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Cancer patients set sail to leave their troubles behind - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Cancer patients set sail to leave their troubles behind

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It's prep time for a sail on Lake Champlain.

"Sails all set up, so if the wind cooperates we'll actually be able to sail," Glen Findholt said. "And we're off!"

But this excursion out of Burlington's Perkins Pier is not your ordinary adventure on the water. It's the maiden voyage of the 28-foot Jubilee in her new role with Healing Winds Vermont.

Captain and Board Chair Glen Findholt is at the helm.

Evelyn Fitzgerald, 53, is Healing Winds' special guest.

Glen Findholt: If you just hold that course we'll be good.

Evelyn Fitzgerald: And then I'll crash us.

Glen Findholt: No, we won't let you do that.

Fitzgerald hasn't lost her sense of humor, despite a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2008, and a recurrence years later.

"But because it's stage 4 it's no longer what you call curable," she said. "So I am 53, so I would only survive, not until 60. So I won't make it to 60, or less."

So she's spending time on one of Vermont's greatest assets, making memories thanks to Healing Winds founder Suzanne Johnson, herself a cancer survivor and a lifelong sailor. She knows firsthand the emotional struggles with stress and anxiety that cancer can bring, along with the physical battle against extreme fatigue.

"So I wanted to do something where the patient could sit here in the cockpit and the rest of the family could be running around and doing what they wanted to do on the boat, and do something together as a family. Truly moving through space in time outside, and it's such a natural place to be, and being on the water is so healing," Johnson said.

Johnson says everyone wants to do something for you when you have cancer, and on the Jubilee they can actually do something with you. The boat was a donation from a friend dying of cancer, her board made up by those affected by it. Findholt's wife died last year.

"It's hard to bring the stresses of modern life out on a sailboat with you," he said. "They sort of dissolve when you get out here."

Yes they do. Just ask Evelyn Fitzgerald.

"I don't know what's so fun about it, sailing, but it is. Just like the white sails and blue sky and everything," she said.

Healing Winds Vermont will share that experience at no cost to other cancer patients and their loved ones throughout the summer. Johnson's goal is to give them lasting memories on Jubilee, a name she selected.

"The joy. The joy of being on the lake and the joy of just being together," she explained.

Healing Winds Vermont-- offering a special sail to celebrate life on Lake Champlain.

If you'd like to get involved with Healing Winds Vermont, or you'd like to nominate someone for a sail:

Healing Winds Vermont
P.O. Box 789
Shelburne, Vermont 05482
www.healingwindsvt.org -- 802-233-9777

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