Head to Weather…

Those familiar with the sailing world know what that phrase means, “head to weather.” You’re putting the bow of your boat as close to windward as possible, or into the ‘weather’ that is working hard to send you leeward of your course. This heading sends you into the wind, seas, and usually the swells, so it tends to be a bit more of an uncomfortable ride. It tends to be colder, wetter, bumpier and swellier, adding stress to the vessels tender points, and stress to the sailor, too.

I’ve got my bow pointing straight into the weather right now. September 9th, I wound up in the ER for what I thought was a stupid asthma attack. Turns out my asthma attack had morphed into lung cancer, stage 4 at that. A few days later I was at UCLA, admitted to their cardio floor. There for just over a week, I had a bronchoscopy, lung biopsy, pulmonary lavage, PET and regular CT scans, a few echocardiograms, and was sent home. I returned just 24 hours later in a bad way. My pericardial effusion had escalated to full on tamponade, so I was sent on up to the ICU with a pit-stop in the cath lab for a pericardial centesis. The next day, a couple of PE’s, or blood clots were found in my left lung, so an IVC filter was placed to keep them and any others away from my heart, brain and lungs. The following day saw a lot more fluid on the right side, so a chest tube was inserted to drain that pesky fluid. That night I wasn’t doing so well, and intubation was considered, then rejected (of which I am thankful). 40 lpm of O2 was being sent in a grand vortex of wind down my nostrils to try to keep my body saturated. It was a difficult time. Finally, a decision was made to get me on some treatment to slow this tumor and the pesky fluid it manufactures down. I was started on Taxol IV, and we were shooting for the best. About 10 minutes later, one of the oncologists pretty much ran into my room and told the nurse to stop the Taxol. The molecular findings of my biopsy were finally in, and I mutated! Woo Hoo! Only about 2-4% of people with lung cancer have one or more of these mutations, and I was one of them. What this means to me is, I can be started on a targeted chemotherapy, and the drug of choice at the moment is called crizotinib. I take this big pill twice a day, and it’s job is to target the cancer cells themselves, isolate them, cut them off from moving and nourishment, and thus render them the ineffective little &;$*#2@ that they are. My mutation is an alk4, and this drug has proven to be a very good alk4 inhibitor. So, we started a day or two later on that therapy, and slowly but surely, my condition improved.

I stayed in the ICU a few more days, and was finally weaned off O2 completely, except when walking or sleeping. After moving to the pulmonary wing, I had a more easily managed chest tube put in, one that I was responsible for draining on a daily basis. A few days later, I was discharged.

Being back on Willow is wonderful. Such a beautiful, restful spot for me, full of dreams and memories and sea miles. But it’s hard, too. I find I can’t keep up with the very routine maintenance that needs to be done. My energy is sapped just getting out of the bunk and brushing my teeth. It takes alot of energy to take my pills (12 of them) and drain my lung daily. I’ve found it very difficult to eat anything, and that serves to take my energy. One of the medications that protects my heart drops my blood pressure, thus taking energy. The diarrhea from the chemo takes my energy. I find myself staring out my portholes thinking this isn’t good for the boat and it’s certainly not good for me. After two weeks of outpatient appointments, and feeling worse daily, I was sent back to the hospital, this time Santa Monica.

Originally admitted to the oncology floor, after 10 minutes there, it was clear my breathing wasn’t good enough to be able to stay. I was sent up to the telemetry unit and put on a morphine drip. The next morning, after some CT scans, a chest tube was placed in the left lung, so at least I had a matching set. Alot of fluid was pulled from it, and it made quite a difference. The placement of the tube in the left side was much more painful than the tube in the right side, and it kept me down for a number of days. My last few days on the telemetry unit were quite difficult, and on the last day, after being accused of “pain-medication seeking behavior,” I’d had it. I told the nurses I had no more pain, and was signing myself out AMA. Fortunately, at this exact moment, one of the oncology nurses arrived to give me my chemo pill and asked what happened. Within hours, I was down on the oncology floor. Within 2 days, the pain resolved, and I was off any pain meds. I would pre-medicate when I was going to drain one of my tubes, but that was it. The next day, I was told I would be released and arranged for Linda, my great partner on Rescue 10, to come on down and give me a ride home. All we had to do was drain that left lung and I was free! Except the tube was clogged. ARGHHHHHHHH! Another night in with more attempts, xrays, and CT scans to work on for the next day. I just wanted to go home. 5 of the last 7 weeks I’d spent ‘in the big house,’ and I was ready to get outta there. The next morning found me up early, and the nursing staff was ready to try draining that tube again. After using 3 bottles, SUCCESS!! A big ooey-icky (official medical term) clog finally passed on down the tube, and I was sprung!

I’ve been home for 2 days, and the future has lots of questions in it. Questions for me as to how to organize the next phase of my life, and questions for my docs as to what the heck is going on, and what the heck are we gonna do about it. My goal is to feel just a little bit better than I do right now, and to breathe better than I’m breathing at the moment. Both I feel are attainable; I just need help with the plan to make it happen.

I wouldn’t have made it this far if not for my amazing family and friends, old and new, who bolster me up daily with their love and encouragement. I’d love to try and list you all, but my addled brain would have me missing one or two, and I cannot dishonor anyone like that. Just know how much I love and care for you. You’re the BEST!

26 thoughts on “Head to Weather…

  1. Elizabeth

    We often think of the day when we we had the best fish ever with you in the middle of a beautiful bay thanks to a good recipe and cook, a “companero” and donated jacket :). Miss you! Can’t wait for you to meet Sydney. Keep fighting the fight! Love, Elizabeth and Brian

    Reply
  2. Linda U

    Amazing story you have lived over the past month, I am honored to be part of the journey! Your spirit of kindness and love has transcended the ups an downs! My God grant to you peace, health and clarity my friend!

    Reply
  3. Nancy

    Wendy, Your spirit and sunshine are everywhere here in La Paz. We miss and love you my friend. Saving your spot on the Harker Board team rally in late November ; You’ll still beat everyone!
    Love, Nancy and Rob

    Reply
  4. Rebecca

    Wendy, All I can say is whatever or whenever you need anything I can do or be there for you ( except Nov 8 boys bday) Sushi, go for a drive, just get out of whoever’s house your living at. If you decide to get a place, I can stay with you and let you be. Whatever, whenever. Love you!! Eric and the boys say “hey” Rebecca Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply
  5. svalcyone

    Wendy, we don’t know what to say except, stay strong. Your courage is amazing. We do know you are resilient and your resilience will help you through what is yet to come on your journey. Thank you for being who you are. We are so lucky to know you and we think of you often. You are part of our journey (remember our sail out of Ventura when we found the diesel leak in Alcyone? ๐Ÿ™‚ You gave us courage when we were starting on our adventure and we now want to send you healing energy and courage for yours. xoxo, Cyn and John

    Reply
  6. Roy Rodriguez

    I’m praying for you my brave friend ! Your courage and strength amazes me. I believe paradise awaits all of us, and I know you’ve earned your keep. Stay strong fight as long as “you ” choose you’re an inspiration to us all!! Gid speed.

    Be well

    -roy

    Reply
  7. shiroyamaona

    Hey ‘Sunshine’! Thank you for sharing your difficult journey so far through the maze of your illness, hospital stays and meds. You are thought of every single day. I hope you can feel the positive vibes being sent to you from all your friends and family.
    As you mentioned, take one day at a time to just feel better and to gain more energy. You are the strongest person I know. Get through this storm so you can get to calm waters again.
    Give your kitty kats a big hug for me too…..

    Reply
  8. kdoislandgrl

    You have shared your strength and goodness with so many others, take it all in for yourself now, and know to ask for anything you need. Thinking of you everyday. Right through it! love you!

    Reply
  9. phenry2014

    Hi Wendy! You are so courageous! I canโ€™t even begin to imagine all that you are going through. I will continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers and know that if you are ever in my neck of the woods (Solvang), you are more than welcome to pop in for a visit!

    Patrick Henry
    Property Management Specialist
    City of Santa Barbara
    132-A Harbor Way
    Santa Barbara, CA 93109
    phone: 805-897-1961
    fax: 805-897-2588

    Reply
  10. Bruce Galien

    Wendy, you are the strongest, most positive person in the world. You brought a smile to my heart and a tear to my eye. When I get back from Mexico I want to come and see you. Stay strong and let me know what I can do for you. Su amigo por vida
    Bruce

    Reply
  11. David Frelinger

    Keep up the fight and let me know if I can help with the maintenance. Ya know I was a Sea Scout in my younger days. ๐Ÿ˜„

    Reply
  12. frank vernola

    Hey windy you are heading in that wind..with the same strength as I’ve always known you to have..were helping you with those sails.
    Love you lots..always here.

    Reply
  13. Luanne Colasanti

    Dear Wendy, I think I have mentioned before but I wanted to let you know again I think you are an amazing writer and I have always enjoyed reading your stories about your travels. But this story was hard for Vaughn and I to read. We are sorry to hear about all you have gone through this past month…I can only imagine how hard all of that must have been for you…we pray that every day you get stronger. Love to you from Vaughn and Luanne

    Reply
    1. Antoinette

      Wendy…
      You are and always have been my hero!! I am sending lots of positive energy your way everyday!! You are such an inspiration in everything you do!! Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help, (except the boat stuff… I would certainly sink the boat). Love you buddy!!
      Antoinette

      Reply
  14. Lauren deRosier

    You were always an amazing person… and NOW you have taken it to a whole new level. Your indomitable positive attitude, your ever-present smile, and fervor for the simple things in life make you the envy of many people… myself included. While it saddens me that you are enduring “rough seas” at the moment, I have NO doubt your journey is headed for smooth sailing and many picturesque sunsets, and new adventures. Love ya…

    Reply
  15. Deresa

    Dear Wendy, You are an encouragement to all. truly STILL an amazing lady. Love to be reading your blogs again. Please let me know if I can do anything to help you out. I can come Thursdays to Sunday.
    Deresa 805-390-5334

    Reply
  16. Larry Mayer

    Wendy, So glad to hear you are doing better, Love the pictures you have taken on you’re journey, and read many of the blogs, (you are one crazy lady). Get strong again, so I can read more stories, and see more pictures.

    Your old friend,
    Larry Mayer

    Reply
  17. Jon Holtby

    Wendy, I love to follow you and hear about your adventures and life thru this blog. You are a great writer but this one was very hard to read! I know you will fight this trial just as you have fought others. I pray that the Lord will heal you and give you and the doctors wisdom in your battle!!! Jon

    Reply
  18. Bill Bischoff

    Wendy, I have so enjoyed reading your stories of your travels and challenges. I wish that I could have shared an anchorage in Mexico with you. I know that you will continue to meet all challenges with your same sunny attitude. I wish you all the best and will toast your health when I return to La Paz next week.
    Take care, Bill. SV Odyssey.

    Reply
  19. RAY BELL

    Dear Wendy, it was great to visit with you the other day. I start my radio & chemo next week, but it will be a cake walk compared to what you have gone through. As for what we talked about I will keep my promise to you-(Curlew) Until them Fair Winds to all our sailor friends.
    Ray B

    Reply

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