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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


 

“I have no excuse for not seeing a doctor regularly as I travel,” she says.Salt ponds in San Evaristo
The mole was cancerous, but not at stage I level. It was in situ cancer, also called stage zero cancer. That meant that the mole had abnormal cells, but only on the epidermis (outer layer) of the skin. When Selkirk flew to Vancouver for a visit early this summer, her Canadian doctor reviewed her medical records from Mexico and agreed with everything that had been done.

 

STOLEN SALT

The phrase ‘worth his salt’ dates back to a time when men in the Roman army were paid their wages in salt. The substance had such value that enough could make you wealthy. The salt I held—coarse crystals, of the purist white—I had to imagine would have been most valuable of all. I tried to press it into a cake—similar to what the soldiers may have received. It crumbled and slipped through my fingers.

Salt melts in your hand, mixes with sweat and grows sticky. As I let my wealth go, I decided to make a final hunt for something to carry it in. Not the camera case, not my hat, not the first aid kit, but this, the Ziploc bag that holds our toilet paper, would work. I filled it, surreptitiously—faintly aware that stealing salt is not normal. Maia joked about my possible prison sentence and the headlines, “Salt Thief Sentenced to Six Years Service in a Salt Mine.” I wondered if I should take enough to give as gifts.

—June 15, 2010


Agua Verde, MexicoWhile in Vancouver, Selkirk saw her doctors. Maia went to circus camp. The family bought supplies for the boat, had their computers repaired, and, of course, visited friends and family. It was nice to be home, says Selkirk, because life on a boat isn’t always glamorous.

“It can be really physically uncomfortable. It’s rocky and miserable and nasty—those moments make me really wish I lived somewhere comfortable,” she says. But then there are the experiences at sea that couldn’t be found back home, especially for Maia: swimming with sea lions in Isla Los Islotes, seeing ancient cave art in Agua Verde, fishing in the Sea of Cortez, or even just watching Maia playing with kids from other “cruising families” while anchored in La Paz, on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

Talking about the influence of the adventure on her daughter, Selkirk becomes thoughtful. “I don’t think she ever felt there was any other life that was going to happen to her,” she says.

 

(photos: Courtesy of Diane Selkirk and Evan Gatehouse)



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