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By Jen A. Miller

Survivor at Sea

A cancer survivor and her family set out to sail the world

By Jen A. Miller


Diane Selkirk called from her in-laws’ place in Vancouver, British Columbia, the city she calls home. But as soon as we started talking, she was interrupted by a whisper, then a giggle.

“Here she comes,” says Selkirk, 42, who has a soft voice and the round o’s of a Canadian accent. The ‘she’ is Maia, her freckle-faced 9-year-old daughter. Selkirk asked me to call her back on Skype so we could talk over her computer, and got off the landline so Maia could use it.

Diane Selkirk with her husband, Evan Gatehouse, and their daughter, MaiaIt took us weeks to arrange this call—not because Selkirk didn’t want to talk, but because of her schedule, and lack of a regular phone number.

That’s because Vancouver isn’t really Selkirk’s home anymore, not in the traditional sense. Her real home is the Ceilydh (pronounced KAY-lee), a 40-foot catamaran. On July 11, 2009, Selkirk and her husband, Evan Gatehouse, sold their apartment and moved onto the ship. The family of three—plus one cat, Charlie—became a “cruising family.”

It’s a lifestyle many dream about. Selkirk and Gatehouse have done it once before, pre-Maia, though they didn’t quite make it around the globe. They hope to do a circumnavigation this time on a five- to seven-year trip. While sailing, Selkirk writes articles for magazines, Gatehouse takes photographs and consults as a yacht designer, and Maia is homeschooled. Together, they’re blogging about their trip at maiaaboard.blogspot.com.

This trip, though, almost never happened. In 2007, Selkirk noticed a change in a mole on her leg, a mole that itched. With the recent death of a friend due to melanoma in mind, Selkirk got checked by a doctor, and the mole was diagnosed as stage I melanoma.

The diagnosis could have put an end to the family’s plans, but they decided to go ahead. “When you hear you have cancer, it makes you really think what you want to do with your life,” she says.

 

(photo: © Jodine Baluk 2009)

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