Benjamin, Caleb and Joshua Wortham explore New York for the first time aboard Black Watch on October 9.
For 7-year-old Caleb Wortham, a day at sea is a break from painful chemotherapy, weeks spent in a hospital and the burden of missing most of first grade.
“He’s been really stressed out. We needed to get away,” said his mom, Rebecca, as she and her family, along with other cancer patients and survivors, embarked on a sail aboard the 68-foot Black Watch, circling the tip of Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon.
Caleb suffers from a rare autoimmune disease called Henoch-Schonlein purpura, which causes painful purple spots and rashes on the inside and outside of his body from burst blood vessels, making it hard for him to move on his own. Another one of Michelle’s sons, 5-year-old Benjamin, has global cerebral atrophy — he was born missing the right hemisphere of his brain.
They’re guests of Sailing Heals, a Boston-based organization that takes cancer patients and their caretakers out on the water. Both boys are rosy-cheeked and blond, wearing black-rimmed glasses and puffy lifejackets as they headed out into the New York Harbor.
Caleb turns the crank to pull in the sail during a day at sea on Wednesday. ‘He’s been really stressed out. We needed to get away,’ said his mom.
“Caleb’s doctors actually upped his corticosteroids just so we could go on this trip and he could have fun,” said Rebecca, whose family drove up for the sail from Alabama. “And they’re not starting the stronger chemo until the day after we get back.”
Since Trisha Boisvert launched Sailing Heals in 2011, she’s taken more than 400 “VIPs” — what the group calls cancer patients, survivors and their caretakers or families — out to sea. After the Boston Marathon bombing, the organization took 37 victims, many new amputees, on a “healing sail.”
“There’s something about the elements,” Boisvert explained to the Daily News. “So much of our physical makeup is water. Being out here has the effect of minimizing our problems.”
For cancer fighters, it’s a welcome respite.
The Wortham family (from left to right: Benjamin, Rebecca, William, Caleb and Joshua) drove up from Alabama to go on the sail.
“It’s such an emotional time,” said Devi Ellant, a Manhattan podiatrist and breast cancer survivor who was aboard Wednesday. “Being around water, being on a boat — it’s calming to your soul. When you’re going through something like cancer, you need that.”