After his much-publicised surgery to remove a brain tumour, the Ian 'Chilly' Chillcott has enjoyed his first tentative steps back on the bank and even managed a very special capture. We recently caught up with Chilly to find out how things are going...
The best interviews are those where you hear far more from the subject than the interviewer, after all that’s who you’re reading about. This was perfectly illustrated when we asked Chilly a simple question to start things off and then didn’t have to speak again until the end…
FOX: "So Chilly, how long has it been since the operation now and how is the recovery going from a fishing sense?"
Chilly: My operation took place on August 10th, so as we sit here today it’s 5 months! I should say at this point that I think this will be the final time I talk about the op and the events leading up to it as I feel it’s time to move on now. We’ll come back to that a little later, but yeah, 5 months now.
I thought more about fishing before the operation than I did in the immediate aftermath, despite what many people may think. You may imagine that once I was coming round and in the aftermath while in hospital it may have been all consuming, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This was entirely down to the fact that I never thought I’d be able to go fishing again. I’d convinced myself, in fact. When one of the most eminent brain surgeons in the world asked me, before the operation, why I was seemingly so laid back about things, I replied because I had him sorting it all out for me. He was in my corner, he was the expert and I trusted that he knew what to do. However, he then asked me where I thought I was in terms of urgency, on a scale of one to ten, to which I replied around 4-5 he immediately retorted that I was somewhere near to 20. This was bloody serious and extremely bloody urgent. He said: “I’m going to stuff you full of steroids for a couple of weeks and then we’re going to remove this sizeable tumour, get rid of it and allow your brain to exit your spinal column and relocate in the space where it should be, where the tumour is.”
At that point many of my closest friends, and my wife, were convinced I was going to die. Perhaps because I am the most stubborn person on the place of this good planet, I was convinced I was going to survive. However, over the course of those two weeks leading up to the procedure, I was sure that life would change immeasurably and that included me probably never ever going fishing again. However, I couldn’t dwell on that, I had to get on with surviving the items that would follow. Fishing has undoubtedly helped shape my life in so many ways, since childhood, and in those early days it made me a very independent operator, which would again be the case in my later professional life. When I was in the army, fishing helped me immensely, allowing me to enjoy some ‘me time’ when I needed it. There were times when very well qualified people were aiding me in certain situations, trying to sort my head out, but in actual fact only fishing proved a suitable escape, for want of a better term.
In the immediate aftermath of the op I was on a high dependency unit and a lot of it is a blur. The most amazing moment was seeing Lyn come in and being first able to recognise her and hug her. That was when I first allowed myself to start to believe I was going to get better. Slowly, thoughts occasionally turned to fishing and the determination that I would indeed be able to enjoy it again in some capacity. It was only a small part of what I spent my time contemplating though. Such an event helps polarize your thoughts and even something like the thought of seeing another Christmas was suddenly so much more special than ever. Increasingly, though, my thoughts turned to carp fishing, when I’d be able to go rather than whether I would and how sweet it would be to once again just be next to a lake, as we are today.
I have to say at this point, and it’s for sincere reasons, that I have to say a huge thank you to Fox and Mainline, or more appropriately, the people involved in both of those great companies. The support I received both before and after the operation has been nothing short of amazing and it’s actually quite humbling, as have the thousands of messages of support and encouragement I received over social media. People I know and people I don’t have shown incredible support and none of them will ever truly appreciate just how that helped drive me on. Yes, I think humble is the right word for it. It’s extremely humbling for people you have never met, nor ever likely will, to send their messages of support and true emotion.
But yeah, Fox. What can I say? I have never had a picture of a carp hang in my living room, or a picture even relating to carp fishing, but Fox sent me an enormous picture of me with a carp and there was a message on the frame along with signatures of all the Fox team on the back. I’m rarely an emotional man but I don’t mid admitting I was when I received that. Kev and Steve from Mainline as well, with their constant calls and messages checking on my progress and recovery and making sure that Lyn and I wanted for nothing. They didn’t do that because I was one of their anglers, they did it out of utter humanity and I will be eternally grateful. Many others, including my close friends, people like Joe Wright form Carpology, Tim Paisley who has been like a surrogate father to me for many, many years. When I left the armed forces I found loyalty something difficult to come by, but the loyalty I have been shown by the likes of Fox and Mainline recently had been beyond belief. It makes me so happy that I have never been one of those people that has jumped from one ship to another in this ‘angling consultant’ world, but I’ve never needed to as I am in the best and happiest place possible. At no time has that been more obvious than of late. It also helps, of course, that I truly believe that they produce the best tackle and bait available!
These people all showed a humanity beyond belief and it restored my faith in the human race. Above all, it reminded me what an incredibly lucky person I am to have firstly survived but also to have such special people around me and there for me. To any of those people I have mentioned and many more who I have not, I thank you all sincerely and with all of my heart. When I started my phone up for the first time after the operation it made all manner of noises for 90 minutes, such was the level of activity that had taken place and been recorded. The events of the last few months has restored my faith in humanity. Carp fishing, this thing that we all share, is such a wonderful thing and encapsulates people from al walks of life, but it’s a shared interest, shared love and shared passion. To receive that level of support from the wider carp fishing community has been one of the greatest experiences of my entire life.
Before long, fishing creepy back into my thoughts until, other than Lyn, it was pretty much all I could of and a burning ambition to catch a carp once again gripped me. This time, however, just catching a carp would do. This wasn’t about catching a certain target fish, as it had been so many times in the past, but about catching any fish. Just one carp and I knew I had to make it happen. Eventually, of course, my recovery and rehabilitation was going so well that I was soon home and, probably, doing more than I should have been. I was implored to slow down and allow my recovery to lessen in pace, but I wasn’t having any of that. I guess, ultimately, I paid quite a heavy price for it, but I probably wouldn’t have it any other way. I was almost certainly on the bank before I was ready, but there was going to be no stopping me really, was there? Apart from giving Lyn a cuddle, which I’ll always maintain, going fishing was the most important thing I could do and, around two months after my ordeal, shall we say, it was going to happen.