Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mark’s Cancer – Many Months Later

For everyone “out there” (or are we the ones “out there”? :-)) who has been wondering how things are going with Mark and me after the unexpected and eye-opening breast cancer diagnosis last year, I figured I would give a quick update of our lives in that regard. And, it gives me an opportunity to post some food pictures!

It is hard to believe that it has almost been one year to date, since Mark and I first pulled into Tahiti on Irie. After noticing a bump in his chest in January 2014 and keeping an eye on it for a couple of months, we decided to prematurely leave the Tuamotus and sail to Pape’ete, the only city of significance in French Polynesia. The day we arrived, after a two day sail, we hurried over to the main hospital of the island, the western, new and competent Taaone Hopital. What happened then can be read in my blogs during that period.

Mid-August 2014, we returned to Irie in Tahiti and we continued living our floating lifestyle, combining work and visiting new places in the Society Islands. Mark – and our lives – would never be the same again, with all the physical challenges and emotional episodes we had gone through, but we were both ready to embrace the future and the world, and convinced to keep doing what we wanted to do. This, unfortunately, did not include Irie anymore after being back for a few months. Hence, our beloved catamaran is for sale.

Mark felt relatively healthy and after the wounds of the operations healed, his discomfort and pain subsided. The radiation treatment left a few marks, but over time, these diminished. His original energy level and physical strength are still lacking a bit. In general, he feels OK, aside from some minor pains unrelated to the cancer.

The biggest change we made in our daily lives was in regards to food. We were eating pretty healthy before, but are now mainly following a “plant based diet”. We eat massive amounts of vegetables every day and Mark consumes wheatgrass and extra supplements, like green tea, fish oil, a multi-vitamin, and his favorite: flax seeds. We bought a year’s worth of supplies in the US, before coming back to the boat. We do still eat meat, but not very often. About once every two weeks, we enjoy red meat and a chicken. We try to eat more fish when it is affordable. Our intake of alcohol has also been reduced, but that is partly due to the high cost of wine and spirits here!

We do try to add some exercise to our lives, but with the incessant heat of the last months, it is impossible to go for walks, without jeopardizing work or chores, all of which have to happen between the productive hours of 6am to 9am. So, we go for a swim or snorkel instead, when it is not too choppy and the current is manageable. Some of the boat maintenance, like cleaning Irie’s bottom counts as serious exercise as well! :-)

Recently, Mark has started to take Tamoxifen - my close friends know what that means :-( - a hormone drug that is usually prescribed for five years, to diminish the chance of a reoccurrence, an event that is feared, and on every breast cancer survivor’s mind. He also had his semi-annual check-up with an oncologist in “our” hospital here in Tahiti and everything looked and felt fine. Always a relief! This summer, he will go back to Dana Farber in Boston for the next check-up.

The more time that passes, the less you think about and are consumed by thoughts about your cancer, they say. It is true that life goes on and bad events are pushed towards the back of our minds. And, in our case, we have many other projects, ideas and situations that occupy our lives. Being busy is always a good remedy and – in Mark’s case – it also lead to a break-through with our Wirie business. But, that is material for another blog.

Vegetable Thai curry

Sushi rolls with fresh tuna

Poisson cru (like ceviche with coconut milk) with fresh tuna

Vegetable noodle dish

Unhealthy fries with a lot of healthy veggies!

We have been growing our own sprouts for a long time - they are a great contribution to lunches, salads and stir-fry dishes. And they grow fast in this humid climate!

Couscous with veggie burgers and a salad

Gnocchi with vegetables in the oven

We still spoil ourselves from time to time, of course: blueberry pancakes (homemade) ...

... and American cookies with Belgian chocolate chips

Homemade coconut - mushroom soup

Homemade hot and sour soup with tofu

Making green tea with the sun

Salad with smoked salmon (on sale for $1.99!!)

Homemade black bean burgers


Unknown said...

Thanks Liesbet! Two Doctors have authored books about Cancer Prevention. One is Dr. David Perlmutter and the other is Dr. Joel Furhman who has been around for quite a while! See you stateside!

Love to you both,


sailinglunasea said...

So glad you guys are moving through the cancer diagnosis/treatment/recovery process. It really does get easier, the further away it gets. Yet, if you're lucky, you never really forget - and you continue to live your lives knowing how precious they really are! Looking forward to seeing what you guys are up to next!

Liesbet said...

Brian, thanks for the info. Those books sound like an interesting read. Do you have them at home? I would be interested in borrowing them, once we are stateside!

Liesbet said...

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for your comment! I am sure we will never forget about this horrible episode in our lives. Funny, how usually an event like this has people rethink their lives and decide to do more things they would really want to do, like ... go cruising! Since we were already doing this, we decided that it was time for another path to follow, still adventurous, but a bit more comfortable and convenient. What that path is, will be somewhat of a surprise - even for us - until we have sold the boat! :-)

I love your blog ( writing style, by the way! I hope you get to go cruising soon. You don't have to wait for retirement. :-)

krafthaus said...

Hello Liesbet & Mark,
Glad to hear things are progressing well after your difficult year. None of us ever knows for sure what's around the next corner, so it's a reminder to live life to the fullest...which both of you seem to do.
All the Best.

Liesbet said...

Hello Krafthaus! Good to hear from you again and thanks for your comment. We can't wait to start the next episode in our lives and we hope you "know what you are talking about", meaning that you live life to the fullest as well! :-)