Monday through Friday, each treatment passes like shimmering rollers across open water, indistinguishable, one wave in a sea of sameness…My body does not rebel nor does it rebound. I float in a windless sea.
Sailor Debbie Huntsman’s book, Sailing the Pink Sea, is a compilation of her cancer-year journals. Not a journalist, nor a writer, just an ordinary woman who, when faced with an unwelcome look at my own mortality, was compelled to record my thoughts. Perhaps it was mortality that inspired her, for she has produced a well-written book that beams a light on the private life of a cancer patient. From radiation to chemo, from vomiting to doctor visit after doctor visit, Debbie chronicles the day-to-day life of a person who knows cancer lives within her. The sailing imagery interwoven throughout her year of aggressive treatment is poignant; the reader yearns along with the author to be sailing carefree beneath wind-filled sails.
As Debbie charted her course through the Pink Sea of breast cancer she wrote nearly daily, much as she might have written in a ship’s log. And it naturally happened, she says, “that my love for sailing and the water became woven into the story.”
Debbie doesn’t sugarcoat reality; she crafts vivid pictures of it. She frankly details her struggles with the treatment process and the effect her cancer wreaked on her emotions and her relationships. Amid the horrors of breast cancer, she longs to be aboard Bliss, her Santana 23 tall-rig sailing sloop. Debbie’s words invite the reader to share her saga, to ghost along on her voyage between hope and despair, between what is and what will be. Her persistent attempts to maintain a positive attitude proved a healthy adversary for the fear. The cancerous invasion and side effects of treatment, for instance, didn’t keep Debbie from her regular routine of swimming several days each week. “Like a tiny boat in a storm, we can stay afloat in an unbelievable froth,” she says. Huntsman’s last treatment was like stepping ashore after a long journey.
She tells us that “One of the things having cancer taught me is the moment…This singular moment and what I choose to do with it will eventually add up to be the sum of my life.”