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!

 

 

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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!!!!!!!!!

 

 

June 2018

At the beginning of June, JoAnne and I had to make the long, arduous journey across 4000 miles.  Ok, well, 1980 miles to Colorado and back again to North Carolina.

We had the annual doctor’s appointments to go do once again, post chemo/cancer checkups for her, and a quick heart check up for me.

We arrived on Monday evening, 11 June at my youngest son’s house.  We were exhausted after stopping in Kentucky to hit a family reunion, and then in Missouri to spend the night with some friends before traveling on to Colorado.

The next morning we made it downtown to the hospital to do blood work for JoAnne.  We had a bunch of appointments scheduled throughout the week.  But, Tuesday night would become “Early Wednesday Morning of the Storm from Hell”.

At about 2:00 AM on Wednesday, the sky opened up.  It began to rain.  Then small hail fell.  When the first large piece of hail hit the roof, I thought we were being bombed.   Indeed, we were.  By the sky.

Hail the size of softballs began to pelt the neighborhood.  I hear my son yell from his room and made my way there, amid the explosive sounds of massive chunks of ice hitting the front and roof of the house.  His large windows in his bedroom were gone, rain and hail pouring into the broken panes.  We grabbed some tarps to throw over the inside to help prevent too much more damage and I managed to get JoAnne out of the room as our windows shattered.

Going down stairs and outside on the protected front porch I observed total chaos.  Car and trucks in the area were being smashed to pieces by the hail.  Trees (new neighborhood, so very small ones) were being stripped of leaves and then of their branches.  The front yard was covered in hail, some of it the size of tennis balls, all the way up to softball sized hail.

We were up until nearly four in the morning waiting for the storm, rain and wind to subside.  I don’t think there were reported tornadoes but the cell certainly was powerful enough to have dropped one.  I checked as best I could in the darkness for wall clouds, funnels, and so on without venturing out and getting killed by hail.

I watched as the rear window on our car was hit directly with a large hailstone, which at first I thought exploded.  Later when the hail ceased, I went out to check the damage and it had been the window shattering into a million tiny pieces.  The glass was scattered from the car to the street and sidewalks.  There was glass in the front seats.  It had literally exploded.

Since we only had liability on the vehicle, insurance wouldn’t even look at it.  I ended up buying a car from my son (which was a spare after he’d purchased a new one) and gave the other to my daughter (who had the time and ability to work on replacing the damaged windows, mirrors and other parts that were badly messed up).

Fortunately, my son’s vehicles were all in the garage.  Every, single car that was sitting outside suffered minor to severe damage, some vehicles completely totaled.   The fences in back looked like someone had shot holes through it was shot gun slugs.  Roofs on neighboring homes had been punctured all the way into the ceilings down below, the hail was hitting so hard!

To my knowledge no one was injured, but I’m pretty certain some cows out around the area probably were killed that night.   I’m sure that animals suffered greatly out there.

We needed to borrow my son’s car the next day to get to the rest of the appointments, and I ended up simply buying the car from him to fulfill our schedule over the next two weeks.  All-in-all, most things went well.

We did find that JoAnne’s CA-125, the blood work to check for tumors, had more than doubled, which gave us all a scare.  A CT scan was ordered and they found no sign of cancer.  However, the doctor wants up back in September.  There’s more to this story, but I’m not going to fill it in at present.  I will mention there are other things that can cause an elevation in the CA-125 numbers, and we believe at the moment that something did just that.  We plan to see some local doctors here in NC to have more tests performed to make the final determination about going back to Colorado in September.

I discovered I have a slight leak in my “New to me Heart Valve” that was put in in May 2015.  I wonder if they had a 10 year warranty program?  Probably not, so perhaps I can find something like “Leak Stop” I can drink…. perhaps more bacon?  I dunno.

On a better note, we managed to get back to North Carolina unscathed by any more freak storms, after stopping back in Missouri and spending several wonderful days with our friend Mike and Cindy.  We also stopped in Ashville and visited with a couple of friends there, did some beer tastings in some of the breweries and then finally headed home to Southport and our ship, Adventure.

Upon arrive, I checked our batteries, as I’d left them on the smart charger (the new one I put in after the fire) and they were in excellent shape, not over heated, had not lost much water from the cells, and the status was very good.  The boat however, needed a decent washing again.  Mold appears on the outside often.

I went back to work about the 9th of July at the marina here, and found I’d not forgotten anything I needed to remember…. except to get up for work in the mornings.  I wasn’t late, but might have been had I not had JoAnne wake me up to tell me my alarm was going off (for fifteen minutes).

Now, JoAnne has some appointments scheduled here to go in for a new check up locally, and we’re going to be making a decision about Colorado or Bahamas soon.

In the mean time, a few days ago, I managed to drop my phone into a sink, with water running.  It was a klutzy move on my part, as I was trying to grab a pair of sunglasses I’d dropped, fumbled those, and smacked the phone sideways and into the sink.  I didn’t catch either the glasses OR the phone.  DOH!

I immediately grabbed it out, shook the water away from the charging port and earphone jack and we removed the battery as quickly as possible.  Still, the phone’s mic and the Home button ceased functioning.  I opened it up and dried it (It wasn’t really damp inside anyway) and placed it, you guessed it, into a “bag of rice”, purported to help dry phones due to rice’s ability to absorb moisture.  I don’t really think it worked.  But the phone DID seem to work better the next day.

Yesterday, we drove to a place in Wilmington to have the phone repaired.  They ran it through a drying machine (for three hours) and apparently attempted to “repair” some of it. They got the Home button working, but broke the other two buttons.  The microphone is still dead.  And they supposedly backed up my data, but deleted all my pictures.  All 2000 of them, including the hail damage and my favorite images of JoAnne (Dummy me, I’d forgotten to back it up before I left!)

Grrr… Well, on the way back… the car started acting up.  We hit some major puddles on the way back and things got wet.  I suspect the electronics in the car (I’m really having issues with electronics and water, huh?) got wet and when we arrived here in Southport, to stop at a store, the car wouldn’t start back up.

It growled funny at us and eventually, after five or six attempts it started up.

However, there was another sound.  Coming from the air conditioner unit.  We believe the bearings on the device are shot.  We’re supposed to drive to Myrtle Beach today for a concert, but apparently, that’s a bad idea.  Instead we’re riding with friends and I’ll get parts on order for the car on Monday.

So the last two months have been “One thing or another”, as usual for the “Adventurers”.

One last thing before I go.

We have been discussing a “Watermaker” for the boat.  We’ve done the pros and cons, including the costs/return benefits and realize we probably wouldn’t ever save enough money making our own water but still want the ability to be independent of having to buy it in islands or have to purchase a dock for the night to get water.  We have been staying here in Southport on a dock and DO have access to water, which is great.  And for the last 5 days, we’ve had enough rain to fill our tanks several times, but setting up a catchment without a real need isn’t fun or convenient.

Over the course of our research, we found several places and most of them were $5000 USD and up.  There are a lot of folks who are DIYers and build their own stuff.  While I have the ability to do so, I usually don’t have the time to sit and measure, design and find all the parts.

In comes a company called Seawater Pro and owner, Michael.  He offers a “kit” that consists of all the pieces you need, including a lift pump, the gauges, and hoses, the reverse osmosis filter, prefilters and the pressure pump required to get you started.

The only “con” to this system is, it’s in pieces and runs on AC power (120 volts) because it uses an inexpensive pressure washer system as the pressure pump.  That means AC power is required (something most people don’t have unless they 1) have generation, 2) are on a dock, 3) have a heavy inverter – mine is dead now, due to the fire a couple of months back) and it just doesn’t seem “easy” to use.

However, I’ve spoken to Michael on the phone a couple times and on FB with one of the representatives from the company and was convinced that this might be our best, and cheapest option.  So I went ahead and discussed this with Michael at https://seawaterpro.com/ and decided to purchase the kit.

That will be the subject of an upcoming blog entry in a few weeks I hope, sooner if I get the car running and my phone back to 100%.  So, stay tuned for more on the water maker, because I will feel better being able to rinse out my bathing suit with fresh water, in the Bahamas come November and December this year!

(and shower, if I want…. )

More to follow on the Watermaker.

Here is a video for anyone interested in checking it out.  https://youtu.be/6SYHVs-uZE0

(By the way, I am sorry about no pictures of the hail