I wonder if I hadn't set out on this dream of crossing oceans, learning to sail, buying a yacht, exploring the islands of the Caribbean, would I be in this waiting room at Preston Royal hospital at 7.30am on Wednesday 23rd of November. Perhaps not, perhaps I would have opted for the radio therapy, a rather less painful, less radical way of dealing with my cancerous prostate gland. I may even have gone for the watchful waiting option of doing nothing. After all it may not develop into a life threatening problem at all, that's how it is with this disease. But these alternatives would mean having very regular tests to keep an eye on its progress. The idea of going cruising and having this Damocles hammer hanging over our voyaging in the end swung the decision.
So there I am at 8am with my NHS backless smock and dressing gown being escorted to the theatre clutching a pillow I've been given to carry. I'm reminded of Ford Prefect in Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy who has to have a trusty towel with him prior to his excursions in hyperdrive. I don't think to ask why I'm carrying this pillow, but sheepishly follow directions as we trek the maze of corridors to finally be ushered into theatre 7, and the pre op room. Lucky 7 says my escort, but I'm not at all feeling lucky, I'm feeling distinctly nervous.
Carolyn is the antithesis and Jo her assistant, who exchange a sort of calming banter with me as I'm wired and pricked and readied for the reason I made it to here, next is oblivion until I come round in a bed on ward 15.
Jackie appears with a massive smile and a big hug, its about 3pm and my operation has been and gone. the surgeon pays a brief visit, tells me my prostate weighed 100g and is gone. Funnily enough I'm not in any pain but this tube stuck up my willie does feel decidedly odd. My only inclination of the op is a feeling in my midriff of perhaps being kicked, sort of tender but not what you'ld call painful.
Jackie stays around until eight and we even manage a couple of games of backgammon then it's chucking out time and Jackie goes off to find a hotel for the night, and I settle in to hospital banter with the other inmates and the sights and sounds of ward 15. Next day I expect to be going home, but it doesn't quite go that way, I have to stay an extra night. Something to do with the amount of stuff in my drain bag. A bit of a disappointment but on Friday afternoon I'm out and on my way home.
I've been home now for a couple of days and apart from the inconvenience of having this catheter to deal with, which I've got for another ten days I'm feeling ok. It was not a very pleasant experience but by all accounts it should be a cure and that was what I wanted. The prospect of our high seas adventure without the threat of cancer hanging in the air will have made this trial more than worthwhile, although I'll have to wait about three months to get he all clear, but by all accounts it should be all behind us now.
As all this has been going on so has the ARC which has just set off from the Canaries on route for St Lucia and we've been tuning in to check their progress. We said three years ago that we would love to do this trip, before we knew how to sail, and after going through this last week trial we're starting to think seriously about entering for next year 2012. I have a feeling that we may have a plan coming together here.
The postman hardly ever comes before we go off to work so every night we open the door to post. For the last couple of weeks we have opened the door expecting to find the letter. The one from the hospital telling me when my procedure will be carried out. You don't want it to be there, but you do. And day by day the suspense builds, like how they leave those big gaps of silence before they announce the winner of the talent shows on TV. Well seeing as how he said within 31 days, the silence was being stretched just a bit beyond bearable. The tonight the phone rings, it's the appointments lady at the hospital. Will the 23rd be ok Mr Williams? I'll just check my diary I said, strangely, and then said yes I suppose that's fine. Wednesday the 23rd, please be there for 7.30 am. We'll send you a letter to confirm all the details, thank you, goodbye.
Now I've got butterflys, now it's real, and I get a big hug from Jackie. You just have to be brave, everything will be fine.
I don't think I'm the brave type, dentists don't do it for me, and as for surgery, well, luckily it's not something I've gone into in a big way. In fact to my knowledge it's been tonsils out at about 8 or 10, and a minor op to release a tendon on my thumb about four years ago. So I'm pretty dumb on hospitals, perhaps luckily. I did do a lot of visiting when my dad was in towards the end of his life, same too with Jackies mum, but visiting somebody in hospital is a whole other ball game, this time it's me, and this time it's a fairly major op, well to me it is.
But the trains rolling, and I'm onboard, no getting off now, just got to go with the flow and put myself in the hands of the experts. Funny thing is I'm not too scared about the op, well maybe a bit but no, the bit I'm not looking forward to is the aftermath, with catheter and pads and the prospect of impotence.
But hey just think by Christmas I will be cured of this cancer and be well on the road to being back to health again, and our adventures in the new year.
It's been a couple of months since I was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, not the sort of news you want to hear when you've got plans for a big adventure. I was given the choice of three different treatments, which were, something called watchful waiting, which involved doing nothing except monitoring some stuff called my PSA levels in my blood. This would involve nothing more that having blood tests on a regular six monthly basis. Second was radio therapy, which would mean an 8 or ten week series of 10 minute blasts of radiation treatment. This was a painless procedure that would probably zap the little bugger, and then they would monitor me for the next 15 years or so to keep a check that it didn't return. The only down side to this was that if it returned I wouldn't be able to have an operation to take it out. Not sure why, but the radio therapy would probably work and get rid. The last, and more radical solution was to have what they now call a procedure, and have the whole prostrate removed. Radical prostectomy can leave you impotent and in the aftermath of the op leave with a catheter and wearing pads to catch the leaks, like having my own mini bilge pump. But the good news is that this situation would only last about six weeks. Afterwards the cancer would be gone, and so that's the one I decided to go for.
So a couple of days ago I took a two hour drive with the skipper to meet with the man who was to do what they now call the procedure. At the Royal Preston Hospital I met the surgeon who explained everything in a reassuringly nonchalant way, and reckoned I would only be in for about 48 hours. It will be done with whats known as key hole surgery which is less intrusive than the old method. He tells me that I will have the op. inside of 31 days which makes it before the end of this month.
Then I'll be out of action for about 8 to 10 weeks, which I'm of course not looking forward to, I'm not into pain, who is, but he tells me that after going through this I swill be cured of the cancer, which has not spread anywhere else.
That is all I want because we've got this plan that's been burning brightly for almost three years and we aim to start next spring. By that time I expect to be up and running and ready to set sail. And this way means I don't have to keep having tests, worrying about this thing and can be free to enjoy the rest of my life on the ocean waves following this crazy dream. It's a bit of a radical solution but to have peace of mind instead of uncertainty seems worth the anguish and pain that I'm expecting to go through, though hopefully it won't be as bad as I'm anticipating
The landscapes of Cepheloniia and Ithica float like monochrome ghosts on flat calm Mediterranean seas receding in graduated tones towards the distant horizons. Towering like Herculean giants above our scattered fleet of minuscule sailboats as we scatter in search of the slightest zephyr to waft us on to our next port of call. This is the scene that is to be repeated every afternoon on our weeks flotilla holiday in the Ionian seas. It's the end of September when the winds are more than predicable, according to our lead skipper, Dan, at this time of year, but for some inexplicable reason, this week the forecasters are stumped as to these freak conditions. It's always calm in the mornings, blows up through noon till late afternoon and then dies at night. This week it's fickle winds in Fiskardo, and all around these splendid sailing grounds. Back in England they've had balmy Indian summer weather with highs of 30 degrees, unheard of in October.
Global warming brings strange bits of unlikely weather to all parts of the globe, and it looks like we got our funny bit in Greece this week.
There's ten yachts in the flotilla, and ours is called Pirgos, named after the Minoan settlement of 1450 BC. Shes a 32ft Beneteau with in mast furling mainsail, which is a first for us and we're eager to see if we like this new fangled idea. We've only done old fashioned sails so far so this will be our chance to see if we get on with it or not.
Lots of little things annoy us about our boat, like the position of the mirror in the heads,-too low, the silly cupboard door above the stove, how the only place to prepare food in the galley is on top of the fridge which you always want to get into, and can't because that's where your preparing stuff. There's no holders in the cockpit for a bottle or can, and no cubby holes for your bits and bobs. And most annoying of all, the wheel squeaks, this is most annoying when searching for the wind at one or two knots. Apart from that shes an adequate boat and certainly a step up from our 27ft Jag that we sailed last year. In fact when we do catch the wind she's quite fun to sail.
All in all the week was without incident for us, and we found stepping up to this larger yacht was, to say the least, a piece of piss. We handled the changes in points of sail effortlessly on 99.9% of our voyages, and when we did get into a two and eight we simply started up Mr engine Sir and promptly brought us back to where we should have been, cut the engine and sailed on like we'ld been doing this for years.
Mind you the winds were never very strong and the seas were more than kind. Only one morning were we out in anything that resembled a blow, most of the sailing was in light airs. But that meant we had to trim the sails and search out the winds. We would seek out the on shore breezes by hugging the coast, or search for dark water where there maybe a bit more wind in our sails.
In previous sails we have inadvertently found ourselves hove too, this time we deliberately tried the manoeuvre, which was successful, and we stopped for lunch miles out at sea. When we had very light winds behind us one day we set the sails goose winged, with a preventer on the mainsail to stop the boom swinging across the boat. We sailed very long tacks to catch the best of the light winds, anything to avoid turning on the engine. Often this meant that we were out much longer than most of our fleet who were often home 2 hours ahead of us, but we were there for the sailing. Perhaps many of the others were looking for a nice bay to stop for a swim, or investigate the tavernas of the next port.
One of the days saw us attempt a gallant rescue of one of our flotilla companions who had the misfortune of getting their anchor stuck whilst stopping for lunch in a small bay at the southern tip of Ithaca. We were the only boat still in the bay, except for Nericos who had tried to leave but were stuck fast unable to raise their anchor. We tried attaching a line to their anchor chain. They had moored very close to a rocky shore and try as we may we only succeeded in dragging our boat close to the perilous shore. we gave up and promised to radio our lead boat when we exited the bay and could make radio contact. This had to be done via a relay with other boats further up the coast, as the VHF only works in line of sight and Kalypso, our lead boat was already home and out of radio contact. Eventually they made contact via mobile phone, Jackie was able to find the number as they,Nericos, couldn't find it. The message came back for them to cut their anchor and we motored slowly out at sea maintaining radio contact until they finally rounded the point out of the bay and we all sailed safely to Kioni.
We were confined to port in Kioni as the winds were up the next morning and it was impossible for us to sail directly into the gale that was blowing to reach Savota. I would have loved to have gone out to test our skills in the wind but prudence kept us in port and anyway it gave us a chance to swim and paint, and chill for a day.
We not only had a squeaky wheel, we had a very reluctant furling mainsail that refused all attempts to reel, or furl in easily. When we wanted to practise our reefing skills the sail refused to slip back into the mast easily. No amount of tugging and heaving would budge it. In fact we had to use the winch to extend the sail to its full capacity and this caused the sail to pop out at the bottom of the leach which fouled the sail on the way back in. we eventually found out how to deal with this but it meant going to the mast and cajoling the bloody thing to move from there. It sort of put me off the whole idea of roller reefing mainsails.
At the end of term party at the Captains cabin in Fiskardo the lead crew handed out awards to various crews for our endeavours of the week. First up was a rambling speech about some crew that had made the best of the fickle winds of the week, a boat that was almost always last into port, and a crew that had teased the best of a week of light airs, a boat that was fashionably late into every port. And the award goes to........PIRGOS.
We were a bit pissed by the time these awards were handed out and I hadn't exactly paid attention to what was being said but when all the other awards seemed to be for calamities that had befallen various boats I felt quite proud of our plywood cutout, that now stands on our mantelshelf a testimony to our progress from novices to navigators.
Have you ever been to the Southampton boat show? This was our first boat show and we picked the biggy. We hit the queue of cars at 1pm and crawled our way to a car park by 1415. We were given a choice of car parks on illuminated road signs and eventually chose one, only to find that it was a multi storey with a height restriction that was too restricted for our van. Then we got lost in a shopping experience. Welcome to Southampton retail park, the sign read, parking for customers only. We retrace our tracks to the main road and head back to the Leisure complex, which we almost chose half an hour earlier, about half a mile back down the road. It's eight quid for all day, even though its now 2pm, but at least we've got a berth. Then the heavens open just as we're about to head for the show.
By now it was 2.30 and we wondered whether it was even worth going in at such a late hour but as it didn't close till 6.30 we decided that four hours would be enough time. It was and it wasn't, but we paid the girl and entered the site. By this time we were starving and in need of sustenance, bugger the boats I needed a burger.
We weaved our way between hundreds of nautical paraphernalia stalls, over bridges and eventually found what we were looking for, food. The gourmet burger stall had tables and chairs so we sat down to eat, but within seconds of our arrival the heavens opened again and we sat under the brolly munching our food as the downpour rained down harder and harder until we eventually had to admit defeat and took shelter under the awning.
The shower passed and we headed off for the pontoons to take in the cornucopia of exhibits. We stepped aboard a number of boats that were well beyond our price range, pretending to be millionaires who just might buy this boat or that, and dodged the torrential showers that marched on through the afternoon.
In the end we bought a couple of life jackets and at 6.30pm headed for a town nearby called Hamble to find a B+B for the night. Unfortunately there were no B+Bs in Hamble but we did find a camp site. Hamble sounded like a good idea as Jackie reckoned she had seen boats for sale in a place called Hamble, and how right she was, as the next day we discovered this creek was filled with wall to wall boats.
We pitched our minuscule tent in the dark, drank wine, played back gammon and went to sleep. It was cold and miserable, the tent was inadequate, wet with condensation, and we spent a fitfull night being uncomfortable.
The next day, tired and unrested we found Hamble marina and an expensive waterfront cafe for breakfast. After breakfast we checked out some of the brokerages windows and picked a couple of boats to go and have a look at. We chose a couple of the cheapest we could find, a Contessa 32 and an Island Packet 350. The Contessa was a nice boat but too small and at 45,000 out of our price range but we're only looking and every look brings you closer to knowing what you want.
And then we ran into our dream boat. She is an Island Packet 350 and we want this boat. It took about ten seconds aboard to know it. She's way beyond our budget, at £80,000 but she hit all our buttons. Maybe in America, where they are built we could find one in our price range, but if we had anywhere close to this money we would have sailed her away there and then.
So even though we didn't find it at the boat show the trip has been very fruitful, and although by the time we get back to Ulverston were knackered to say the least, we have perhaps homed in on our perfect boat. A quick surf of the net produces at least one that's the same price in dollars, and the same year, but in the USA.
We'll keep looking of course, but our search is narrowing down, and by the time we come to buy, and have the money, in 2012 the Island Packet just may still be top of our list.
Tomorrow at 0800 hours we set off the Canterbury to deliver one daughter to Uni. On the way we plan to visit my son, his wife and the new three week old grandson. They live in Portsmouth, and next door is Southamton and the annual boat show. How could we resist that combination.
I had written a load of stuff here but it got timed out and I didnt copy it so this is much shorter than the original.
The prime reason for the trip though is to deliver said daughter and stuff to her new life as a university student. This is a small, no a big miracle. She is twenty five and for the last ten years has been lost to the world of eating disorders and low self esteem. Clawing her way back to this moment has been a monumental journey for us all and at long last this very bright girl has finally found a way forward, although for a long time we thought she was a lost cause. She has hardly done a days work in all that time and seemed destined for the scrap heap. Then a couple of years ago we took her out to our hideaway in the Dominican republic for two weeks and some veil fell from her eyes. She seemed to suddenly wake up seeing the poverty ,deprivation and a wholly new culture.
So Tomorrow she begins her own journey, she is going to study social anthropology. We could end up here with a daughter with an ology. So that is what this journey is all about.. She's finally broke the bonds and tomorrow, hopefully is the start of her metamorphosis, from caterpillar to butterfly