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This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.

Around the mark: my 2nd anniversary


[This was posted to some lists on 11/26/01]

I finally finished wading through the 800+ emails that awaited my return from a 5-day holiday hiatus.

two 12-meters racing in the 1987 America's Cup off Australia Friday, I celebrated the 2nd anniversary of my diagnosis. Given my condition and what they found, it is nice to continue to beat the odds and start my 3rd year.

I look back at where I was (mentally) in the first 10 months, until I came to grips with my situation and stopped living with the belief that I was going to die. It wasn't easy and it taught me that I could have turned it around earlier and had more months enjoying my life, rather than what I was doing. Yes, it takes time to get used to the idea but 10 months, I now see, was way too long. What saddens me is that there are some who never move out from the fear, dread, remorse and apathy.

If I have any single task, it is to try to help men and their companions come to realize that the longer one dwells in the dread of the disease rather than use the opportunity to one's advantage to gain a new perspective and joy of life, the more of their life they are wasting right now.

We may not have the ability to change the course of the disease, to make it abate. But - as difficult as it sounds - we do have the control over how we view it, approach it and how we live with it. To put it into the words of one adage, we may not be able to change the direction of the wind, but we can change the trim of our sails.

I still don't know how to express it better, how to help people to get on the other side of that dread, other than saying I think it comes down to finding what is really, really important and to do it. Maybe that is why I like the sailing metaphor, because one has to USE the wind.

Did you know that one cannot sail directly into the wind? But the closer you come to it, the closer that angle, the faster you go? Downwind offers good speed but that requires just as much skill, and a spinnaker (those huge billowing sails).

None of us asked to be on this voyage or in this race out in this strange turbulent sea, but here we are and those of us who have finally learned how to take some control and turn it into a pleasure rather than a horror, who can stand at the helm or a winch with wind, sun and spray in our face and delight in our situations, we need to remember what it was like at first. It was as if we had been transported instantly from solid, dry land to the wet deck of a boat in a rolling, pitching sea and suddenly someone is telling you to tighten that jib sheet.

Sheet? Jib? What is this? What are you talking about? Where am I?

Sometimes it is all one can do to just hold on and fight the sea sickness.

Yes, it does take awhile, if only to get your stomach back and learn where you are, let alone what to do. It is not easy but it can be done.

Some never will adjust and they are the ones who sadden me as they miss so much.

If you haven't guessed it, I love sailing, especially racing. Back in the early 90s, I lived in San Diego CA. I raced at each chance and had a weekly publication covering local racing. My greatest thrill was when I was allowed to take the helm of an America's Cup boat (Bill Koch's America3 which won the Cup in 1992) during a test run outside San Diego, a month before the race. These boats are the Formula One's, the thoroughbreds of sailing but, truthfully, the voyage I am on now means more. It may not carry the same thrill but it is a lot more important and I wouldn't want it any other way, thanks to so many people on and off these lists and - most of all - my Caren.

Here's to the next leg, my friends.

See you at the marker.

And let's not forget to help these new people who are learning the ropes.

Semper fi.


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This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not replace or amend professional medical advice. Unless otherwise stated and credited, the content of Phoenix5 (P5) is by and the opinion of and copyright © 2000 Robert Vaughn Young. All Rights Reserved. P5 is at <>. P5's policy regarding privacy and right to reprint are at <>.