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Matilda - Waltzing Round the Med
Change of Plan!
19/10/2014, Fareham, Hants

I have not written on here because I'm not sure anyone would want to read a sailing blog where no sailing is done, no landfalls reached and there are no sunsets over the bay! However, lots of people have been asking me how Andy is so I'll do the latest medical report!

We have been amazed at the speed that things have been happening since we got back to the UK. We saw my brother's GP the day after we got back and he referred us to a renal specialist for the ? tumour on his kidney and a haematologist for his abnormal blood results and the pathological fracture of his spinal vertebrae. Within a week he had had a wrath of more complicated blood tests, a skeletal survey, bone marrow biopsy, CT and this week an MRI of his spine. The good news is that the kidney tumour is only a cyst with no sign of malignancy. The bad news is he definitely has multiple myeloma.

Treatment for this is pretty harsh. Starting in 10 days, he has to have monthly cycles of chemotherapy, steroids and an infusion to strengthen his bones. Lots of side effects as you can imagine but they'll give him tablets for that as well. There will be no hair loss as the doses are not huge which is a small bonus. After 4-6 months of this, he will have a bone marrow transplant and three months after that may/ should/will go into remission. We can then make future plans.

We're in a bit of a weird place as you can imagine. One day we are completely focussed on sailing the next bit of our trip home to Australia, checking weather sites, planning rendez-vous with other boats in different places, reading up on the Canaries and Cap Verdes, writing lists of what provisioning we'll need for 5 people for 20 days when we do the Atlantic crossing,where to go in the Caribbean. A few days later and we're in Portsmouth looking for a flat to rent and learning as much as we can about this disease and what to expect.

We're pretty positive and those of you who know Andy will know he'll crack this like he does everything. Thanks for all your messages and positive vibes!! Keep 'em coming plus any jokes, stupid videos and general ranting that you know he'll enjoy! And be sure he'll be doing the same!

The photo above,by the way, is sunset over the Solent! Not taken from our boat and might not be the Med but pretty fabulous just the same!

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19/10/2014 | Campbell Hair
Good news about your kidney mate and I'm sure you will come out the other end of this and take up where you left off. There will always be a spare cabin on Annecam for a bit of rehab for you both.
Good blog Jane and it's not always about the sailing.
Cheers to you both,
Cam & Annie "H"
20/10/2014 | Kirsty
J&A - thanks for taking the time to let us know how things are going - we are all thinking of you. We have another friend in the USA with the same thing and she is just about to have her bone marrow transplant. Any questions you have from someone going through it she is happy to answer. Keep enjoying those sunsets no matter where you are. Love K&J xx
24/10/2014 | Gary Whitmore
Just coming into Lanzarote and have service so have read your blog. Our plan was to meet you guys here and partake a couple of buckets of beer, but Andy, as you won't be here it leaves me with a huge amount to consume by myself, so you have a lot to answer for. Thinking of you both and perhaps this time next year you can join us at Turkey Beach for extended R&R. Would love to have you. Just say the word!! Love from us both.
The Last Waltz of the Summer
29/09/2014, Santa Ponsa

Apparently our blessing counting was a little premature! Following Andy's recent health problems while we were in Palma, he continued to have back/flank pain and we found ourselves visiting yet another German doctor at another state of the art surgery. This doctor took more bloods and did another ultrasound and found what he thought was a stone in Andy's right kidney. Another specialist was brought in and we were sent off for a CT scan. This scan has unfortunately come back with what looks like a tumour in his right kidney and some pathological fractures of the lumbar vertebrae.

A rather stressful few days followed this diagnosis not least because Matilda was anchored in the middle of the bay. Every time we had had to go ashore, it meant Andy had to somehow get into the dinghy and then get out again once on land. This was followed by a small trek across the rocks to the road. It's funny how something so easy when you're fit takes on giant proportions when you've got pain.

Our medical insurance agreed to fly us back to the UK but our biggest problem was what to do with the boat. There was no way we could put her in one of the marinas in Mallorca as the cost is astronomical. We spent some time looking at various boatyards on the island but eventually decided that we had to somehow get her to Cartagena on mainland Spain where we could afford to berth her for the winter.

This was when this amazing cruising community that we've found ourselves a part of stepped up to help. We met Wayne and Cha last year in Crete and immediately got on well. We had invited them to join us this year to sail down to the Canaries and then across the Atlantic and we were on our way to pick them up in Ibiza. When they heard about our problems, they immediately volunteered to come and get Matilda and take her to Cartagena for us. As well as them, other friends got to know of our problems and got in touch. Gordon who we met on our last big trip sailing from the Caribbean back to Australia, immediately e mailed us to say he was ready to come and take Matilda wherever we wanted and had lots of friends who would help him. Cam and Anne who are a bit ahead of us in Almerimar, who we have been pen pals with for a couple of years but have only met once, said they could get a ferry back to help us. What an amazing community this is and thanks so much to everyone who has sent their love and encouragement.

We left Matilda at anchor last Monday, both of us a bit teary-eyed, and she is already on her way with Wayne and Cha. Not sure when we'll see her again but, whatever happens, we'll be back for a bit more waltzing as soon as we can.

To all those of you heading south to get ready for the Atlantic crossing, sorry we're not coming this time but we'll be watching your progress and wish you fair winds and safe sailing.

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03/10/2014 | jacki newey
Sending positive thoughts for you both - and so pleased that you have received such instant help from your sailing friends. If we can help here in the UK message us.
18/10/2014 | Mac
Hi Both I heard that Andy was not well, so looked at your blog, let me know how things are going. We are thinking of you both. As Jacki says positive vibes man!
Where are you, in the UK?
10/09/2014, Palma

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog front recently as we have had a stream of visitors. Mallorca is the UK's Bali as it's one of the nearest places with guaranteed sunshine Tthere are many flights from all of the UK's regional airports so we arranged to see a few family and friends while we were here.

Thousands of Britain's youth flock to Mallorca every summer, particularly to the resorts of Magaluf (known as Shagaluf for some reason) and Palma Nova to drink cheap alcohol and party and other resorts cater more for families. Because of this, it sells British beer, serves fish and chips and mushy peas, as well as sangria and paella, and has lots of British products on the supermarket shelves. I'm a travel snob but even I couldn't help squealing with excitement when I saw a plentiful supply of Tetley tea bags and HP sauce!

The capital Palma is delight. If I'd known this when I lived in the UK when it was just a quick hop away, I would have come over regularly. It's got a stunning cathedral, a13c Islamic fort which was converted into the King's palace, churches, windmills and the friendliest locals probably in Europe. A hundred meters from La Lonja marina, where we picked up our guests, is Sa Llotja, a fabulous area with lots of cobbled streets full of restaurants, tapas bars and art galleries. We seem to have spent many hours over there drinking large Gin and Tonics and eating tapas watching the world go by.

A short walk away is the market. I stumbled on it accidentally when we were looking for a supermarket. It is fantastic! For those of you with a Coles or Tesco down the road, you won't appreciate what it's like to see stall after stall of every vegetable you can think of, as well as all the meat, chorizo, jamon, quesa olives, fish you could ever wish for. It even has fresh chillies and coriander! Believe me, I nearly collapsed with excitement!

Interspersed with the food stalls are little tapas bars where the locals gather for a glass of something and a little bit of patatas brava, croquetas or fried pimientos from early in the morning. We sat in one drinking a San Miguel looking at the menu and couldn't work out what the others were eating. Prawns, sardines, mackerel, mussels, none of which were on the menu. Eventually one of the locals explained that we could go and buy what we wanted at the stalls and bring it back for them to cook. They grilled our kalamari and langoustines to perfection and served it with aioli and rustic bread. Muy bien!

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Blessing Counting
01/09/2014, Santa Ponsa

In the middle of all this hedonism, something has to crop up just to make you review your life and confirm that you are doing the right thing giving up your job and gadding about the world on a boat. We had a bit of that this week.

For the last few weeks, Andy has been complaining off and on about a bit of abdominal pain which I, as the good nurse I am, ignored. Last week, however, it had been getting a bit worse and, as we are in Palma, with top notch medical facilities, we thought we would see a doctor. The English one that we initially tried was on holiday in Scotland strangely but gave us the name of a German doctor whose very posh offices we found tucked in with the German and US consulates. Dr S was a very cool, tanned Internal Medicine specialist dressed in tight white jeans and a polo shirt with an impressive gold Rolex and little trendy glasses. I'm not sure what I expected him to do, probably tell us it was muscular, prescribe analgesia and I could go back to my usual non-caring self, but he prodded Andy's abdomen, did an ultrasound scan and told him that he might have a blockage in his colon and to come back next week for a colonoscopy.

That gave us a week to fret. As many of you will know, I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010 and ended up having an anterior resection so we were pretty convinced this was serious and he would have the same. Luckily for us, but possibly not for them, the family arrived for a week so we had lots of diversions but it didn't stop us waking up in the middle of the night planning what we would have to do if the worst came to the worst. Where could we berth Matilda for the winter? Mallorca is extortionate so maybe Cartagena would be best. Would we need some help to get there? Who would be able to come? Maybe my brother? Should we go back to UK or Australia? Can we still get treatment in UK?

Blood results came back earlier showing no abnormalities which cheered us up but Andy still had the pain. Wednesday arrived and the family made themselves scarce while Andy did the dreaded colonoscopy prep. For those of you who have not done this, it's character building!

I sat in the Waiting Room on the next day while he had his procedure doing what you always do in times of trouble. Praying to whoever or whatever that you will be a nicer person, give more to charity, do voluntary work if only this comes out OK. Cool Dr S comes out. "No worries" he says "Nothing major. Just a bit of diverticulosis. Drink more water. Eat more fibre. Lose a bit of weight". We love you, Dr S.

So we did do the right thing selling up and buying a boat. We will be nicer people. We will try and give something back along the way. We will try and remember to appreciate what we're doing now before we have to stop. We will eat more fibre!

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The Sand Police
29/08/2014, Las Illetas

I hate sand. I hate it on the boat. I hate it in the cockpit. I hate getting it on my feet and then going to bed and getting sand in the bed. It drives me mad. (I think I was the Princess with the Pea in a previous life). So, when we have visitors, I am a right pain in the a***! "Have you washed your feet off??" "Take those thongs off before you get on please!" "You will rinse your cozzie off wont you?"

The week we have had the family on board with us including the highly-gifted grandson, Dali aged 11 and the immensely talented granddaughter, Matilda 3 ¾. We spent a few days in Santa Ponsa which involved a lot of visiting the beach and then (thank God) anchored at Las Illetas where, thanks to the beach resort being exclusive and off-limits to the likes of us, the kids had to jump off the back of the boat. By the end of the week, they are automatically washing the sand off on the sugar scoop and I have (I think) stopped being such a tyrant and got over it. Mostly!

Dali and Matilda as seen from the starboard escape hatch.The main photo is Team Matilda's special green and gold Loon Bands as made by Dali (and me)

I hope they had a good week. We've had good mix of tourist resort, gentle anchorage and the delights of Palma, a cracking little city by the way. Dali has mastered diving off the front from a height that I wouldn't consider. Matilda has gone from not actually wanting to go in the water at all to hurling herself off the back with her rubber ring on and setting off across the anchorage with us trying to keep up. I have learnt most of the words to all the songs from 'Frozen" and, as a family, we have pretty much perfected "Love is an open door" with all the actions and backing vocals.

They left yesterday. I have spent the morning returning the boat to its previous sand-free state. Andy has spent the morning looking a bit sad and, if truth be told, slightly moist-eyed. We are again anchored in a quiet, little bay. No sand, no muddle, no arguing about whose turn it is on the iPad, no shrieking as they plunge off the back, no giggling. A bit too quiet actually.

Loved having you here Barb, Dan, Dali and Matilda and look forward to the next time you visit us somewhere beautiful.... as long as you wash your feet off!!

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