But I'm not here to talk about any of those things today, I'm here to talk about being sick.
Truthfully, 2014 was a brutal year for me. As some of you know and most of you don't, I've been fighting a losing battle against a mystery illness for the better part of the last 3 years. Chest pain, shortness of breath, wildly fluctuating blood pressure, orthostatic tachycardia, heart arrythmias, heat intolerance, exercise intolerance, violent panic attacks, weakness, and extreme fatigue. In 3 short years I've gone from being one of the strongest surf paddlers on the West Coast to someone who can barely make it through the work day.
Through 2012 and 2013 I was able to keep this mostly hidden from friends and students but cracks in the facade of my characteristic humor and enthusiasm during 2014 have forced me to face the fact that I truly am sick, and if I just keep forging ahead in my typical workaholic fashion I'm going to collapse, or worse. My condition is somewhat of a medical mystery, basic labs and a single echocardiogram appear fine, prompting physicians to label it as either "Unknown, not real, or psychiatric." Given the severity of my symptoms this seems insane to me, especially considering that I have not had any further cardiac imaging, brain imaging, neurological testing, viral or bacterial panels, or testing for any genetic conditions.
Over the course of this process I've bled my savings dry and accrued more medical debt than I'll ever be able to pay, I finally got insurance under the affordable care act only to have doctors refuse to order more tests, and insurance refusing to pay for specialists and the out of state facilities that are actually equipped to deal with complex cases like mine.
On the verge of a breakdown I reached out to others with undiagnosed illness and discovered an epidemic of sick people who have been sidelined by a system woefully ill-equipped to deal with mysterious chronic illness. In this process I also met other people though, I met people who fought every step of the way to get testing and to get care. I met people who found answers and got their lives back.
I made a choice, I decided I was going to be one of those people.
I've been a fighter my whole life. I put myself through college working two minimum wage jobs. I worked on an ambulance and shepherded the broken and bloody to safety. I led a fight to stop state-sponsored illegal logging on one of Portlands main drinking watersheds, and won. I carved a profitable off-grid organic farm out of the north facing slope of a temperate rainforest and simultaneously built a beautiful business where dozens of amazing individuals come together every year to connect around a passion for kayaking, building things, and a deeper connection to earth. In short, I feel like I have valuable contributions to make to the world and I'm not going to let some goddamned mystery sickness take me down without a fight.
In a long and torturous battle with my ego and my pride, my sense of self-preservation won out and I'm going to do something I've never done before, ask for help.
Basically, I need a lot of medical testing and treatment that I have no conceivable way to pay for. I'm already bleeding money just in the beginning stages of initiating care with some of the most brilliant doctors in America, and am hoping to pay a visit to the Mayo Clinic diagnostic center by Christmas. These higher level physicians believe, that if I was an athlete 3 years ago and too sick to work today, that yes, there is probably something seriously wrong with me, and that's a step in the right direction. To keep taking those steps I need raise some serious cash. To this effect I've created a Go Fund Me crowd-funding campaign for myself. I decided saving private Brian was just too cheesy, so we're calling it the Cape Falcon Medical Fund.
Finally, to answer the big question, what is going to happen with Cape Falcon Kayaks and the 2015 build schedule? I can tell you now that I have every intention of teaching in 2015. I have set dates for both Port Townsend, and San Diego which I will soon post online, along with dates for the spring and summer at the shop. Dates for the fall tour from Maine to Florida will be announced early next year. What is different than years past is that I won't be opening enrollment for anything except the Port Townsend and San Diego classes (open Jan 1st) until March. The reason being that I have to get on top of this illness before I make commitments and start taking money from people. To be clear though, despite how I feel at the moment, I have every intention of getting better.
I will heal.
I will paddle again.
I will be teaching next year.
To close this rather serious and depressing update, I want to revive a tradition from the old site, sharing the best pictures I've collected over the course of the year. No crazy surf photos or mountaintops this time around, but the world is still beautiful when you move slower, and get closer. Enjoy.