“Heart” and “Disease” are two words you don’t want to see together. They certainly don’t look good sitting side by side on the screen in front of me as I type this. And I can assure you it doesn’t feel pleasant when it’s happening inside your chest.
Within 24 hours of arriving in Cairns, I felt unwell. I put it down to exhaustion and assumed it would improve, but after a few days, my condition worsened. I could hardly get out of bed and when I did, I found it hard to stand. My cognition was poor, and a fog had descended on my brain making it hard to think. My chest was heavy, and I was short of breath. I had a serious headache; lethargy was pervasive, and I felt depressed and anxious. Due to the border closures, no friends or family were able to come up to see me and as each day passed, the elation I was expecting to feel upon my arrival was replaced with a deep loneliness.
I had planned to spend the next month or two with my boys exploring the islands, beaches and waterways of Queensland during their summer holidays (HK is in the northern hemisphere) and I’m not sure which one of us was more excited. Due to the virus, their trip was cancelled though, and I found myself in Cairns alone, unwell and barely able to find the energy to leave my hotel room as the reality sank in that it will be a very long time until I can see them again.
Never once had I felt lonely at sea, so it was a sad irony that once on land, surrounded by people, albeit strangers, that I felt lonelier than I think I ever have.
By day 5 I knew there was something wrong and that this was more than simply exhaustion. After being refused admittance to a number of doctor’s clinics because I had been outside Queensland within 14 days, the only option was to present myself at the Emergency Department of Cairns Hospital. I’m very glad I did. I was immediately put into isolation and given a raft of tests from an ECG to bloods to chest X-ray, blood pressure and a COVID swab.
Once the results were in the doctor told me I was suffering from extreme exhaustion, adrenal fatigue, poor kidney function and that I had something called a Pericarditis. I struggled to pronounce the word, let alone understand what it was. It turns out the heart sits in a sac called the pericardium and a pericarditis is an inflammation of the sac which results in severe chest pain, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. It’s not a terminal illness if treated early though, so I reminded myself to practice acceptance and to just go with it.
I knew there would be a price to pay for pushing myself to the very limits of human endurance, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad. The prognosis was it will take months for the pericarditis to heal and that the best way to do this was rest. Lots and lots of rest.
I wondered if it was just my body’s way of telling me take my time. That this was not simply 5 and a half weeks of stress, but 15 years without a break, rolling from one crisis to another. Sooner or later something had to break, and this was that “something”. I postponed my plans to sail down the coast, left Ahoyka at the Marina and metaphorically set sail for the safest harbour I know. My parent’s home in Tasmania.
With all the border restrictions in place it was not going to be easy as only Tassie residents we’re being allowed into the state and 24 hours before I arrived anyone who travelled through Victoria outside the airport was being refused entry, which made it difficult given the only flight into Hobart was from Melbourne once a day. I caught my first fly to Brisbane and overnighted there before catching a 6am flight to Sydney then onto Melbourne. Biosecurity agents screened all passengers getting on the flight to Hobart from Melbourne and many weren’t allowed on. Thankfully dad and I had gone through all the requirements beforehand and I had my required paperwork printed out and prepared, including my proof of residency, a bank statement with their address, which was my ticket to cross the border.
Almost as many police as passengers greeted us when arrived at Hobart airport and the screening process was extremely diligent. I could see mum and dad waiting beyond the security cordons, masks on, pensively patient, while I anxiously waited in line, hoping to be let through but far from certain I would. A number of those in front of me were escorted off to government run quarantine so the relief I felt when I was given the green light to quarantine for 14 days at their home was palpable.
Seeing mum and dad for the first time in 6 months, not knowing if we should, but letting our love for each other get the better of us, we hugged as only families can do and we headed home. Truly home.
It was time to curl up and heal like a wounded animal in a cave. Heal my body. My mind. My heart. My soul. And to do so in the safest place on the planet right now. My parent’s beautiful home in a state that’s seen zero infections in the past 2 months. I glowed with gratefulness the entire car ride home.
I miss my boys dearly and wonder how much of my pericarditis is simply modern medicine’s way of labelling a broken heart. My mum, being the ever-thoughtful woman she is, printed off a range of recent photos of the boys and placed them around the house so their endless smiles are never far away and they always to boost my spirits when I glance their way, knowing that it won’t be forever that we’re apart.
As I reframe the months ahead, I realise this is a very special time. How many people get to connect, indeed reconnect with their parents in middle age? To share a home together again without the distraction of children or the competition of a spouse in way we once did when life seemed so much simpler and I was a child.
I don’t know many people whose parents are still as in love and happy as mine. Who have the energy and the space to share their home and their lives again with their only son. This is a chance for us to be together again. “Be” being the operative word.
The days are luxuriously slow.
We share nice warm cups of tea together, slow walks in the bush or on the beach with Barney the Beagle and binge watch The Crown in the evenings all while eating delicious Tassie produce. I can’t imagine a better way to convalesce and each day my heart gets a little healthier.
A little happier.
A little lighter.
What a gift this is to spend such quality time with my folks and for us all to be connected in each other’s lives again.
How wonderfully Unexpected.
While the ocean is a place for poetry, so too are melancholic moments on land and I take great solace in Edgar Guest’s words while I focus on my new mantra for the months ahead:
by Edgar Guest
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low but the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit…
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit!
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many failures turn about
When we might have won had we stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow…
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out…
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Finally, I wanted to thank you dear Reader, for all your kind, supportive and heartfelt messages both during the trip and when I arrived in Australia. Reading them each morning on the water often pulled me out of a funk. Gave me a boost when it was needed and lifted my spirits when they were low. My body was clearly hanging on by a thread given how much it (we?) collapsed within hours of arriving home and without your support I just don’t know if I’d have made it to Cairns as safely as I did. The will to survive is incredibly strong, but even more so when you have something to live for.
I started the trip seeking solitude, thinking this was what my weary soul needed to heal. In doing so, I learned that its human connection that I sought and that this was the elixir I needed. No man (or woman) is an island and it’s love and companionship that makes our hearts whole and happy.
Thank you for teaching me this, dear Reader.
With love and gratitude,
PS – I’ve posted some photos of the journey online too if you’re keen to take a look:
Really sorry to read about your health issues. Enjoy your time at home. Rest and get well.
Thank you for the wonderful adventure you took us all on.
Best wishes to you for the future.
Your last post and your best, Rory. What an incredible journey. For the 5 weeks duration I saw this journey as your passage from HK to Cairns with all the daily trials contained therein. Your well written epilogue shows, without doubt, that life is a journey from the moment we arrive to the moment we leave. Life is precious as is all the time we have allocated.
As to hooking up with Mum and Dad, again – I was priveleged to stay with your Granddad Hunter for the last 7 years of his life and I can tell you that, it was only then that I really got to know the old fella and appreciated him for the clever, kind and loving Father he always was.
In truth he looked after me for 5 years, I only had to look after him for the final 2 years.
You are now in a good place Rory, the best place. Get well soon and Hi to Harry and Gill and all the troops,
Much love, Donald, Fay and Sam.
hey Rory, sorry to hear about your heart health issues; what a bummer!! i can relate somewhat i suffered at age 52yrs a Cardiac Arrest, diagnosed later as LONG QT an heart rhythm issue; i live reasonably comfortable with a DEFIBRILLATOR which monitors my heart. Its quite an adjustment and you will need to make adjustments to do physical activity within your limits, So all the best with this, your keen spirit is still rising high!! dont loose your sense of humour and your ability to do the best you can within your limits! hugs mate Mercia (Lucia’s Friend)
I was delighted this morning to receive your email telling us all the Blog had been updated and the link to the photos.
That said, I was aware you had taken ill, so have been waiting patiently and hoping that you would soon have the strength to post your latest update.
Your journey was an epic challenge in so many ways, which you rose to, dealt with and succeeded in. 🌍⛵️👏
Thank you for sharing your ups and downs, your emotions and all your thoughts, feelings, fears, struggles, insights, music, movies, books and quotes. Also your impeccable passage plan, weather and routing updates.
Your Blog certainly had me and the Golfing Girls and all your Dear Readers hooked … It was, and will remain for me at least, the highlight of The Lockdown days!
Your writing was both gripping and eloquent. A joy and a pleasure to read and to feel like we were there with you, on the good and not so good days, are was a privilege.
Facing Mother Nature, revelling in the beauty of the Ocean, looking out for traffic, and contending with the wind and the waves, the Sails and Ayokha’s needs too. I look forward to the Book!
It is unfortunate that the physical toll on you has been so tough, but you are a fighter and survivor, and will return to full strength and good health.
Hearty Congratulations my friend, on your achievement, and Best Wishes for your continued recovery in Tazzie with your parents and the Beagle!
Light Winds, Variable, Showers, Good, Improving Later…. Outlook… Good!
Well Rory lad, it seems the first four weeks of your adventure were little compared to your finals days between Cairns and Tassie.
I do believe you will emerge from all this stronger in heart and mind.
You are certainly in the best place for now and I know your mum and dad will just love looking after you and getting you back to health … and happiness.
It may be I was a bit premature with “Cursum Perficio” but I know you will complete “Part 2” of the course.
Best wishes for the future … and hugs to mum and dad.
Uncle Nick and Aunt Lesley
I am sorry to hear about your health and pray for a quick and complete recovery. I look forward to seeing pictures of you enjoying time with all your family.
I’m proud to had knew you, not alone to your sail experience, but for your humanity.
Our life is a big travel.
My grandfather told to me:
when you will be old, is not important have good memories, but many memories. Every day that you don’t remember, will be a lost day.
Surelly you have a life full of great memories.
To live is win!!
Take your time to get well and strong again. This journey and the time after taught you so much about yourself and human mankind. Thanks for letting us participate!
Amazing journey and adventure! My highest respect! Rest and get well soon! Looking forward to catch with you!
Truly, Rory, you are LIVING the full spectrum. Learning. Opening up in ways that few truly do. What a gift, as you’ve said, but also what a way to honor this life, and that comes from your heart and intelligence and willingness to be vulnerable. A huge hug, and thank you so much for bringing us Readers along with you on your journey. I know it helped me, and–similar to what you mentioned about the messages being able to improve your mood–your beautiful, raw, honest writing helped lift mine as well. Thank you!
It’s both humbling and inspiring to have been following your journey, and I might even go back and reread them when I need to remind ourselves that challenging experiences help us grow in ways that no easy path will.
Perhaps a book one day? Just sayin’… 😉
Big hugs, and wishing you a wonderful stretch of resting, healing, being taken care of, thinking, and thoughtful rebuilding. All the best,
Rors! What a roller coaster! Time to slow down my friend. Too many years of achieving and striving and time to slow down I think your body’s might be saying. I am writing this from peaceful Lake Tekapo on a roadie down to Queenstown with my Mum. Middle age is indeed a great time to reconnect with parents. Ironically my mother had pericarditis on her return from a trip to India back in the late 80’s. Mum’s advice is a lot of good books and Netflix and give yourself LOTS of time to heal. And to make sure you have a follow up scan to check for any heart damage. Better safe than sorry. I am full of admiration for you and hope to see you sometime. Xxx
Thanks for finding the energy to provide an epilogue to your adventure. Life has an uncanny capacity for “curved balls”, but you already know that. Get well soon and come out swinging, there’s plenty more living to do yet.
Old Goat out
Wow Rory, What a journey you have had. It has been wonderful to follow your travels and hear all that you have done.
It is now time to rest with your mum and Dad and enjoy the next few quieter months. You truly are in a good place and I know you will be well looked after. Praying for rest and restoration of the heart, mind and soul.
Regards Ian and Michelle
Sitting home with Andy and the boys here in HK on a Sunday morning reading this latest passage. Each passage you have shared with us supersedes the next. I am grateful you have decided to share your physical and mental journey with each of us. With this latest blog you’ve come to realise that your personal journey continues and you will continue to self reflect life. Reading your thoughts today was an overwhelming sensation of feelings as if we were all there with you, fingers crossed that you made it home. I am truly thankful that this necessary human connection with your lovely parents will be the healing factor for recovery. Embrace each day you have there with your family as this is where the universe has decided for you to be. Please keep up the writing!
You certainly deserve a
well earned rest Rory.
Thanks for sharing your nail biting journey.
Enjoy being pampered by your Mum and Dad😊
Rory, I’ve missed hearing your update and now I know why….. Your post today covers so many meaningful topics and I’m sending you wishes for the return of your health. Slow and steady recovery is the way and love and contentment will heal your soul. You will be strong and safe with the love of your family, no matter how near or far they are. Enjoy the precious time with your parents.
Dear Rory – Ashlee and I have followed your extraordinary journey from Day 1 and it captivated us, day-by-exceptional-day, moment-by-treacherous moment, across a tempestuous ocean and into the deepest part of your soul. A dear friend cast headlong into the often terrifying elements – alone. Solitude seems to greatly magnify our fears and our joys – you captured these “two impostors” beautifully. Thank you for your gift of honesty and transparency and for your incredible tale of passion, hope and endurance. We are humbled. I shed a few tears when you finally moored in Cairns – as much out of joy and excitement as out of sadness and emptiness that your incredible narrative had to end. We love you Rory –
Thank you for letting us be a part of this amazing – mentally and physically challenging journey. Thank you for always being so candid with your comments and feelings.
Safe to say, I have learnt a lot reading everyday along your journey.
You are courageous to have taken up such a life changing endeavour.
Stay safe and heal well at home.
Rory, Gavin and I have been delighted with your blog and sad to hear of your illness. You are in the best place being looked after by Gill and Harry and please Get Well Soon.
The photos are brilliant and a superb reminder of your adventure. Love from Auntie Jacqui and Uncle Gavin xxx
PS Sure I will see them again in a book…………