'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

…while we still have our health

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”We’re going cruising now, while we still have our health.”

I’ve written before in this forum about the risk of waiting too long.  Whether it’s going cruising, traveling, skiing or simply relaxing a bit, the world is full of examples – mostly third hand – of people whose mantra was “After the kids are grown and we retire, we’re going to…”

And then something happens, and they never do. Sometimes it’s a health crisis, even a death, and it’s those situations that cause the rest of us to think “Boy, that could have been me!”

Still, I think it’s human nature to think – at least subconsciously – that it’s not really much of a risk at all.  After all, we’re in good health, we eat right, take care of ourselves, don’t have a family history…   It couldn’t happen to US, right?

And then something happens to change that attitude of denial.

Nicki and I have been actively planning and arranging our lives to go cruising for nearly three years now, and we’ve set a departure date for August this year.  In the last year, we’ve met a surprising number of couples with a similar plan, and naturally we’ve shared tips and ideas and encouragement for the transition.  One of the things we’ve all done in preparation is to get caught up on dental work, routine exams and annual physicals, figuring it’s prudent to make sure there’s nothing lurking in the closet,  health-wise, that might cause a problem when we’re miles away from our usual, familiar medical caregivers.

Four couples, 7 sets of normal, expected results, and one surprise: A possible cancer.

This fellow is middle-age, healthy, active, with a pretty decent lifestyle and no family history of anything to speak of, yet here it is less than three months from their departure on the fulfilment of a dream, and he’s hanging in a diagnostic never-never land,  waiting for a biopsy and test results on an abnormal prostate condition that has a 30% chance of being cancer.

Friends, shit just got real.

For me as a “fellow man”, I can only imagine the emotions that must be slamming around in his head as he continues to make plans and work to prepare their boat for a 2-year cruise, all the while wondering if he’ll be able to leave this fall, or if he’ll EVER be able to leave.

Yes, Prostate cancer is one of the most survivable of cancers – although the side effects of a serous bout can be pretty challenging.  He knows that his chances of a serious case are fairly low, and that fatal cases are extremely rare.   Intellectually he knows that.

Trouble is, the fearful brain that rules all of us, now and then, doesn’t understand about odds and probabilities. That fear comes alive in the wee small hours of the night, thrives in those quiet, still moments of contemplation when the sight of a flower in bloom can just be too much to bear, and the “what if?’ questions flourish.

I hope and believe he’ll come through the next few weeks with nothing but good news and false alarms, but barring that, with a body intact and fully functional and eager for a later-than-planned start on their adventure of a lifetime.

I hope – but I can’t promise. No one can promise.

Lin & Larry Pardey have been mentioned many times in my writings, and they are often held up as the ideal of the cruising couple.  Their mantra of “Go small, go simple, go now!” has been the rallying cry for a generation of small boat cruisers.   Larry, now in his 70’s, is in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease, and is no longer able to safely spend time on a boat.  What if the Pardey’s had waited “until we retire”? The history of small boat cruising as we know it would likely have been radically changed.

So here’s hoping for a happy ending and a clean bill of health.  But let’s not take that for granted.  That thing you’ve always wanted to do? That trip you’ve planned, the date you’ve never asked for or the skill you’ve never taken the time to learn?

Do it. Do it now. There are no valid excuses anymore.

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Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. We've paused in Boot Key Harbor, and are now exploring the Keys until we leave the boat and return to Maine for a summer of employment. Follow our blog here, and follow our progress in map form by joining www.Farkwar.com!

8 thoughts on “…while we still have our health

  1.  I don’t know whether you know – I had a prostate-cancer diagnosis [cancer in 20% of one of the cores, but Gleason 7] 4 years ago, with removal a few weeks later.  If your friend does have a positive biopsy I can [if he wishes] send you the blog I wrote about my experience. H

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  2. We went through this and I’m sorry for your friend. The not knowing is the worst. Then the not knowing what the treatment will do to you is the worst. We are glad to have had this taken care of before we leave, grateful to have found out more than a year before our trip starts. By the time we cut the lines, it will be behind us for good. It would be nice if everyone could just ‘leave now’, but for most people who have lived a more traditional life for most of their adulthood and have a number of obligations here on land, just taking off is a process of disconnecting one thing at a time, which I’m sure you’ve found out. Few people can ‘just go’ without doing serious damage to the other important things in their lives. I like to say ‘go as soon as you reasonably can’. Because in my view, that’s more realistic for most people. Including us. Many is the time I wish we had known we wanted to do this kind of trip while we were in our 20’s or 30’s, or even early 40’s. I think it’s much harder when you get to be our age, because at that point you are taking the risk that when you actually cut loose and go, you’ll be going with most of your good earning years behind you. if we had done our trip in our 30’s, we’d still have our entire careers ahead of us almost. It’s a difficult choice when you’ve worked your entire adult life to reach a goal, then you change that goal and want to do something else. In terms of the ‘while we have our health’ thing, I was just thinking about this the other day. Why is it that people say things like ‘I’m in my 60’s but I am still healthy’. People don’t say, ‘I’m in my 30’s but I’m still healthy’. It’s like the assumption is that you will get sick because you are older. But plenty of people do not get sick. And I do not assume that because someone is middle aged or beyond, they must be sick. One of my clients just died at the ripe age of 87 and she was living life to her fullest extent until she just died. Because it was time for her to go. I think these kinds of comments come from an underlying belief system that I’d like to challenge in myself. Ok, I’m rambling now. Must be my age.

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    • That’s a good point for clarification. When I – or the Pardeys – say “Go now” we mean “stop making excuses and procrastinating, and start taking steps to make your dream a reality.” Neither I nor they would counsel anyone to drop everything, walk away tomorrow.
      But on the other hand it’s far too easy – and “safe” – to keep making excuses in the name of being “responsible”, and I think that’s a shame. Being responsible to a fault just gets you to your grave with your dreams unfulfilled. It’s a fine line, but I encourage people to walk it with eyes open and the dream in sight.
      Thanks for checking in!

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  3. Sorry about your friend. I hope he knows the “verdict” by now. I so agree with you: “Go out and live your dream, before it is too late!” I’ve been traveling full time since my twenties and I never totally understand what my grandma meant when she said: “You gotta do it now, when you are still young”, until my husband was diagnosed with cancer at 43! He is doing well, we have no regrets about our lifestyle and we are still “on the road.”

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  4. Another great and poignant post. We started our adventure when I was 31 for all of the reasons that you mentioned. And now that we’re coming to the end of this chapter of our lives, I have one piece of advice to add — savour every moment, even the difficult ones, because it goes by so quickly.

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    • Dear Stephanie, thanks for chiming in! As you may have guessed (several readers have) this post is in fact autobiographical. We find out this week if the summer holds cruising south, or visits to the treatment center…
      In any event, your show of support is much appreciated! Thanks.

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      • Keeping my fingers crossed! Whatever happens, you will both get through it and live life with an even greater appreciation and determination to get out there and do what you want to do. I am glad you got those check-ups done before leaving the country.

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