"My family moved to Homestead from rural Maryland when I was 17. Early on, I worked for a computer manufacturer based in Ft. Lauderdale. For the first few years, I was a field rep in the Miami-Dade and Broward area, but I transferred up to Ohio to get back to a country environment. I was a field rep in the mid-Ohio Valley for 20 years. I raised my family up there. But, then I started driving back and forth once a month from Ohio to Homestead trying to take care of my elderly parents. That was killing me, so I decided to come down to stay. I retired, and moved down to Homestead to care for my parents. They later ended up moving into an assisted living facility.
I had always thought that if I ever lived in south Florida again, I was going to own a sailboat! When I moved down to Homestead, I cashed in what little bit of retirement money I had and bought a sailboat; I kept it at Manatee Bay Marina for a while. When I decided to move on to it, I came here to the Hideout Restaurant at Key Largo Undersea Park, Jules Undersea Lodge and school. I’ve been here three years, I think...You know, you get on island time and lose track of how long it’s been!
I started working at Publix about three years ago, but last October, I found out that I had serious cancer issues. It was colon cancer. That just about did me in. They discovered it in the nick of time. I thought I had a hernia, but then one day I was in unbearable pain and my daughter, who was living with me at the time, said, “Daddy you have to go to the hospital.” I told her if I still felt that way in the morning I’d go. The next morning I was still in terrible pain, so I went to the Good Health Clinic. They immediately carted me up to Homestead and did an emergency operation that weekend. That was last October and I’m still kind of reeling from it. I had to go through chemo therapy and that ended in May; I’m still recovering from that. They told me I wasn’t just going to bounce back from all this, and I still feel effects from it. They caught it just in the nick of time because it hadn’t metastasized. The Good Health Clinic directed me to some good doctors. I really owe them a lot. They saved my life.
I went to the Good Health Clinic because I needed health care. Both my daughter and I qualified back then and they’ve been taking good care of us. I just turned 65 in July and got Medicare so I don’t have the Good Health Clinic available to me now. I’ll miss them, but I keep in touch with Karen. They are all sweethearts there, and they took good care of me. I said before, they saved my life. I put off going too long, until I couldn’t put it off any longer, and they were there for me.
When I got sick, I had to stop working at Publix. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that. While I was going through treatment, I got some help from the Upper Keys Cancer Foundation. They helped with rent. I’ll be seeing my oncologist this month. The surgeon felt like he got all the cancer, but he still strongly recommended the chemo therapy. I just take it one day at a time and try not to worry about it too much.
Right now, this is where I’m at. I have a cat. It’s my daughter’s cat, but I seem to have inherited it somehow. She’s a pretty good cat; she’s my bunk mate, I guess you could say! I’m working on my boat a lot because I have aspirations of doing some serious sailing. But, it seems like one thing or another keeps getting in the way…you know like cancer, or finances. I would like to sail up the U.S. Coast. I have family in the Chesapeake Bay area. My pipe dream is to sail on up to Nova Scotia and back. I just about have my boat ready to go on the high seas. This is a vintage boat, built in 1968 by a man named Charlie Morgan. Back then they didn’t know a lot about fiberglass, so it’s a very well put together boat. It’s a classic. It keeps me well. I’m hoping to get through the winter and get things squared away, and head out to sea in late spring or early summer next year.
We’ll see what happens. The Keys are where I’m at right now, and it is a sail boat paradise. It’s also a great place to live. Working at Publix, I got to know a lot of locals and business owners, and there is such a small town core community here. It’s a tight knit community, and I’m a country boy from Maryland so I like the small town feel. Here on island time, nothing is rushed.
My philosophy is kind of a cliché saying: “Don’t sweat the little stuff, and it’s all little stuff.” I tend to be a worrier, and that is simply a waste of energy. If I’ll take life one day at a time, it makes it a little bit easier to deal with. I just enjoy my dock here and try to make the most of the day at hand. That’s what I’m learning. Of course there will always be things that come up, like cancer, which you can’t prepare for, and there is nothing you can do about that. Don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of its self. You got enough to worry about today."