Sunday, July 25, 2010

The shady side of sailing ...

Seems like life is either keeping us on our toes, throwing us off balance or knocking us to our knees. Fortunately the changes in our lives since we got back from the Bahamas have mostly just kept us on our toes, but that’s turned into a real balancing act for sure.

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma on my forehead just along the hairline after a routine dermatological check-up. And while, in the scheme of things, it’s not such big deal,  all I wanted to do was run for cover—literally and figuratively. You know that old rule that says when uncertain, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.  Well, that’s what I was doing. Even though I’ve learned that that basal cell carcinoma is the best kind of skin cancer to have since it doesn’t get into the blood stream and so it’s not life threatening, I’m not one those sailors who thinks that giving up  little chunks of herself is a fair price one to pay for the cruising lifestyle. To add to my chagrin, it took  two surgeries to excise the rather deep invader, so I’m sufficiently convinced that even the best cancer can be a painful and potentially disfiguring experience.  Call it vanity, cowardice or prudence, I’ve become sun shy.

While there are many practices to protect yourself from the sun like frequently slathering on sun screen, wearing a hat and protective clothing, and staying in the shade whenever possible, at some point it becomes impractical and almost impossible to avoid the sun in a lifestyle that is lived so blatantly in it.

Although my cancer was probably a result of exposure a long time ago, today’s exposure is likely to snag me if I live long enough. (And I hope I do that.) From what I’ve read, the odds are I will be struck again within the next five years with another basal cell carcinoma probably on the face or neck.   I’ve also learned (don’t you just love the internet) that skin cancer is known as the sailor’s disease and for good reason given a sailor’s exposure to the ubiquitous presence of the sun where it gets a reflective boost from the water especially in the tropics.  And for some people like me with fair skin and green eyes the risk is even greater.

So fear and a knee jerk reaction drove me to tell James, “I don’t want to cruise anymore,” throwing us both into a tailspin.  Just a moment before I had been dreaming along with him of our next season’s cruising in the Bahamas and possibly on to the Caribbean, then, wham, I was bailing out.   Fortunately, James in his constancy and flexibility was able to convince me that this isn’t the end of our dreams,  that we can rethink the how, the where and the when of cruising, that we can out smart the sun,  that we don’t have to jump ship … either alone or together.  And I have to believe him.  The captain’s word is law.  


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