Tighten the Mizen

Aug 27, 2014

Today I read a quote from Jim Maclaren, a bright young scholar and athlete who lost his legs - and ultimately his life - because of two freak accidents:  "... suffering can also be the greatest possible invitation to transform — but only if you accept that invitation, and only if you go through a complete catharsis, and only if you actually change yourself because of what you've experienced. But that part is up to you. Only you can execute a catharsis in your own life. Suffering without catharsis is nothing but wasted pain. And you should never waste your pain, never waste your suffering. It's powerful stuff, the most powerful stuff there is. Use it. Transform from it. Learn. Grow. Be better."

At some point in our lives, we all confront the suffering brought on by sickness and ultimately death - our own and those of the people we love. It demands enormous courage to take that suffering and, rather than be defeated, find a way to be transformed, to grow, to be better. Sandra Masters, educator and public speaker, shares the raw emotions of her own struggle to cope with her husband's battle with cancer.  


“And they lived happily ever after…”   

That was the tag line my husband Scott used on Match.com late December 2006.  And so began our voyage.   We were going to get it right this time because he was my Captain and I was his Northstar and we knew our love was deeper than the ocean and we would sail away with calm seas and fair winds.  But a demon sea monster –Melanoma - had other ideas.   In June of 2011, three years into our marriage my Captain was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic Melanoma in the brain. 

We have been braving the storm ever since. 

Three years post diagnosis we have endured 4 cyber knife procedures to his brain, a grand mal seizure necessitating a craniotomy, a cardiac window/ cardiac  ablation, a pacemaker,  11 rounds of radiation to the scapula, 5 targeted immune therapy  chemo  courses and a  scleral buckle surgery,  and we are still here, treading water.  We are unrecognizable to ourselves and to each other.  We are drained, depleted, demoralized, but not yet defeated.  Our life was once filled with glorious days on the ocean boating and scuba diving.  Our nights were spent enjoying cocktails and dinner parties, charting our future on a quiet island.   Now our precious and ever dwindling time is spent at the hospital, with the oncologist, the radiologist, the cardiologist, the electro-physiologist, and the neuro surgeon.   We are trying to borrow more time using whatever strength remains for collateral.  It is not the fairy tale life we set course for.  But it is then only one we have, and we will let out the main and tighten the mizen.


Sandra Masters is an educator in the Palm Beach County School system. She has also become a regular speaker on cancer education. She is married to Scott Masters.

Quote from Jim MacLaren from an interview with author Elizabeth Gilbert.

-- Contributed by Christina Holbrook, for Gutsy Gals

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