Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #99 Setting A New Course

And so another month has passed. Much to my chagrin, embarrassment, and frustration, the health saga continues. I mention embarrassment simply because I’m tired of boring our readers with this tale of woe, especially since I feel and look completely well and healthy. As for the chagrin and frustration, read on.

When last we met here, Jim and I were house-sitting and awaiting a follow-up CT scan on May 13th to check on the progress of my mysterious lung infection. I say “mysterious” because my doctors don’t really understand my lack of symptoms, and treatment seems to be a one-step-at-a-time process. From what we were told in February, I was seriously concerned that surgery was in my not-too-distant future. But, barring any indication that surgery was immediately necessary (which didn’t seem likely, since I don’t feel sick in any way), I was convinced that we would soon be heading back to Caloosa Spirit for a couple of months of Florida cruising. I was even planning to tell my doctors I wouldn’t have the surgery until August, regardless of what the CT scan showed. So far 2009 has been a study in frustrated planning for us, and that pattern continues at present.

Immediately after the scan I sat with high hopes in the pulmonologist’s office waiting for him to tell me that things had dramatically improved. That he did. The large-ish area of infection in the upper lobe of my left lung had diminished considerably and looked to be mostly gone. Good news! Then came the “but…” Apparently two new areas of infection have developed since the last scan in February—one in each lobe of my left lung. Why these areas developed even as the other surrendered to an aggressive antibiotic treatment is another mystery yet to be solved. Another piece of good news was that surgery is no longer an option. Because of the current diffusion of the infected areas, removal of my entire left lung would now be necessary. All agree—especially me—that that’s not a viable choice. Of course, the bad news accompanying the no-surgery avenue is that getting completely rid of the infection is now less likely. It seems that this pesky mycobacterium abscessus is notoriously resistant to total annihilation, so it could be plaguing me indefinitely. The pulmonologist scheduled another CT scan in mid-August and sent me off to see my infectious disease doctor.

As the vision of summer cruising quickly faded, we scheduled an appointment with the ID doc for the following week. A very l-o-n-g week of wandering in limbo-land ensued. We began to wonder about the possibility of getting back to cruising at all this summer—or even this year. Since our friends for whom we had been house-sitting had returned from their vacation, we had moved back to stay with Lauri and Alex with the intention of being with them for only a week or so. But “a week or so” was quickly passing with no end in plain view. Serious questions arose about how long this current phase of exploration and/or treatment would last, and where would we live during that nebulous time frame? What would the infectious disease guy say about this new development? Was it just a natural part of the infection? Might he possibly say we could return to Florida with no further concern at this time? Not likely, I concluded as I ruminated constantly about the dilemma. Not knowing what road our life would take was truly a wilderness wander.

A few days ago the infectious disease doctor finally said that it would be best if we stay in Indianapolis, at least for the summer. Even as he tried to be sensitive to our needs for returning to our boat, he eventually concluded that more cultures of the new infected areas would be beneficial, followed by treatment more specific to the bacteria—all of which could take several months. As the path out of the wilderness opened before us, I felt a weighty burden lift. While it was not the path we would have chosen, it at least led us out of limbo-land.

Immediately after leaving the doctor’s office we began apartment-hunting. One of the most stressful and depressing aspects of this whole lung disease issue has been the sense of homelessness we’ve experienced for the last six months. Aside from a 2½-week respite in late March and early April when we moved Caloosa Spirit from Marathon to Gulfport, we have been living under someone else’s roof since last December. This isn’t what we intended when we sold our house seven years ago. Why not move back to the boat and pursue the disease with doctors in Florida, you ask? That plan might have some appeal, but both Jim and I like and have great confidence in my doctors here. Starting over with new faces at this point doesn’t appeal to either of us. Besides, my insurance would pay 20% less for medical care outside of my local network. Health care costs being what they are, that’s a considerable dollar amount. So getting an apartment in Indy for the next several months became our best option.

There have been other extended stays when we’ve gotten a three-month lease—Jim’s prostate surgery in 2006 and Lauri’s wedding in 2007. On each of those occasions we opted for having our own digs rather than imposing on family for that long. But each of those times we knew what to expect in terms of getting back to living aboard. Not so much this time. It’s apparent that I’ll be having CT scans every three months for the indefinite future, so I was considering the possibility of taking an apartment for a year. Jim wanted to keep the time (not to mention expense) to a minimum, so we compromised on a six-month lease. We opted not to return to the place where we had rented previously, since that apartment would feel too cramped for a six-month stay. Also different from previous rentals, this time we would have our own furniture rather than renting furnishings. We had saved some of Mom’s furniture for the day when we might need it, never expecting that day would come so soon. Even in death Mom is still taking care of us.

On the way back from the doctor’s office we stopped at several apartment complexes, each of which would offer a short-term lease. Eventually we found our way to Oakbrook Village, where the rate for a one-bedroom was significantly less than for others of a similar size. When we saw the exact location of the available unit, we fell in love with it. From our living room and patio we’ll look out on a view of trees, grass, and a brook, with another building in the distance. The sense of privacy and serenity entices us both. We’ll have access to extensive walking and biking paths, a large swimming pool, exercise equipment, a pool table—and it’s all in our old stomping ground where everything is familiar and convenient. We can’t wait to move in next week.

I’ve already had another bronchoscopy (let’s hope the third time was a charm), so new cultures are on their way. The next phase of treatment is unclear at this point, but it may involve an IV antibiotic at home. I hope to hear from the doctor this week about what to expect and when. The goal at this point is to tailor the treatment to the specific bacteria. It’s relatively rare, so there’s not a lot of research or literature to guide the way. Also, the cultures are slow-growing, so I’m not sure how long I’ll have to wait before starting on something new. One bright spot is the likelihood that I’ll soon get off the one antibiotic that makes me highly sun-sensitive. That will be a welcome relief even here in the north. Sun-worshipper though I am, I’m ambivalent about another sojourn in Florida after I returned the last time looking and feeling like a burn victim.

As for Caloosa Spirit, she’ll wait patiently for us as she sits in a protected slip at Gulfport Marina. Very soon Jim (either with or without me, depending on my treatment) must go down to take care of some repair and maintenance issues that have been delayed since last December. Also, we need to bring up some clothing and other necessaries that we’ll want over the next several months. We hope to be able to take some short vacations aboard, perhaps in late summer or early fall, but time will tell. At this time we’re uncertain whether even a six-month lease will be long enough, but again, time will tell. We’re content just to have that much of our future in relative focus.

First Congregational United Church of Christ in Indianapolis (where we have proudly been long-time members) is an Open and Affirming church. That basically means that we accept and welcome anyone who wishes to worship with us, with no regard for religious, racial, physical, mental, sexual, or any other issues. Our reputation for hospitality and warmth has been spreading far and wide—apparently even into the animal kingdom. This morning two young chipmunks (I’ll call them Chip and Dale) tried mightily to worship with us. Our 9:00 AM New Creation worship service happens in the Mayflower Room, which has several very high windows. Since the Mayflower Room is in the basement, the windows have very deep window wells below ground level. With sturdy grating covering them, the window wells are well-protected to keep errant children, pets, or gardeners from tumbling into them. However, two young chipmunks could easily pass through the grating. And they apparently did. Throughout this morning’s worship service the little dears frequently peered through the windows and clawed at the sills. It appeared that they had accidentally fallen in and were unable to scale the sheer concrete walls of the window wells to escape to freedom. Without some kind of assistance, they would be trapped indefinitely. Horrors!

So after worship ended several of us accepted the challenge to serve our fellow brothers and sisters—even the four-footed, furry kind. While someone stood guard at one of the open windows to keep them from running inside (our good will extends only just so far where rodents are concerned), Jeremy climbed out the window into the well, armed with two cardboard boxes and a tray. (After all, what would MacGyver have used?) With patience and compassion Jeremy was eventually able to corner Chip, trap him in one of the boxes with the tray, and pass the box back to Jim, who then ran upstairs to release Chip into the playground. A few minutes later the whole process was repeated with Dale, and all was once again right with the chipmunk world.

We sincerely hope that Chip and Dale weren’t seriously traumatized by their adventure at First Congregational, and that they won’t soon return to the window wells. If they should decide to worship with us again, though, we’ll again welcome them with open arms—or maybe cardboard boxes and a tray.

We’re finally here—home again. No, not on Caloosa Spirit, but our home, nonetheless. We now have another place to call home, if only for six months.

We got moved into our apartment a couple of days ago, and we now have just about everything stowed and organized. Well, that’s not “everything” as in everything we own. This one-bedroom is cute and cozy and sufficient for our current needs, but insufficient for housing all of our present possessions. What doesn’t fit we’ll simply do without. That’s what we do when we’re on board, anyway. Our storage locker is still about half full.

This is a place of our own, but it’s comprised of material things from a variety of sources. As I look around I see living room tables and a TV that once graced our home, bedroom and dining furniture that belonged to Mom, lamps and a DVD player borrowed from Lauri and Alex, and a recliner purchased from Goodwill (for a mere $30!). The overlay of past and future is comforting.

Living room
Dining and living area—check out the recliner!

Kitchen—a comfortable size

I always loved Mom’s bedroom suite—and our new memory foam mattress is oh-so-comfy!

But the best thing—and the one we first fell in love with—is this:

Backyard 1
This is what we see out our back door

Backyard 2
Our “cockpit” table and surrounding view

We think this will be a comfortable and relaxing place to spend the next several months. Indiana in the summer is really quite pleasant, and when the humidity does set in we have air conditioning—something we lack on the boat.

I have another appointment with my infectious disease doctor next week. We’ll see then what he has in store for me. I can hardly wait. (Not!)

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

Posted Saturday May 30, 2009

* * *

  1. EEgads, you guys, we feel so bad about Alice’s continuing problems. If we can do anything from here—we’re 10 mins away from the Gulfport Marina—please just holler. We’re prob moving to the Keys for a couple of months but for the next two weeks or in August, please let us know if we can help in anyway.
    Bob and Kitty Bennett    05/31/2009 04:21 PM    #
  2. Prayers for your continued recovery and for speed in getting results and treatment options back. Love the new place, and hope it’s the haven you need for the next few months. Sorry about your detour, but I’m sure that means there’s something good in store for you!
    — Jay and Nancy    05/31/2009 06:27 PM    #
  3. Thanks so much for the thoughts and prayers. I’ll think of all our cruising friends often in the coming months. Cruisers rule!
    — Alice Rutherford    06/02/2009 07:08 AM    #
  4. Alice,
    My wife of thirty years was diagnosed with Lady Windemere in late Dec 08. Reading your log is like reading a script of our own situation. I wish you all the best and pray that you succeed in beating this terrible disease and can get back to the life that you enjoy, and your only concern will be where to drop anchor.
    Fair winds and following seas
    Dan & Bev
    — Dan Flury    06/30/2009 08:14 PM    #
name Remember
  Textile Help