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Jun 23, 2019 12:08PM
Jun 23, 2019 12:19PM
Hello scuba ladies. Sorry for taking so long to post. I got back from my Oman liveaboard (Aggressor) in early May and work/life has been crazy since then. The trip took 2 weeks, we were on the boat for 10 days and we got 8.5 days of great diving in. The trip was organized by the non-profit I volunteer for: REEF.org. (check it out, it's free to join!) The trip was the first fish survey trip that REEF had done in the Gulf of Oman/Arabian Sea, so everyone on board was new to the area and the fish. Many new critters and adventures! Fortunately, I had done REEF trips before with everyone that was on this trip. REEF divers settle quickly into routines and are very deferential to one another so there weren't any "clunkers" (divers that are hard to get along with). The Oman Aggressor was new in 2017 and has 11 rooms for 22 divers. However, the boat/crew had never been this full before, so there were some glitches with zodiacs, dive masters and food/diving schedules. Mostly minor except I have to say the dive deck could use a better orientation because 22 divers and their cameras are a logistical nightmare. Since there were only 2 zodiacs, they broke the group into 3 and then rotated the schedule so that each group got to go first, second and third (the longest wait), several times during the trip.
I would probably want to hear the most about the diving, so that's what I'll focus on. The itinerary was one-way; we started in the south out of Salalah and ended in the port of Muscat. In general, the visibility was sub-par, usually 50 feet or less. Most of the time it was around 25 feet or less. We were diving during the spring upwelling and that put a lot of plankton in the column. But because we were doing fish surveys, we were moving slowly and I stayed close to my buddy (we've been diving together for 7+ years). A couple of times, we became separated, but I could see someone else from my group so usually my buddy was nearby. I really stink at navigation so I like to be able to see the dive master or another diver. Zodiac pickups were by safety sausage and I was surprised by how far apart we would find ourselves at the end. The dive masters were pretty bored with us because they were used to covering a lot of real estate. But once they learned that we were looking for new and unique species ("yes, that's yet another cleaner shrimp, let's look for fish"), they were able to help us better.
Despite bad vis, I was amazed at how many new fish I saw. Oman is much different than the Caribbean. Lots more soft corals, and mostly low growing hard corals. Not a lot of tall sea fans, barrel sponges or elkhorn/staghorn. No walls, but we dove a few wrecks that were very fishy. I was also trying out a new Olympus TG-5 camera that I bought myself as a treat after my active treatment ended in December. You NEED a camera for fish identification and I was stunned at how many great shots I got. Stupid easy to use. Then, when I got home, I ran the pictures through a software called VividPix which is customized for underwater. That boosted the pictures to Cousteau caliber! (maybe exaggerating a little, but for $ 49.99, I was ecstatic).
Physically, I was really pleased with how my body held up. I swam and lifted weights before, during and after treatment, so I was confident but not sure how 3 long (60+ min) dives a day would feel. They offered night dives too, but I've stopped night diving unless there's something UNPARALLELED to see. I could definitely feel fatigue by the end of the day. The temps were in the mid-70s with some colder thermoclines, so I wore a 5 mil and always a cap. A couple times I put on my 3 mil hooded vest with the wetsuit. On a third dive, I was standing with my gear to board the zodiac (they put your tank on after you were on board). A good friend who knew about my diagnosis asked me if I was OK because I was shaking a little. But once I was under, I forgot all about BC and fatigue and recurrence and, and, and.. all the other useless stuff that occupies my brain on land. I had my port removed right after my last Herceptin. I didn't want to worry about that while diving either.
So, it's a lot of work to get to Oman and if I went again, I would find a schedule when the vis was better. I would also schedule more time for touring above the waves, but that will have to wait until retirement, I'm afraid. I need my job to bankroll my diving addiction. Next trip is a liveaboard in Turks and Caicos in December (to count more fish).
Treatment-wise, I'm down to AIs for the next 5-10 years and I'm also taking a bone strengthener (Alendronate). I only had slight osteopenia, but in light of the research hinting that bone drugs may stave off bone metastases, my MO and I agreed I could take them if I can tolerate them. Still searching for my eyelashes and eyebrows, and my fingernails absolutely shredded on the dive trip, but I'm dealing.
Best fishes and hugs to you all.
10/2017, ILC, Left, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+ (FISH)
11/15/2017 Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Sentinel
12/22/2017 Herceptin (trastuzumab)
12/22/2017 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel)
5/14/2018 Whole-breast: Breast
6/18/2018 Arimidex (anastrozole)