Sunday, October 12, 2008

Anne Lewandowski Notch: Fighter, Angler

My sister Anne is the toughest person I've ever met in my life.

Cancer patient, daughter land fishes of a lifetime in 24 hours
Jason Durham
Park Rapids Enterprise - 10/11/2008

“I’d like you to take my daughter-in-law out to catch a walleye.” The request, similar to those I receive almost daily throughout the summer, soon turned into something entirely different. “She’s never caught a walleye before and she wants to land one before she dies.” Sheri Notch of New Frontier Resort on Long Lake informed me that her daughter-in-law, Anne Notch, was battling stage-four colo-rectal cancer and catching a walleye was a goal yet to be accomplished.

Unfortunately, I was booked. I told Sheri to call good friend and fellow guide Jeremy Anderson of Jone’s Guide Service. Jeremy arranged a trip and I couldn’t wait to hear the results. I called him the night following their trip, hoping he would deliver good news. “The trip was canceled,” he said. “They called this morning. Anne was too sick to go.” It was just over a year ago today that Anne Notch, pregnant at the time, received her cancer diagnosis. “The doctors said I might have two years to live if my body responds positively to the chemotherapy,” Notch says. “My body has not responded.” A CAT scan last June showed the cancer had doubled in size.

Although I had never met Anne Notch, her plight stuck with me. Mid-August the phone rang and once again the voice on the other end was Sheri. “My daughter-in-law is coming back up at the end of the week. Is it possible to get her out fishing?” Once again, guide trips filled my week, but I suggested checking on Jeremy’s schedule. A few days later, while driving the boat in from a guide trip on Long Lake, I met Jeremy cruising out. We checked in with each other that evening, as we often do. “I had Anne Notch today,” he said.

During the first three hours of their four-hour trip, the fishing was pretty slow. They caught a few bass and northern pike, but no walleye. In the final hour Jeremy got a bite and fed the fish some line, assuming it was another bass. It turned out to be a 12-inch walleye. He was disappointed that he hadn’t let Anne catch that fish. Anne said, “I would be happy with a walleye like that; any walleye.”

Then the fishing gods smiled upon her. “She had a great hook-set,” Jeremy said during our conversation. “By the bend in her rod it looked like it was big, but I couldn’t tell how big.” After netting the walleye, the measuring tape told them exactly how big—27 ½ inches for her first walleye ever!

Once Anne’s five-year-old daughter Natalie saw the fish, she became enamored with walleye. “She spent 5 hours one day trying to catch a walleye and, even though she never lost focus, it didn’t happen,” Anne recalled. But the next day, after only 15-minutes on the water, young Natalie was proudly displaying a 24-inch walleye. Pilgrim’s Taxidermy will memorialize the two fish in a combination mount created for Anne and Natalie.

Anne’s one-year old son, Christopher, probably won’t remember the summer his mom and big sister each caught their first walleye, but 3-year-old brother Sam might. He now wants to catch a walleye and, additionally, would like to dress up as one for Halloween.

You can visit Anne's Caring Bridge website here.


Jody & Chris said...

You go Anne! You and the entire Lew Family will be in our prayers.

js & cdw

megan said...

you are all so ridiculously brave and amazing. i am so happy to know people like like you and have you in my life!! for real though.