University of Montevallo angler Easton Fothergill has been medically cleared to participate in the College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s at Milford Lake after undergoing emergency brain surgery in late August.
Fothergill said he is relieved he will be able to compete after what he described as the scariest moments of his life.
“When this all happened, my first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, I put all this work in and finally made it to the Bracket and I’m not going to be able to fish it,’” Fothergill said. “I was really down in the hospital thinking about it. But luckily I came through and all the doctors came together and got me feeling up to it.”
During practice for the Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shop, Fothergill began suffering from severe headaches. So severe, that while he idled the Pickwick Lake ledges, he actually passed out several times.
“I’m prone to getting headaches, so I didn’t think much of it at first,” he said. “I woke up to practice on Day 2 and I downed nine or 10 waters to try and get it to go away. At 9 or 10 a.m, the pain was so unbearable that it made me pass out a couple times. I don’t really know how far I went.”
While Excedrin migraine medicine provided temporary relief, enough to help him and teammate Nick Dumke notch a Top 10 finish, the headaches continued for the next week.
With little improvement, Fothergill visited an urgent care and was given two steroid shots, which again, only provided temporary relief.
“I knew something was wrong, and I needed to figure out what was wrong,” he said.
Three days later, Fothergill went to the emergency room and a CT Scan revealed a mass on Fothergill’s brain, prompting an immediate ambulance ride from Montevallo to the UAB hospital in Birmingham.
“They told me that there was a 33% chance it would be a cancerous tumor and a 67% chance it would be an abscess,” Fothergill said. “That ambulance ride was a crazy, emotional ride. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to fish like I’m used to. I can’t even describe the emotions I experienced.”
Doctors conducted an MRI and determined that the mass on his brain was an infected abscess, and while not cancerous, Fothergill underwent brain surgery to remove some of the abscess for testing.
Since surgery, Fothergill has been mostly resting while staying on schedule with his medication. He also returned home to Minnesota to consult with his family doctor before returning to campus last weekend.
“As soon as I got out of brain surgery, I had no pain,” he said. “Right now, I’m feeling pretty good overall. I’m on all oral meds right now, but the main thing is getting plenty of rest. I will get an MRI every two weeks to make sure we continue to go in the right direction.”
The return to campus has been good so far, but his first test on the water comes this weekend when he heads to Kentucky Lake for a tournament. That event will be an important indicator as to how Fothergill will approach the Bracket.
From his research, he has noticed species other than bass get a lot of attention at Milford, but the potential is there to catch a big largemouth.
“Laying in bed the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Google Earth,” he said. “It seems like a weird lake. I don’t know how it’s going to fish. My research seems to indicate it’s mostly a catfish and striped bass lake. It seems like a really muddy lake with not a lot of structure. It is going to be interesting.”
Regardless, Fothergill is just thankful he will be able to compete.
“I’m just glad I’ll be able to fish it at this point,” he said. “I am extremely grateful for all the doctors that were helping me out and especially my family for being so supportive through all of this. I’m super thankful for everyone who is thinking of me and praying for me.”