SPOKANE, Wash. — Whenever Chase Heaton had a neck biopsy or another round of chemotherapy, he boosted his spirits by recalling the fond memories of his trip to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.
“It was a trip of a lifetime,” said Heaton. “ It was everything I could ask for. I met almost every angler who was there. I did everything I could have done and I couldn’t have planned it any better myself.”
The 18-year-old Inland Empire Bass Club member was diagnosed with stage 2B Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2011 and went through an initial series of chemotherapy treatments, but the cancer continued to progress. The Junior Bassmaster angler began a new regimen of chemotherapy in May 2012, and after a series of shots to strengthen his bone marrow stem cells, Heaton’s doctors informed him on Aug. 13 that he is cancer-free. He was still scheduled for a stem cell transplant in late August as a precautionary measure.
As soon as word got out that Heaton wanted to attend a Classic in person, the Washington B.A.S.S. Federation Nation and other Federation Nation chapters across the country chipped in money to pay for his trip to Louisiana. When he arrived at the Classic, Jon Stewart, B.A.S.S. Federation Nation senior manager, served as his host and tour guide.
“What they did for Chase for the Classic was absolutely incredible,” said Regan Heaton, Chase’s father. “It will be forever embedded in Chase’s memories no matter whatever happens. It was really, really big.”
In an e-mail he sent to Stewart, Regan Heaton wrote: “I am sharing this with you because you have been a huge part in his recovery to this point and hold a dear spot in our family’s heart for your efforts and the caring attention you gave him at the Classic. His mom and I are forever grateful. This carried him when he thought things couldn’t get worse. Hard to explain in words the difference that trip made and does to this day.”
Heaton relies on fishing to relieve the stress he has been through in his fight against cancer. “There is nothing like going out on the water. I don’t even have to catch fish. It is just a good way to get away.”
Before his illness, Heaton won the 2010 and 2011 Washington Junior Bassmaster state championships and competed in two Western Divisionals. After receiving a new type of chemo treatment the week of this year’s state championship, Heaton won his third state title June 23-24 on the Columbia River and qualified for the 2013 Cabela’s Bassmaster Federation Nation Western Divisional.
Heaton will take a break from tournaments this fall as he recovers from the stem cell transplant, but he plans on trying some fishing this winter to get ready for the divisional next spring. “I should be ready by then,” he said.
Check the Caring Bridge website for the latest updates on Heaton.