I swayed back and forth as I climbed the ladder onto the deck of the ship. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, the salty ocean breeze waked me from my 3:00AM slumber. The mate yelled, “Jeremy, take the helm!” I tried to get my footing, stumbling onto the deck of the one-hundred-thirty-four-foot tall ship.
The mate stoically instructed, “heading north.” I repeated in the same tone, “heading north, I have the helm.” I embraced the wheel’s polished wood, my hands grappling ten and two as I took control of the immense, beautiful ship that served as a home to thirty people.
I regained my orientation, and immediately felt awestruck by my surroundings. With no land in sight, the sea glowed fluorescent green every time the waves tumbled. Behind our ship was a lingering glow marking where we had traveled. I looked up, and like a planetarium, every star imaginable dotted the clear night sky. The constellations stood out just a bit brighter than the others. I searched for the brightest star of them all, the north star, and lined the mast with it…heading north.
March 10th, 2019
It has been exactly one year since I was diagnosed with my latest recurrence. In reality, it all began when I had my seizure in Boston the night before Christmas Eve. If I had been in San Francisco, I likely would have been diagnosed then, but imaging challenges gave me both a blessing and a curse of waiting a few more months.
It doesn’t feel like a year. It feels so much longer. I’ve gone from the chaos of deciding treatment options and locations; having an awake brain surgery; recovery; finding out my tumor evolved to a more aggressive form; contemplating more treatment options; treatment; finding out the treatment wasn’t working; deciding alternative treatment options; and now undergoing my current treatment regiment.
But that barely scratches the surface of the past year. The highs and the extensive lows. Finding love. Building community. Loosing opportunities, but finding new outlets.
It is impossible, and also too late at night to summarize the entire year. I do want to reflect on one thing though: Sailing.
Today, on the day of my “anniversary,” I went sailing at an open house with the Cal Sailing Club, a sailing cooperative at the Berkeley Marina. It was raining heavily at my house in Oakland, but when I arrived in Berkeley, the sun shined through gaps in the clouds. I joined a few others on a dinghy and we spent about forty-five minutes out on the water.
There wasn’t too much wind and we stayed in a small bay near the marina…but it was perfect.
My writing for my blog has centered around the metaphor of sailing and being out on the ocean. Looking back a year later, it makes a lot of sense.
Read the beginning passage again. What stands out to you? How does it make you feel?
For me, that point in time out on the high seas sailing the Corwith Cramer in 2012, is the single greatest moment of indescribable presence. It was, and is, the most alive I have ever felt.
One week ago, I started the targeted therapy drug again. This was the previous treatment that didn’t stop the tumor growth, but now I’m taking this daily drug in addition to my usual immunotherapy infusions. Our hope is that the targeted therapy will have a beneficial immunological effect that will enhance my immunotherapy treatments. None of this is known, but it is worth a shot.
It’s another source of uncertainty in a year full of so many changes and endless unknowns.
That is why today I signed up to join the Cal Sailing Club to formally learn how to sail. I did this because as I step beyond this one year checkpoint, the only way to cope with the uncertainty of my journey is to embrace what gives me life.
To my family, partner, friends, and everyone who has supported me throughout this past year, I am grateful beyond words. You are always welcome to, “Come sail away…come sail away…come sail away with me…” 😉