27 January 2016 | Bahia Tenacatita, Mexico
I received my first cancer diagnosis approximately five years ago - stage one malignant melanoma - the life-threatening form of skin cancer. I was lucky - my sister in law noticed the spot on my shoulder when we vacationed together. The cancer was caught early and surgery happened quickly, without radiation and chemotherapy. I thought the "all clear" phone call from my surgeon would be the happiest day of my life. Instead, it was a catalyst for several years of self-questioning and change, resulting in the life I now savor aboard Speakeasy.
After cancer, I felt my compact, safe and often unsatisfying life start to unwind and unravel. It was as if the foundation under me had shaken and given way. Everything was in question - my job, my home, my relationships, my lifestyle, my pastimes, my choices, my past, and my future. All went under the microscope and, at times, it was downright gut wrenching. Sometimes I was in control and other times I was not. Ultimately, I questioned my life and my being. What do I want from my one precious life? How do I want to live out my days?
After cancer, a plethora of changes took place in my life, some rapidly and some gradually. After almost twenty years as a college educator and administrator, I took a secondment and then a full time position as a fundraiser, leaving behind a good salary, a secure pension and a generous benefits package. A week after permanently leaving my college career, Mark and I moved into a tenth floor condominium in downtown Victoria - a dramatic change from living a decade in a large home in a rural community. Surprisingly, city life gave me more time to myself and to be active and healthy. Moreover, I thrived in a new work environment and in the community, connecting with people from diverse backgrounds, and with varied interests, skills and passions. Also, Mark and I enjoyed more activities together, with the abundant options within the downtown core. Eventually, we adopted a cat and purchased our catamaran in preparation for our next sailing adventure.
Six months before we were to move full-time onboard Speakeasy, my physician found another melanoma. This second time, the cancer barely shook me. After surgery, the most important question I had for my dermatologist was "can I still go sailing?" "Of course," my doctor said, "as long as you cover up in the sun, do your monthly skin checks and see a dermatologist regularly." Phew! The large brimmed hat and long sleeve protective shirts that I wear everyday in the sun are a small price that I pay for my adventure at sea.
Reflecting back on the last five years, I feel fortunate that my physical journey with cancer was an easy one. Certainly, the personal, emotional and spiritual process that took place afterward, for me, was more challenging, and although I wouldn't want to repeat it, I am deeply thankful for it. Cancer was a catalyst. I stepped up and made changes in myself, for myself, and in how I live my life. Perhaps without these changes, I'd be sitting here on Speakeasy just as I am now. However, I know that I feel my aliveness more fully now, and every moment is just a little bit sweeter. Lucky me!