April through May 2019

When we came back to the marina, we were happy to see our boat.  We both missed Adventure very much.  Had the bottom cleaned by the local divers, and found out there was a LOT of hard growth on the bottom, where she tends to settle in at low tide.

Adventure from SHVM docks (Image by Nancy)

We cleaned up the boat and emptied all the extra crap because we had to make room for two crew members who had planned to go with us towards the Bahamas for a couple of weeks.  In the end, that didn’t work out, as they had other things happening in their lives which precluded them from going along.  But, the four of us took Adventure out and put up the sails the second we left the marina and put her through a pretty good shake down cruise for the day.

Unfortunately, we hit the mud, which slowed us, and the wind blew me into the neighbors boat.  Small scratch, but’s it’s going to cost a bit to fix.

Adventure performed extremely well, and we wound up doing a bit of a “show boat” past the marina under nearly full sail (minus mizzen), and got a video and pictures.  I’ll try to post those.

Adventure entering ICW from Cape Fear River Near American Fish (Image by Jen)

Adventure, Sails dropped, under engine power (Image by Nancy)

Adventure Flyby (Video by Nancy)

On Monday the 6th of May we’d planned to leave.  We both woke up to zero winds and looking at the various weather apps decided not to go.  Some of our friends argued with us about it, but we’ve had enough of making a decision, being talked out of it and/or second guessing ourselves.  We stood our ground.

On Tuesday though, we knew it was light in the morning and would pick up, so we were going to head out.  About 45 minutes prior to departure, I had all lines off but two to make it easy on the deck crew (our friends) and started smelling something “wrong”.

Going below, the transmission was shooting transmission fluid out the side.  I thought the seal had gone bad.  I spent several days trouble shooting and cleaning the pans out below the engine.

Finally, on Friday, I verified 100% the problem.  The shifter lever was the culprit.  Inside is an O ring that was probably worn.  Yesterday, Saturday 11 May, I tore into the thing.  It was easier than I expected, but it took me quite a few hours of research and downloading the manuals and trying to find any sort of instructions on disassembly.  I was unsuccessful at finding any videos.

The hardest part was keeping hold of a tiny ball bearing and screw that threatened to shoot out of the housing and down into the bilge.  I put a powerful magnet there to catch things, which saved me having to hunt for the ball bearing when it actually shot out and stuck to the magnet!

I pulled the guts out and looked and sure enough, the O ring was worn badly, and cracked.  When I tried to remove it, it broke in two.  I took the stuff to Napa who had the right parts.  $1.47 later, I had a new O ring and one spare.  I expect I should never have to do that again, but at least an O ring doesn’t weight much.

After reassembly, everything seems to be running well, no more leaks.  I’ll check the levels today and probably have to add a little bit to the transmission.  As they say, it’s best to run between the lines and have less than more.

With a bit of luck and weather planning we can still get out of here for a couple of weeks for some kind of adventure.

Sometime in June, JoAnne needs to go in to see a doctor, get a chemo port flush.  So, we’ll also have blood work done as well and pass that data on to her oncologist back in Colorado.

Today is Mother’s Day.  I took JoAnne breakfast and coffee in bed.  Of course, I do that almost every day anyway, but I got to tell her Happy Mother’s Day that way.

Today, there are storms coming through in a few moments.  Look like they will last an hour or so at most, and blow off.  More stuff is coming from behind, but will be hours and hours before it’s arrival.

The waves and winds do not look too good for tomorrow to go outside.  We’ll keep our eyes open for a weather window though.

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Hurricane Florence

Back in September, we had to deal with two life threatening conditions.

The first was a possible Category 4 hurricane (Florence) headed straight for us.

The second was JoAnne’s CA-125 numbers rising.  The CA-125 is a particular cancer antigen they use to determine if there are ovarian tumors growing in her body.  The previous June we noted the numbers had begun to increase.  I think it was late August or early September we had another test performed (it’s a blood test).  The numbers were trending upward.

When we start prepping for the hurricane I doubled-checked our insurance, then removed sails, stowed things, removed important-to-us items, stored things in a storage locker on shore, packed the car and prepared to run.  The night before or the morning of our departure JoAnne received a message from the doctors telling her she needed to come back to Colorado and begin chemo within a few weeks.  Sooner if possible.

We had a PET scan done here in the North Carolina area, and it was determined she indeed had two areas of concern.  One, the one that frightened us the most was a nodule on her left lung on the upper lobe.  The second was a small area that lit up the PET scan, between liver and kidneys.  The lump on her lung was about 1 cm in size.  Significant in that it seemed to be growing rapidly.

We departed on Wednesday morning, with no particular destination.  She called her brother, Paul, down in Tampa Bay area and asked if we could visit for a time during the hurricane and he was more than happy to see us.  So, we headed east and south along the pre-staged hurricane evacuation routes;  there was no turning back once we got out of town.  We had to leave.

We basically had said good bye to our home, Adventure, unsure if we would ever see her intact again.  We figured insurance would help us replace her, or something similar if it came down to that.  But, we have no allusions about such things.  Insurance companies are notorious for NOT paying out on such claim, even with full replacement insurance like we have.  (Note that after being hit in Cobbs Marina by a power boater, while we were docked, we no longer carry just liability insurance.)

The trip south was uneventful.  We arrived. visited with Paul and Cathy, and waited with bated breath as we watched the weather applications on our computers and tablets.  The forecast Cat 4 never happened.  Florence did, however hit at a category 1 and destroyed several marinas to the north of our marina.  We lost a few pieces of the marina (and there is still some damage to this day).  Our own boat suffered minor damage (I could not easily remove the bimini as it has solar panels over the top of it, and I didn’t have enough time.

I had double and triple lined the boat to the pilings and dock, extra fenders and strapped the dock box down to the dock.  It didn’t move and was fine.  Adventure exploded a fender or two, stretched some lines and we got a couple tears in the old bimini.  Minor damage considering some people lost their boats north of us.

We tried to come back… but, roads were out, blocked, bridges were washed out, floods were everywhere and getting back to the marina would have proved problematic with a lack of fuel in the area.

So, onward to Colorado it was.  We saw her doctors, and set up appointments and a chemo schedule.  Finally, we heard people were getting back to Southport, and we had a three week down time before chemo began.  We hightailed it back to Adventure to clean up, repair the damage we could and prep the boat for the long winter of being away from her.

We simply left the boat in “hurricane prep” mode, and I dumped water tanks, and ensure nothing would freeze inside (the weather here rarely gets to freezing and when it does, doesn’t stay low enough for long enough to freeze the water).  With the boat cleaned and ready for winter, we secured her once more and drove the 2000 miles back to Colorado for the fifth trip since June (For anyone keeping track, that’s 10,000 miles in three months, not counting the side trips, and the hop down to Florida, which was roughly another 1600 added in there.)

JoAnne began the chemo in November.  Her chemo would be different this time.  On “Day One” she’d have all the medicines to prevent nausea, plus two chemicals to fight cancer, one was carboplatium and the other gemzar (and I don’t know if I am spelling the two correctly, I’ll fix that later).  Then on “Day Eight”, a dose of gemzar only.

Unfortunately, things began to go wrong.  She had a tooth infection, and wound up having an extraction, and going on antibiotics, thus preventing the Day 8 chemo session.  Instead three weeks later, the session and count down began again.

Day one of the second chemo session went well.  Her blood counts however, did not do well.  Again the day eight session was cancelled.

Each “session” was three weeks apart.  By this time it had been several weeks.  Session three was supposed to go as a Day One chemo infusion, then Day eight would be gemzar followed by Neulasta.  (Neulasta is a chemical they give to kick your bone marrow into high gear to produce white blood cells, and because they were so low, she really needed to get that shot).

Unfortunately, her numbers were so bad, her platelet count was extremely low, red and white cells very low, that it was dangerous for her to be out in public even.  So, they gave her the Neulasta shot, which is actually administered by a tiny robot module stuck to her arm.  It is loaded, armed and placed, then sticks a person with a small needle, to inject the drug 27 hours after the chemo is completed.  So, we have to monitor the device for beeps, lights and infusion.  When it is completed it was my job to remove the robot.

Her blood cell numbers began to look better, but her platelet count continued to spiral downward and would not recover.  We were very concerned.

Platelets, for those who are not well versed in medicine are required for clotting your blood.  So a small cut can bleed profusely, and a larger would could become fatal in moments.  You need to get the platelets back up to a normal number.

We watched the numbers, as she had tests weekly now, so another drive to the hospital, 45 miles round trip sometimes twice per week, we were at the hospital.

On Session Number Four, things start to appear normal.  We went in and her infusion went well.  She did not receive her Neulasta shot yet, as they wished to do the Day Eight Gemzar infusion.  She did get red blood cells.  We did that eight days later, on a Wednesday.  On Thursday we went in for blood work and she wound up receiving platelets as those numbers were still extremely low.  They gave her two units and then checked.  Then gave her two more.

Earlier that morning she had noticed a small blemish on her face.  It had gotten larger.  Then we noticed numerous small, red dots, resembling measles on her arms and legs.  We showed the nurses who then became very concerned.

At five PM, when we should have been out the door on the way home, her doctor ordered her admitted to the hospital.  She was “Neutropenic“.  This is a condition that results in low blood cell counts.  Her platelets were practically missing, and a hematologist was called in.

She was put on bed confinement because if she fell or was bruised in any way, should could hemorrhage.  The lack of white cells may have resulted in sepsis and could have killed her.  She was in danger.

Four days in the hospital later, they had given her some drug to prevent her body from killing off the blood cells they were giving her.  Apparently, her “Super Power” is killing foreign matter inside her own body.  Except cancer.  Her immune system was killing off the platelets they were giving her.  They had to give her red cells and platelets once they stopped the body from killing it off.

In a couple of days she was feeling better, color had returned, the spots were gone and she was ready to go home.

The Gemzar was the culprit.  They stopped giving that to her altogether, and stuck with the carboplatium.

Session Five and Session Six went without a hitch, other than lowered blood cell counts, and receiving the Neulasta shot on time 27 hours after each chemo session.

Three weeks to the day after the last chemo, like our regular clock-work schedule, we visited the hospital for a blood draw.  Fourty minutes later, we were in the PET scan area.  The numbers were back in 20 minutes.  All great.  Everything back to normal.  Except her red blood cells.  We think she is a bit anemic from all of the chemicals and she’s working to fix this with diet, supplements, and so on.  Tomorrow, on Friday, we’d get the PET scan results.

On Friday… we saw the doctor himself.  He was stern.  He didn’t smile.

Then he said, “Well, the PET scan results came back.  We see absolutely no sign of the cancer.  The nodule on your lung is just gone.  The other area isn’t light up.  We DID see some cells around your lung, but, they are not lighting up as if they are cancer.  It looks very good.”

JoAnne and I high-fived.

Wednesday the following week we were packed and were headed out.  First stop was going to be Omaha area, to visit our son Jeremy, who had moved up there and was working.  The car was completely packed and we sneaked out to avoid waking Nick, who had graciously allowed us to stay there for the whole medical adventure.

We left the key inside, went out the garage, secured the door with the electronic system and got in the car.

I put the key in and …. absolutely nothing happened. The car was dead.

We went ahead and got some assistance from the guys, and jumped the car.  Left jumpers on for 20 minutes, and the car started right up.

We drove to Nebraska without killing the car once.  That night we stayed with friends, and the car was fine.  Started up a couple of different times.  Next day we left for Missouri, pass through all the flooded areas, but no car problems.  Checking the car that night when we arrived in Richmond, MO, I found the battery voltages were not at a normal 13.8 after running all day.

I assumed the battery had a bad cell.  I went to Walmart because, as it turns out, some engineer is sitting there getting kickbacks on battery changes in the Dodge Journey.  The battery is NOT under the hood.  It’s not in the trunk.  It’s NOT in the back seat.  It’s under the left, front fender, kind of inside the engine compartment, but to get it, you must remove the wheel, the shroud covering the inside of the fender and then reach WAY up inside to unbolt the battery holder and cables!

Ok… 4.5 hours later at Walmart, the next issue happened.  All of the mechanics except one young kid, had walked off the job leaving my car sitting on the lift, tire off, and battery not looked at.  I, needless to say, complained.

At the end of it all, I personally reinstalled the wheel, taught the kid how to drop his lift, and made sure to Quality Control check his battery installation (because, he didn’t tighten the cables, and didn’t install the bracket to hold the battery down… which might have turn the car into a dangerous missile…..)

I went in to pay for the battery, and the lady at the counter apologized and said “No charge today, Sir, have a good day”.  Just like that.  Free battery?

Cool.

Unfortunately, nothing in life is free.

On Wednesday two days ago, we left Asheville, NC en route for Southport North Carolina, about a six hour drive, give or take.

Everything went very well, except the construction, the crazy drivers and accidents scattered across the region.  JoAnne routed us down and off some of the freeways to avoid accidents.  Somewhere around 501 near Myrtle Beach and a couple of miles before the turn to highway 17, the car began making horrible noises.

Then a “battery light” came on.

Uh oh….

I pulled into a random parking lot.  I grabbed my multimeter which I am going to start carrying around on my belt like a TRUE Nerd from now on, and measured the out put of the alternator.

11.5 volts DC.  Hmm… that’s not normal.  Should be 14.6vdc or so.  Yeah, alternator is NOT charging.  Also some ‘grindy’ noise was coming from the engine.  I listened carefully, and decided it was either an idler wheel, or the tensioner, along with probably the alternator failing.

With the battery at under optium voltage, and after discovering that it would cost 200 bucks just to tow the car around the corner, and have it “diagnosed” (not fixed, just tested), I thanked the lady I’d spoken too and said, “We’re going to try to make it to the marina.  It’s only 52 miles….”

We killed all the power inside, anything charging inside was removed, radio killed, and I illegally ignored my turn signals and avoided stepping on the brakes.

This battery was brand new, and free.  I was going to drive it into the dirt.

And we did.

We arrived a few moments after 5 PM, an hour later than we thought.  At the corner of Fish Factory road and Long Beach Road, I again broke the law.  The light was red.  But, the car was freaking out.  Weird lights on the dash were coming on.  Beeps and buzzes from the dashboard I’d never heard before met our ears.  I made an illegal left turn against a red traffic light.  Of course, there were no cars, and no traffic as the bridge is still closed…. I then, for the third time that day, broke the law.

I went 10 miles an hour over the speed limit.

The car died as I backed into an open space in the lot.

The last bit of momentum took us to the curb.  The car died.  We were home.

That evening I came down, checked the boat, batteries and put the bed together.

Next morning I called the place that had worked on the car last June on the alternator (see, wasn’t the FIRST time we’d had issues). They have the car now, it was towed there yesterday afternoon at 2pm.

He called me three times this morning.

Diagnosis:

  1. Alternator shot, but under a lifetime warranty.
  2. Tensioner wheel is failing, bearings coming out

A new alternator is on order and will be installed Monday morning, along with a new tension wheel and mechanism (probably the spring).

Should have the car back by sometime Monday afternoon.  The cost will likely be 300 bucks, give or take a bit.

(That’s all labor, and perhaps a bit for the parts).

I will NOT be surprised if the brand new battery isn’t shot too.  We’ll find out soon enough.

 


Today is Friday, 5 April 2019.

Nothing in life is set in stone.  Not even those “Death and Taxes” people talk about.  You might avoid both if you’re smart, careful and even, at times, courageous.

One thing in life is certain though… if you don’t try, you can not do.  JoAnne is a tough chick.  She’s a lucky lady and she’s extremely courageous. She is my super hero.  Used to be my Dad was my “hero”.  But, after 40+ years with her, I’ve seen her face death with a smile and overcome it.  I’ve seen her pick up a margarita a few hours after chemo and say “Why not have a little fun? I deserve a margarita!”

I’ve watched her cry quietly over this awful disease. Not for herself but for, the perhaps “missed chances” at things.

I watched her face light up when she holds our newest grandchild, Lincoln, and hug the other grands, and the great-grand daughter.

I have spend sleepless nights myself worrying about her, caring for her, getting her things, bringing her coffee in bed in the mornings and just being there to hold her when she wants me to.

Life changes, but you can either accept things as they are, or you can make your own plans and make your wishes come true.

Cruising life isn’t always about pretty anchorages, great sailing days, and seeing dolphins.  Yes, those things happen.  But, so many other bloggers and video bloggers show you all the “good stuff”.  No one shows you, or tells you how much work it is to get ready for a hurricane, hoping it misses you by a long distance, and how much worry it causes you when you can’t be there to “protect your ship”.

We live our lives now around this boat and each other.  It’s not always positive.  Broken cars, engines, plumbing, leaks, hard rains, strong winds and sometimes broken facilities where you’re visiting, poor service at places (See Walmart above, there’s way more to that story than I actually told you) and even things like “uncontrolled dogs” that some cruisers bring ashore all work to dissuade a person from continuing.

We’ve been LUCKY on a lot of issues.  We’ve also probably paid out a LOT more money than we had to at times.

But, I don’t think either of us would trade this life for a sedate house on a hill in Colorado again.

The best thing?  Coming “Home” to “Welcome Home” messages from our dock friends.  Our extended family.

And to that end, this little thing goes out to Kevin, Debi, Jay, Tina, Pam and Charles – a few of that extended B Dock family.  Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, and looking after our boat, worry for us, staying in touch, checking my batteries in the boat (Jay), and watching over Adventure during the hurricane (Debi and Kevin).  We can’t thank you guys enough.  (By the way, I’m probably gonna need a ride to the place to pick up my car Monday… anyone? LOL)

This weekend and week coming up, I will be getting the boat ready for an extended trip.  At this point, we have Abacos and Marsh Harbor in our sights.  JoAnne, more than anyone in the world right now, deserves a break, an island, an island drink, a beach and a vacation.

I’m going to give it to her.

 

 

December 7th, 2018

Today is also Pearl Harbor Day.  I suppose it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything.  At least here.

I’ve posted on other blogs, facebook, and our FB groups, but not here.

So, here’s December’s post.

Tonight, we go see our Granddaughter, Cassie, in a play, Death of a Salesman (I think).  High School rendition, so should be interesting.

JoAnne has been through two chemotherapy sessions.  A portion of each of those two were cancelled due, mainly, to low blood cell counts.  The first session was about six hours long. The second part of that session was supposed to last an hour, and was a week after the first infusion.  Unfortunately, she was suffering suddenly from a tooth ache, which turned also into an infection… likely due to lowered white blood cell numbers.

The second session last week on a Thursday went well.  But her blood work on this Wednesday (5 December) showed her white, red blood cells and the building blocks for those things (along with other chemicals I’m not as familiar with) were at a very low level.  Thus, they cancelled the second infusion (which should have been yesterday).

They want to give her a drug, called Newlasta, which will help to regenerate white blood cells, but it takes 14 days to function, and they need to give it after the second infusion.  So, that’s become a problem.  Now, she gets one more blood draw in a week or so (next Thursday), and then a doctor’s visit on the following Monday at which time we will be asking some questions, and hopefully there will be a “new plan” to get this accomplished correctly.

The next infusion will be after the doctor’s visit.  The GOOD news in all this, is the CA-125 blood test (Cancer Antigen test) is showing a drastic reduction in count.  It went from just over 70 to 50.  Her last tests over the course of time have been, June 2017 the CA-125 was 21, and a year later, this past June was 50.  This caused concern with us and the doctors.  In August it shot up to the mid-60s, and therefore the PET scan was ordered.

The PET scan showed not one, but TWO areas of concern.  An area somewhere between her liver and kidneys and a node on her left lung.

The next CA-125 tests were 68 and then 71 in September and October respectively.  (I might be off on the dates, exactly, but you get the gist of it).

In between all of this (September to Present), we’ve made three trips across country, back and forth, ran from a hurricane, visited Florida and came back to Colorado, where the chemo has commenced.

Two sessions are through, with some complications, but still plugging along.  We’re still very much alive, and still “Adventuring” when we can.

20 December should be our “half way point” on Chemo.  Meaning she is starting the third session.  Whether or not we get some stuff tacked on at the end, we’re not sure yet, but we’re going to be checking on that when the doctor’s visit comes to pass.  That will, if things go well, give us 3 more sessions or nine more weeks with chemo in those nine weeks, healing and doctor’s visits, blood work and dozens of miles on the car back and forth to the hospitals.

In the mean time, we miss our ship, Adventure, very much and find ourselves wishing for the house to rock us to sleep at night.  Instead, we have cold, snow on occasion, next door neighbors who can be loud (in the middle of the night for some reason….) hundreds of people everywhere, and us trying to avoid germs. HA!

Tonight, as I mentioned, we’re going to a HS play, where we will likely be exposed to a lot of germs again, because people always cough, sneeze and aren’t the cleanest of creatures.  JoAnne will bring a mask just in case, but hopefully won’t have to use it.  Not, that we honest believe that a mask is going to actually STOP germs from getting into your system anyway.  Doesn’t seem to help at hospitals where there are super bugs…

In the mean time, she’s been crocheting, reading and helping run the various Sailing and Cruising forums she is Admin on, and I’ve been re-learning Morse Code (I’m very rusty at it), and have built two radios to work on Ham Radio frequencies (20 and 40 meters) but haven’t an antenna to connect, and I’ve also been writing a complete role play game campaign for “Stars Without Number” ( a role playing game, set in the milled of the year 3200, in space for some friends in the Southport area).  All of this to “keep busy”.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really have room, nor the time, to grab my charts and sit down and work out courses for the Bahamas and beyond, but I figure it’s likely better to do that just before we go.  At this point, we’ve decided that if we can get back in late March, we will plan a trip down to Bahamas for the Spring, and head back before Hurricane Season hits… and we have a couple of friends who want to go along, who are both sailors.  It will help immensely to get us all there safely, and through that big hurdle of “several days of sailing”, so we can head home on our own when the time comes.

Last thing, I’m personally working on is my Celestial Navigation again.  I really want to grasp that stuff.  I think I’ve mostly got it, but now, I really need to practice it.

That is all for now, friends.  Until next time, Fair Winds!

 

 

September/October/November

I have already related to you the mess we had with insurance over medical problems.

We came back to Colorado, and then after getting that straightened out, we saw JoAnne’s oncologist, and dates were scheduled.

As luck, or perhaps fine tuning, would have it, we had a three week hiatus in which to make another trip across country.  We wound up traveling back from Colorado to Southport.  We stopped (as usual) to visit our friends, Mike and Cindy, as Cindy is preparing for her starring role in “A Bad Year for Tomatoes” in November.  (As of this writing, she did opening night and the second night’s play.  This Friday night and Saturday should be their final curtain.)

We stopped around Tennessee and we wound up at Southport late on the evening of our arrival.

The boat was pretty much a mess.  Books and other things not nailed down flew around during the hurricane.  A solar panel pulled loose from the top and fell to the deck, ripping wires from the connectors.  Fortunately, it wasn’t much of a mess, the books were cleaned up, the batteries checked, and we stayed with our friend at her apartment for a couple of night until I could clean the interior of the boat up.

We spend the next week doing minor repairs, and prepping the boat for the winter, dumping our water tanks and removing any remaining food stuffs to the car, to return that with us to Colorado.  Why not use it there?

I repaired and tested the solar charging system.  We had a major water gusher under the sink where our Seagull Water filter system resided, and had worked itself loose, releasing pressure when turning on the pressure water system.  We move a few things to storage, removed a few winter clothes and after about a week on the ground there, set out again for Colorado.

This time, we took a few extra days, as there was no rush.  We stopped again with Mike and Cindy and spent a full day assisting in the set build for the play at the local VFW Hall in Richmond, MO.  I helped Cindy with her lines and we had a good time hanging out with them.  The day we left, we both had colds, and were kind of miserable.

So, we stopped in Kansas for the night instead of making the long, eleven hour run from Richmond back to Colorado Springs.  We spent the night got up late, traveled and arrived back here.

Over the course of the last week, we’ve been to multiple doctor’s appointments, been in and out of two hospitals and visited most of our kids.

A couple of days ago, our fourteenth grand child was born.  His name is Lincoln Alan Dale Donaldson, and he was 5lbs & 15oz.  He’s have a few breathing issues apparently though, and is still in the hospital until they can get him breathing correctly, even perhaps giving him some  red blood cells to help as he seemed slightly anemic.  Otherwise, he seemed healthy.  His mom and dad (Lana and Patrick) are quite proud!

Baby Lincoln

 

Yesterday was the beginning of JoAnne’s chemo.  She has six sessions.  They are 21 days long (scheduling, not that many days in a row!.)

The first day is a lot of chemicals, drugs to prevent nausea. etc.  The second set in the first session, will be 7 days out from the first day, and will be a short session to give her another dose of one of the chemicals.  Then it starts over again on Day 21.  This will go on for six total sessions, or about 18 weeks, interspersed with doctor’s appointments, blood work and other tests as needed.

We are hoping this particular chemotherapy doesn’t make her lose her hair like the first one did, but we’re prepared that it will, just in case.  She has some hats and scarves, like last time.  The chemicals are somewhat different this time as well, and her doctor said that people do not lose their hair “as much” with this type.

JoAnne is a tough cookie.  She fought this last time and managed to beat it back for four full years, she never really even got ill as some do, through chemo, and she worked the whole time last time.  This time, we’re completely retired and have nothing to keep us from fighting this all the way through.  She’s going to get plenty of rest in spite of herself! ha!

JoAnne, the First Mate of the Sailing Ketch, Adventure!

 

We both want to tell you folks, those who are already out there and follow us, and those thinking about it, as well as our friends who are comfortable in their homes, snuggled up by the fireplaces, drinking their hot chocolates, or martinis by the fire:

Stop living life the easy way.  Don’t pass the opportunities that come your way.  Don’t live day-to-day and Check-to-Check.

Do NOT let life pass you by while you’re “waiting for retirement”.  Don’t sit on your butts, thinking about all the things you’re going to do “When I don’t have to work again”.  Do NOT wait for “enough money” (because you will NEVER HAVE ENOUGH MONEY!) to do the “RV Thing”, “buy a boat”, “go horse back riding”, “Mountain Climbing”, “Paragliding or skydiving”.

Just don’t wait.  Do it.  Sit down and make that list of things you want to do, and then check them off, one at a time.  Save some money, go do one, pick a date, do another.

Life isn’t lived while you’re “waiting on it to catch you”.  Life is lived when you grab that bull by the horns and wrestle his big ass down into the mud and hog tie him, then jump up and win that trophy.

The day JoAnne gets her walking papers from chemo, we’re headed back to Southport without meager belongings, and we’re going to empty out the Vee Berth, put everything we don’t need in storage (winter clothing, parts, junk pieces, extra crap that we “might need one day” and all the stuff that weigh us down, collect a couple of friends as crew and we’re setting sail for the Bahamas.  Yes, it will be near the beginning of Hurricane Season.  Yes, it might be the BEST sailing time.  Yes, it will be relatively spur of the moment, pretty much “unplanned” and absolutely not the “right season”, but you know what?  It’s well past time to do it.

We made a decision awhile back that we were going to live our lives, and do the “medical stuff” around life, not live our lives around the “medical stuff”.  I’ll keep JoAnne safe, and healthy, and make sure she sees the doctors when it’t time, but we’re not sitting on our asses waiting for a “day, date, season or proper time” any longer.

To our friends Kevin and Debi – skippers of their own ships, be prepared, we’re coming for you, we need a crew! (Don’t be surprised if you get shanghaied!!!!!!!!!

 

 

The Dance

limbo

noun (1)

lim·bo | \ ˈlim-(ˌ)bō  \
plural limbos

1: often capitalized an abode of souls that are according to Roman Catholic theology barred from heaven because of not having received Christian baptism

2aa place or state of restraint or confinement trapping travelers in an airless limbo—Sam Boal

ba place or state of neglect or oblivion proposals kept in limbo

can intermediate or transitional place or state the adolescent occupies a special human limboNew Republic

da state of uncertainty The graduate was in limbo for a while, trying to decide what to do next.

e: a dance or contest that involves bending over backwards and passing under a horizontal pole lowered slightly for each successive pass

Last month I spoke about our lives in the last few years, the boat, JoAnne’s cancer and right after that we were put on alert watching Hurricane Florence form off the coast of Africa and make the long trek across the sea, to finally visit the USA.

In the few weeks after publishing that entry in August, I spent a lot of time cleaning up the boat, getting her ready for the fall trip to the Bahamas.  Then Florence formed, and it appeared to be heading right for Southport, NC.  The news was all over the place on possible hit locations, the NHC was all over the place, the Spaghetti models were everywhere.  The only thing that was accurate was my own predictions that it would hit somewhere between Myrtle Beach and Beaufort, NC.  And I was accurate about that part.

JoAnne and I started preparing the boat for a hurricane, and finally on Tuesday just before it hit, we also received a call from her oncologist’s office back in Colorado.  We had four weeks to return to begin a treatment plan.  A PET scan had been ordered and taken care of the Friday before.  The doctors read the scans and decided she had some “area of concern” which the oncologist believed to be a recurrence.

On Wednesday morning, of “official, mandatory evacuation” and in light of a probably Category Four hurricane hitting full on in North Carolina, near to us, we packed the last of our belongings we’d not place in storage and I started the car, looked to JoAnne and said, “Where too?”

We had no idea where to go, which way to run or who would take us in for a few days.  With the car running, we called her Brother down in Florida and told him the situation, and he had us come to stay with he and his wife for a few days.  We knew we wanted to return to the boat before heading back to Colorado, and probably hit our storage locker once more for cold weather clothing, usually kept in storage in the summer.

We spent a week in Florida visiting with friends and her brother.  When we attempted to return to North Carolina, the rivers were just cresting, roads were out, flooded and bridges damaged, roads closed, and basically those who got home to Brunswick county were already close in, and had an idea of which roads to take avoiding the dangerous conditions (and road blocks).

Many made it home, but we could not. Our time was running out.

We made for Colorado.  Friends are caring for our boat, which suffered only minor, external damage.  Lost a solar panel, the bimini and it was damp below.  I have plans to head back there once we get JoAnne settled into a routine.

This past week was a mess with the doctors and insurance.  We argued with both for hours, until finally, the insurance company told the doctor’s office what we’d been saying all along; we do NOT need a referral to her oncologist (since she has been seeing him for four years) and we’re on Tricare standard which does NOT require ANY referrals for ANY outpatient care.

The doctors also told us, that there were two areas of concern, not one.  One area on her lung, and another somewhere between kidney and liver, very non specific.  We will find out how specific that is on this coming Tuesday.

Another CT scan was performed a few days ago, after the battles with Insurance and the Dr. office, and we now have more information.

Friday she was called and told that she will be commencing chemotherapy soon, after a port is installed and we see the doctor once more so we can work out a schedule and plan to fight this.  He told the caller to tell JoAnne that the lung issue is a “recurrence” rather than a new form of cancer (lung cancer perhaps).  He was unsure prior to the CT scan, but is more confident of his diagnosis now I suppose.

(Personally, I am NOT more confident yet, and have questions.)

At the beginning I put up a definition. The definition was for the word Limbo, a word I used in the previous blog entry from August.

Limbo, from the definition is a place… without a destiny or destination.

It’s also a dance…

Kind of like life.  Life is a dance or journey.  You never know when you’re young how the moves go.  You have to be taught.  Some of us, like me, never learned how to dance, I just listen to the music.  But, there are times when bending over backward to accomplish something important is how you get it done.  Going in the wrong direction to reach your destination can get frustrating.

Our destination is, and always will be, to sail the islands, from the Bahamas on to the rest of the Caribbean.  We have found that life isn’t really a “dance”, but a journey without a true “destination”.  The “Dance” part comes in at successive times in life, when you’re worried, when you’re up against some seemingly insurmountable task and just about ready to give up and quit, you Dance.

It can be a jig, a limbo, a foxtrot, or the twist.  Whatever it is, at the end, you will come out stronger, better, and more in tune with life.

JoAnne and I had a dance the last few days with Life.  It wasn’t a journey, it didn’t turn out to be a destination, merely a diversion.  We talked and discussed this dance, and found that we have decided that we will no longer live our lives around medical issues, we will deal with them around our lives.

After we get the plan in place, we’ll have about three weeks before the next chemo session.  This will give us time to travel back across country, see our boat, repair the damage, prepare her for winter (by dumping water, checking engine etc) and collect the Colorado Clothing we’ll need, and then return to our family and support system here.

Adventure has proven she can and will survive whatever Nature throws at her for now.  It’s not her time, and it’s certainly not OUR time.

So to our friends in Southport, Kevin and Debi, we thank you for looking after our home, Adventure, and WE WILL BE BACK SOON!   To our family, Especially Nick and Levi, thank you for your support.  To those we left behind in the disaster, you will rise up stronger.

And for us…. We’re going sailing again, very, very soon.

 

Cruising, without going anywhere

I suppose the idea of cruising in a sailboat (or any boat for that matter) entails travel, seeing new places, meeting new people, having new experiences and generally involves the movement of your boat.

As JoAnne and I have discovered though, cruising the world at a SLOWER pace than most, we find that we make friends easily and tend to keep them, and we don’t have to move too much to do so.

Over the past three years we’ve traveled a lot, both by car and boat.  We’ve been to places we’d never been together, made a lot of new friends, and found places we really enjoyed being… including Southport, NC.  When we landed here, we thought we’d be moving further south as soon as possible, and that never happened due to a variety of problems.  Everything from medical issues in our family, including my youngest brother, to engine issues, car problems and general circumstances conspired to keep us tied to, and in South Harbour Village Marina.

We’ve become so accustomed to being here, that when we were requested to leave the really nice slip we were in (due to the private owner selling it out to someone else) we felt like we were being evicted.  We moved only a few slips down and remained on B-Dock where many of our friends live on their own boats.  We even have a B-Dock group on Facebook for all of us to post things and to help one another if necessary.

Over the past year and a half here, I’ve worked for the marina.  There were three reasons I took the job.  The first reason was because I needed to take up some of my time, the second for the fun of it, and the third was for a little beer money or to offset the cost of the slip.   The last doesn’t really do both, but, it’s sufficient I suppose.  I left a job that paid me over 5 times what I make a dock hand here at the marina (including tips), so if I wanted a job that made a lot of money, I might have found something different.  Mostly, this was for fun (and I even explained to the Dockmaster, “When this is no longer fun, I quit!) and it has been a lot of fun.  But it’s really not my life, nor my lifestyle, nor is it something I will continue to do.

I don’t feel like I want to “die at work”.  The truth is, I think we’ve heard Mother Ocean calling to us again.

We do have a deadline too.  JoAnne has been cancer-free since August of 2014.  We bought Adventure in January 2015, one year after her diagnosis.  She spent months going in every three weeks to chemo, then the following Sunday morning to get a shot to help her white blood cells regenerate.  She worked through all of it, albeit, with a few less hours than was normal.

She found this boat in November of 2014 after she was declared cancer-free.  We did the survey, and eventually I wound up having my own medical issues after buying the boat.  We still managed to beat mortality for a bit longer, and got to the boat, moved aboard and starting moving the boat south.

We spend long periods of time in places that we like, moving around only when necessary or when we truly HAVE to sail.  We like it here, but again, we both need more, and to move on.  And we’re not getting younger.  In fact, JoAnne is seeing a rise in her blood work numbers about cancer.

Over the past few months, since June, her CA-125 blood test has been coming back elevated.  It spiked, and in fact, doubled since last year’s test.  The oncologist ordered a CT scan, and found nothing.  Other tests have been performed, all showing “no problems”.

Right now we are working with local doctors, and they with Colorado doctors to set up a PET scan to determine if there is a recurrence of cancer.  We will have three choices then….

  1. We go back to Colorado if there IS a recurrence and go through whatever necessary treatment is available, designed to combat this hateful disease.
  2. We take crap off the boat we don’t need, put food and water aboard that we do, and we set sail for the Bahamas.
  3. If the “recurrence” isn’t great and it’s not time for chemo or other treatment, we still go (and this is what’s really up in the air at this time).

What we don’t know is how long we get to go for, how long treatments take (we can guess of course), or the outcome of such treatments.  We don’t know the outcome of the PET scan, since it hasn’t been accomplished as of yet.

So, we’re hanging in Limbo right now, waiting for doctors and hospitals to arrange things and get going on this, get it done and let us know the situation.

Right now, I’m ready to quit my job to be here until she gets her medical tests done, so I’m always available for her.  But, I don’t think I’ll do that yet.  We also know she’s in good health, and good spirits, and has no issues at all, so we’re at the point of thinking this may be the place here blood work is going to “settle down” and stable for now.  At least that’s my hope.

No matter what happens in the next few weeks, we will be making our trip to the Bahamas somehow.  We prefer it to be IN our boat, under our own power, without the help of airplanes, or cars, but we don’t know yet.  We also want to go back to the British Virgin Islands, again, in this boat rather than by plane.  It’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of when.

I have a few things to do with the boat, nothing at all critical.  She’s ready to go now, with the exception that I have a slight exhaust leak in the manifold, which probably is a relatively easy fix I think (gaskets most likely) and I want to work on a water maker system I have purchased, but haven’t even unboxed it yet.  We can likely get away without using it, but, I’d like it on the boat for “just in case” at this point.

Other than that, a simple clean sweep of the boat, stowing things, and getting the deck mostly cleared is all we really have left to do to get out on a long voyage.  We can leave here in minutes if necessary, though somewhat unprepared for a long trip, but short hops maybe.  We’ve hesitated on starting provisioning again, due to the above medical issues keeping us waiting.

I guess, in a way, long term cruising or “extended cruisers” have to make a lot of compromises about everything from readiness to weather, to their abilities to medical problems.  We are, I suppose not what some would call “cruisers” because we’re not constantly moving with the boat, but we are in so many other ways.

This town has captured our hearts.  We love it here, so even if we run down the coast, or down Island we will be returning here, no matter what.

I hope all our friends, family, fans and followers will keep JoAnne in their prayers and thoughts for good a good medical report.  Thank you all for reading.

Fair Winds and Following Seas,

Rick

Sad News from a friend

Bear with me a moment, because I have to introduce why I am posting.

I’ve been searching for information about the boat we own, called “Adventure”.

She has had three names I’ve been able to find through USCG Documentation, and owned by three people according to the USCG.  Or course, this presupposes the boat has been Documented all along, and I suspect that this might not be true.

The first owner I can determine is James A. Mallon, and the boat appears to have been named “BESHERT”.    I guess technically, it means “Preordained” or “Inevitable” really, and there are explanations having to do with “Soulmates” associated with the word “Beshert”. Since I don’t speak Yiddish, this might be all wrong, but, to me, it’s close enough and probably meant that to that owner.  I can find little information on Mr. Mallon (except that he may have been a CEO for a large banking institution).

The next owner purchased the boat with the name “DUNA”… which, honestly none of us have an idea what it means exactly.  Mr. Richard Stapleton was the previous owner before us, and is the real reason I am writing today.  Mr. Stapleton retired from the US Government, as I did, a few years back, and had to sell the boat, he said, due to knee replacement surgery.  He felt unsteady doing things on the boat after said surgery.

Dick Stapleton sold us the boat knowing we were planning to eventually be “World Cruisers” and we’ve honestly worked toward that goal, but have thus far been only “Coastal Cruisers”.  Over the course of the next two years and a couple thousand miles we’ve moved the boat up and down the East Coast of the United States, exploring the Chesapeake, and Delaware Bays, Potomac River and managed to make it to Cape Fear North Carolina.  A little short of the original goal.  That goal remains, and we have decided it will happen, starting with Bahamas this season.

Two years ago, our friend and the previous owner of Adventure (Formerly Duna) began a battle with cancer, not unlike my wife’s own fight.  A few days ago he posted that he had made the decision to give up the treatments.  Here is his letter in full.  (Note:  I’ve asked for permission to reprint it, but there has been no response yet, but, that’s understandable, and since it is posted on FB mostly in public,  I’m going to put it into the blog anyway as it is important to us all.)

 

Dear friends,

A little over 2 ½ years ago, I wrote to update you on the progress in my fight against cancer, and a few of the many ways in which Andrea and I have taken advantage of the weeks and months of life – well enjoyed. I must write to you today to say that that battle is nearing its end.

We made the decision to stop treatment last week. My body is telling me it’s tired, it’s time to rest. I began in-home hospice care this week and for the first time in years, I won’t have to go to a doctor appt. or hospital visit every day. It’s time to relax.

When I initially wrote, one year into that journey, I expressed my appreciation for knowing there was an end date as it let us reset priorities; less about getting the car washed and getting to Costco and more about shared experiences like travel, time with friends and family and visits to smell the roses at the New York Botanical Garden.

With Andrea’s unflagging support (itself a full-time job) and Hackensack’s wonderful care and experience, I reach the end of this journey with my bucket lists overflowing. Whether through work or shared interests, you have all touched me in some way and enriched my life.

Thank you, my dear friends, for being a part of this wonderful life.

I welcome emails or FB messages, and Andrea will make sure I see them all. I may not respond personally but please know I appreciate the love and support I’ve already received.

-Dick

With a heavy heart, I post this… While I did not know Mr. Stapleton well, I knew him well enough. He was, like me, a person who dedicated a good portion of his life to this Great Country, and was a sailor, like myself and my wife, JoAnne.  Our paths never crossed in our respective jobs, but, I certainly know of his dedication in his position with the Department in which he worked.

Through Adventure, the ship he sold us, I continue to learn more about the heart of others.

For JoAnne and I, the future is blurry, no one knows what is coming tomorrow or the next day, usually.  But, we intend to do our best with what we’re given.

Jimmy Buffett said it best;

“Let those winds of time blow over my head,
I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Richard Stapleton.  I salute you, Sir.