Dick Dion has been waiting for these winter days -- the time of year when Lake Ripple becomes a frozen wasteland.
But Dion, 72, knows wonders lurk beneath the eight inches of ice that coat the hidden lake. There's large-mouthed bass and pickerel -- and they are hungry. On even the coldest days, all winter long, this is where you will find him: on Lake Ripple or water masses in nearby towns. He knows all the best spots.
"I never get cold," Dion said from his camp chair on Lake Ripple, where he had a line in the water and a transducer beside it to warn him of fish in the area. "The cold just doesn't bother me."
Dion, a former member of the Board of Selectmen, is one of several fishermen for whom winter is just another challenge. When the ice coats the lake, he starts testing it for safety -- first with a stick from the shoreline, moving gradually farther out as the nights get colder and the surface becomes thicker. He pulls a sled behind him well-stocked with the tools of the trade -- a power ice drill, which makes perfect circles for his line. His fishing rods, with various types of bait. The transducer, which hypnotises him as he waits for his prey.
"Sometimes, you just want some alone time," Dion said. "It gives you something to do. I'm out all the time, whenever I can."
It was a fishing trip to Alaska that gave Dion the first sign, last year, that his life was changing. During the trip, he noticed his arm was extremely sore and he made an appointment to see his primary care physician on his return home. He never made it to the doctor. Dion was volunteering at the Community Harvest Project a few days later when his arm shattered.
The diagnosis: a tumor, caused by multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell. Dion was shocked -- he had no other symptoms.
In August, he underwent a bone marrow transplant, using his own stem cells. For 14 days, he was essentially in isolation at Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston, masked against infection as his immune system slowly regenerated.
"Fourteen days was difficult. I kept imagining what it would be like to do 14 years in prison," Dion said. "I could never do it."
Dion was one of the lucky patients -- although there were several rooms on his floor marked "BMT" for bone marrow transplant, he appeared to be the only patient who really didn't feel sick afterwards. He'd lost his hair from chemotherapy but otherwise didn't feel many affects.
"I used to walk the hallway and, the entire time, I only saw one other patient walking," he said. "He was using a walker, going slow."
He still has some restrictions on his health -- he needs to boil water before drinking it, most restaurant food is forbidden. Ice fishing? That's something his oncologist wholeheartedly endorses.
"I'm outside all the time," Dion said. "He thinks it's terrific."