Winter can’t go away quickly enough for us.
We’re ready to go back to the boat, but it’s still chilly here and back in Norfolk. Apparently they haven’t suffered from much cold as it’s rarely gotten below freezing according the marina where the boat is waiting for us to return.
Talked to someone on Facebook yesterday and they told me they got about an inch of snow which rapidly turned to rain and all of the snow is gone. So, that’s a good thing.
I’m going to tell you all a story here. Over the course of the past 7-8 years JoAnne and I have gone through a lot in getting ready to move aboard a boat. In the past few weeks people ask us about it and we tell them some of the things that have happened. Most are aghast or in awe of what we’ve accomplished.
I don’t think either JoAnne or I consider anything we’ve done or gone through too “heroic”. Except JoAnne. Cancer is nothing to sneeze about. She went through a lot in the last two years and I want to point out to folks who have normal, every day problems like ants in the kitchen, painting needed in a room, grass cutting, snow blowing or shoveling, that there are times – and people – that try the patience of saints.
In January of 2014 JoAnne wasn’t feeling well. We were I believe staying with my daughter at the time because our house had been up for sale. The whole market thing wasn’t working for us, or the house. She called off of work one day and went home four times early over the course of about a two week period. This was not only unusual for JoAnne, it was unheard of. My wife rarely gets sick, she almost never took a day off work, and she’s a pretty strong lady all in all.
On the fourth time I walked into the house after work and made an off handed comment, “So, what time is your doctor’s appointment tomorrow?”
To my surprise and astonishment (because she hates going to doctors) she gave me a time. I don’t remember now if it was the very next day or a day or so later, but she’d set one up.
Our family doctor, Kendra Robison, gave JoAnne an xray and told her that there was a “mass” down low. She ordered up a C-T scan for a couple of days later. On the 29th of January a bunch of us family members met at Rock Bottom (our normal hang out) to have a beer and celebrate my youngest son’s birthday. That’s when Doctor Robison called JoAnne. We both went outside to take the call.
I could tell by JoAnne’s face that things weren’t good, After the call she had our kids who were with us at the time come out, left spouses and grandkids inside and she told us all what was up.
She had a very large tumor, about graprefruit size, maybe larger. They believed without a doubt it was cancerous. A few days later she underwent surgery. A few weeks after that she started chemo. Lost her hair. Went through some shots to help her immune system but put her in severe pain. We had moved back into the house so she had a place to recover – because neither of us ever doubted she’d recover. There was crying, praying, more crying, plenty of support from our children (all adults).
In late August 2015 we learned that she was “cancer free” at that point. Her chemo had ended and she went home and started looking at boats – because our “five year plan” never went away. It was suspended and we both continued to work as we could. She went to work all the way through chemo. She worked fewer hours, and I tried to make sure she got plenty of rest. We still visited Rock Bottom from time to time and had a beer, but there were times when she couldn’t go to work right away because of the immunity issues.
I took off as many days from my job as I could to help her, take her to doctors appointments and be with her.
In November 2014 JoAnne found three boats that not only met our specifications, but our budget (we’d actually increased our budget by then). The house was nearly paid off anyway and we figured we could do this.
In December 2014 I flew to New York to look at a boat called “Duna”, a Transworld Formosa 41. Exactly the boat we both had dreams (and occasional nightmares) about. Beautiful lines, full keeled ketch, with most things working. The boat really needed a lot more than a few repairs, but all-in-all the boat was intact and with a little bit of work could be put in the water and sail right away.
The issues on the boat though, we considered minor compared to our goal, and JoAnne’s recent battles.
In January 2015, one year and one day from JoAnne’s diagnoses of cancer, we closed on the boat. In March of 2015 we put the house back on the market. The first day we had five showings. Over the week, we had about 25 showings. On Sunday, seven days from the day we went on the market, we closed on our house. We sold it to a young man in his 30s, single dad with two children.
We moved back in with our daughter again and began our final transition from working, to moving to our boat and becoming cruisers.
In May we were ready to leave. We both put in our resignations. Mine went in on Monday the 11th of May. JoAnne’s last day of work was supposed to be that week on Friday.
On Wednesday I was driving home and felt ill. Long story short, I’d had a heart attack but didn’t know it. We went to the doctor that evening, they sent us to the hospital, the hospital admitted me to the cardiac care ward and refused to let me move around or walk without someone being with me.
My aortic valve was damaged, and was malformed. A “bicuspid” instead of a normal three leaf tricuspid valve. I had to have a new hear valve put in. On Monday morning the following week, I was wheeled into surgery and given anaesthesia, and surgery was performed. I honestly thought that our whole life together was over.
JoAnne’s strength and fortitude was the only thing making me strong. I was terrified of someone “touching my heart” – and not in good ways. Being cut open, having your heart literally stopped and being placed on a heart-lung machine and having electrical equipment doing that work for you is very scary. I’ve always considered myself a strong, nearly fearless person.
Not that day. As I was to sign the release forms, I nearly chickened out. But I knew JoAnne was counting on me and I knew I’d counted on her being there. It was the least I could do. I signed. They operated and I’m writing this today.
Now – there’s plenty more to this story, but I’m not going to write it all. That’s for a book someday.
Jump forward to October 18, 2015. We’re in our boat. We’ve travelled from the Hudson River all the way down to Pocquoson River on the East Coast and we’re anchored out up a creek there. The phone rings. It’s a marina we’ve left messages for, as they were recommended to do some work. Our backstays aren’t as they should be and it’s causing some issues with the sails. They call me at 10Am and say “If you can get here this evening, we can look at your boat tomorrow.”
Against our better judgement and without knowing exactly what the weather was going to be, we left. And we were caught in 19knot winds without being able to raise sails, in short chop caused by constant winds, with no place to run but south under engine power. The rest of that story has already been written on the blog. Read it here: (Norfolk, the Hard Way)
We didn’t “get seen” the next day. In fact, Friday that week we were hit by a power boat. Almost $12,000.
On the day the mast was going back up in December 2015, JoAnne fell from a fixed dock onto a boat she was trying to board after we were invited over for a drink. She fractured two vertebrae. We’re in Colorado as most of you know, while she heals.
She’s supposed to be out of her back brace in a few days. One more appointment before we head back to the boat at the end of March to have her chemo port removed (we hope) and then back to Adventure.
Summer is coming. We want to be back on the boat this spring to find a place to land for a few months of summer while we do needed repairs and refit, and then next fall, we’re off for the Bahamas – finally.
So you see folks, adversity happens. But one must pick up their marbles, collect them all, along with their thoughts and persevere if one is to make it anywhere. Whether you’re time to make it down the Island Chain of the Caribbean, the East Coast of the US, or you’re just trying to get through day-to-day at work until your time to go sailing comes up, you can never, EVER give up.
You can’t let life, naysayers or negativity get you down. You have to keep plugging along.
This is the way we live life. NOTHING is handed to you on a silver platter and if it is you’re the one who is missing out on life. If you don’t step up, grab that brass ring on the Merry Go Round you will never, ever accomplish anything more than letting life run past you.
Life is not something you get through. Life is something you must live to the fullest no matter what stands in your way, no matter the adversity, no matter the bumps and bruises you suffer along the way.
Grab life and give it a whirl!