Friday, September 16, 2011


Originally posted in the Annapolis Capital: May 17, 7:04 pm | (permalink) | (2 comments)

(A post that has nothing whatsoever to do with living on a boat … or does it?)

Five years ago last week Dan came home from leading a sailing trip as a volunteer for the Naval Academy, four and a half days on a 44-foot sailboat running offshore 24/7 with a crew of 9 midshipmen, complaining that he was feeling tired and headachy. Um, really? Considering what you’ve been doing, that doesn’t seem so surprising, does it? But what was surprising was that after a couple of days of rest, that he felt worse instead of better. And a couple of days after that, found ourselves in the emergency room at Anne Arundel Medical Center. There was a tumor in his brain the size of an egg.

All over the internet and in magazines are articles and seminars and therapists and life coaches dedicated to “helping you find your passion.” There’s another way, although not one that I’d recommend. I found my passion instantly, a split second after our family doctor met us at the hospital, and honestly told us, “The prognosis is not good.” I knew what mattered most in my life, what I was proudest of, what I valued, what I was glad I had had the chance to experience, and what I’d miss the most.

In Dan’s case, there was surgery, radiation, rehab; a long and uncertain summer; and then getting back to work again, the delight of a routine of ordinary days. A big shout-out to Drs. Burke, Chawla, Gordon, and Graze and the staff at AAMC; and a deep appreciation for the tremendous support from our families, friends, and marina community. Last Sunday we celebrated five cancer-free years. We had a huge party and a five-foot sandwich from Subway that actually became a nine-foot sandwich because we had so many attendees. We lit a candle and took a moment to remember the names of those who are still fighting and those who we’ve lost; and donated $5 to cancer research for every person who attended; and laughed a lot and cried a little.

So what does all of this have to do with sailing or living on a boat? It’s that thing about knowing what your passion is, and doing it. It’s about making plans instead of excuses because you just never know. Excuses abound: we don’t have the money for a new boat … and maybe we should wait until the kids are out of grad school … our parents are getting older and might need us … and … and … and … Some of those reasons are even logical and practical. There’s always next year … until suddenly there isn’t. One sunny Satuday morning in May the door to our future almost slammed shut in our faces. Dan went from being a fit very healthy fifty-something to one of those people they whisper about in the hospital corridors. It’s not just about sailing, of course, though that happens to be my particular thing. It’s about whatever’s big and new and scary and important in your life, however you fill in the blank in the sentence that begins, “Someday I wish I could ___.” My friend RoseAnn claims that dreams like those have a shelf life. The problem is, the “do by” date on dreams isn’t stamped in any ink you can read.

 Photo: Beam me up, Scotty - right to sickbay on the Starship Enterprise ... or at least, the then-brand-new Novalis machine at AAMC

 Photo: surrounded by friends, celebrating life on the fifth anniversary of the original cancer surgery

(By the way, here’s a secret trick to figuring out your passion, a way that’s not quite so dramatic as my moment of clarity in the emergency room. Your passion is that thing that you’re doing, when you lose all track of time. It could be sailing or art or gardening – hopefully its something more productive than drinking beer though you can certainly lose track of time while drinking beer – but it’s that thing you were doing when you finally take a break and look at the clock and say, “Wow! I can’t believe it’s 9:30 already! I was so absorbed, I even forgot to eat!” )


  1. Oh Jaye - what a scare - and what a powerful lesson you drew from it.

  2. Thanx Jane, we definitely *both* became different people after the event.

  3. Great post Jaye and truly wonderful inspiration.

  4. I'm so glad and relieved to learn that you are both happy and healthy and made your passion a reality, together! Congratulations for the five year mark, Dan! We still have over three years to go, but we will get there... (Positive thinking). Impressive photo of the Enterprise (we called the machine the same when Mark was under it), beam included. They didn't let me stay in the room when the radiation started and our photo was taken. How about the noises, huh? :-) Keep enjoying life!!

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary