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Fishing Means a Better Life: The Story of Zach Netten

As Zach battled stage 4 cancer, it was his positive attitude and love of fishing that kept his mind off the disease, so that he could focus on the fight of his life. Continue reading Zach's incredible story.

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More than 55 million people go fishing every year, some professionally, but many cast a line purely for the love of the water.  Zach Netten has been an avid angler for as long as he can remember.  During the summer, he and his father take to the lake near their Woodbury home, fishing, talking and enjoying the water.

Here’s Zach’s story:

Now, at the age of 17, fishing has been a part of Zach’s life – for his entire life.  But fishing has also given Zach an escape when during the first semester of his freshman year of high-school; doctors told Zach he had Stage 4 cancer.

“It came down to a chest x-ray that showed he had a mass in his chest area,” said Zach’s father David Netten. “You find out you are being admitted to the hematology and oncology floor and the cancer thing sets in.”

“With cancer you always see other stories,” said Zach Netten, “(I said) this won’t happen to me but when it hits close to home, you know it can happen to anybody.”

Hours and days of chemotherapy and radiation took its toll on Zach’s young body, but while he couldn’t get out on the water, it was fishing that kept his mind off of the disease.  And while he was fighting to stay alive in a Minnesota hospital, in Zach’s mind, he was fighting a giant tuna 20 miles off the coast of Florida.  As the medicine dripped into his body, Zach sought comfort in watching hours upon hours of fishing videos on YouTube.

“I’m a big believer in having a positive attitude,” Zach said. “If you have a positive attitude you will have a positive outcome.”

Last September, Zach had the opportunity have a Make-A-Wish trip – a chance to go anywhere in the world or meet anyone he wanted to.  But to no surprise, Zach chose a fishing trip, but not to Florida or the Bahamas.  Zach’s “dream” trip took him north of the border.

“I could have gone anywhere in the world but I chose to go to Canada in September in 35 degree weather to go fishing and I couldn’t’ be happier.  Just the thrill of the tug on the line, to catch a fish --I would do it every day for as long as I can,” said Netten.”

These days, Zach is in remission and while the cancer could return, his doctors are cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind him.  Radiation and chemotherapy have left Zach’s joints sore and weak – one of many lingering effects of the treatment, but his attitude and love of fishing is now stronger than ever.

“You wish for your kid to do something they love to do and that’s what I wish for Zach,” said David Netten. “I hope it (fishing) gets to be a part of his life in a major way for the rest of his life.”

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