Smooth sailing

Ed Smith has fond memories of the small sailboat he bought some 35 years ago. Back then, when his boys were little and life was slower, they'd head out into the bay for the afternoon. Five years ago, Smith got a bigger boat and a slip in the Santa Cruz harbor, and he began to sail again - until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Ed SmithEd Smith, center front, sets sail with Community Hospital staff who
successfully treated his prostate cancer.

Smith's treatment was, as his doctors expected, a standard, uneventful course of therapy. Yet the process was heartwarming, a time in which relationships developed with the doctors, nurses, and therapists he encountered during his daily rounds of radiation treatment at Community Hospital.

"My treatment was great," says Smith, 67. "Cancer isn't a fun experience, but when the treatment ended, I kind of missed going to the Radiation Oncology department at the hospital and seeing everyone. I went there every weekday for eight-and-a-half weeks at quarter to 8 every morning. Each person was so caring that when it was all over I wanted to thank these people. So I invited them to come sailing with me and be my friends. I wanted them in my life, and they are."

Throughout his cancer journey, Smith, who owns a 36-foot Catalina sailboat, spoke regularly with patient educator Ron Parkins, RN, who harbors his own sailboat in the marina in Monterey. The two mariners talked boats and swapped stories. Eventually Smith brought Parkins some sailing magazines and volunteered to take one of Parkins' sails to a sail maker he knew for repairs.

"Ed has a beautiful boat," says Parkins. "We got to talking and developed a friendship. At the end of his treatment, he was so happy. He really appreciated how everyone in the department was so kind and took such good care of him, so he invited us all out on his boat and provided a picnic."

Smith had planned to take everyone out on his own boat, but so many of his new friends wanted to go that he had to borrow a larger boat, a 42-foot Catalina. He poured champagne and set sail with some 15 staff members. No one got seasick.

"Ed is part of our family now," says Julie Giguere, supervisor of Radiation Oncology. "As he went through his process, we all went along with him. He opened his invitation to the whole department, and we were glad to go. We keep in touch, and I imagine we always will."