to come. The transplant resulted in a host of health issues including rejection and lung problems due to Graft vs Host disease, a complication brought about by the donor’s healthy immune cells attacking the recipient’s system.
Throughout his fight with cancer, Rodney continued to fish as much as possible and as his health allowed, often with his son and team partner Cody Floyd. One of his lowest points was missing Cody win the 2006 Texas Junior Bassmasters State Championship because of a hospital stay. Fortunately, Rodney was well enough in 2007 to accompany Cody to the Junior Bassmaster Classic, where Cody finished 38th in what Rodney describes as the trip of a lifetime.
Because of his weakened immune system; Rodney has also developed every fisherman’s worst nightmare, skin cancer. He has had four surgeries for the skin cancer and as he puts it; “Skin cancer is a contact sport”. To be able to fish, he applies heavy layers of suntan lotion, wears a floppy hat and long pants and sleeves while on the water.
But perhaps the worst side effect of his treatments has been the numerous lung problems caused by the Graft vs Host disease. Currently his lung capacity is down to 36% and it is not expected to improve. As his doctor put it, “Joggers get tired because their heart gets tired. You’ll never get to that point because you can’t get enough air”.
Despite his physical limitations, Rodney loves to bass fish and to compete, so when BASS announced the 2010 Central Open schedule, Rodney saw it not only as a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream but also as a chance to prove to himself that he was physically able to fish all three tournaments. “The only reason I wanted to do this, was that hopefully, there is someone sitting out there on the sidelines thinking they can’t do it. Maybe it’ll spark some hope that they can do it as well.”
He has a unique philosophy on life and the blows that his life has dealt him. This philosophy has allowed him to not only survive the cancer but also to seemingly thrive in that environment.
“The way I view life, is a big clock with a big second hand on it and we’ve only got so many seconds. I’ve faced death, dealing with this stuff, and we need to use those seconds to do the things we need to do. Whether it’s family or fun, we need to go out there and live in the moment. We don’t know what our last day is going to be.”
“I’ve talked to a lot of people dealing with cancer and the first thing I tell them is that cancer is a blessing. I explain that we woke up. We got a second chance on life. We can do things we need to do, whether it’s telling a loved one that we love them or forgive someone or just have fun. I have gotten to do some things since I’ve been battling this; that I never thought I’d get to do. And to go fish these tournaments is a big deal to me. People die every day from heart attacks or in car wrecks and they don’t get to do that, so cancer is a blessing in that respect.”
Hearing those statements, I could only think: Yeah, the fishing still sucks but life itself is wonderful and how can you complain when you’re getting to do what you enjoy most.