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I Needed A Vacation From Myself!

Over the years my husband and I have taken very few vacations together. Oh sure, we took various family vacations with the kids. We visited the Black Hills, Yellowstone, Glacier and other various national and state parks. We took countless trips to Lake Superior’s stunning North Shore. We even splurged and took the “big trip” to Disney World, but we never ventured out too far or for too long as a couple. We had plenty of time to do that later we told ourselves…

My cancer diagnosis changed that perspective. That’s what cancer does best, change things.

During my chemotherapy my husband and I decided we would take a vacation this winter. The unspoken reason was we must no longer take each other for granted. We must no longer put things like vacations off because we don’t really know how many more opportunities we will have for vacations or for anything really. No one does, of course, but cancer delivers this message like a hard slap in the face.  

While on vacation I made a few self-discoveries.

The first thing I must somewhat reluctantly admit is that I am literally quite “attached” to my laptop, or more specifically to blogging. I didn’t realize just how much until we started making vacation plans. My first clue was the very fact I could not even consider going on a vacation without lugging my laptop along. Fortunately, my husband also took his!

Then there was the self-imposed “dilemma” about me missing a post or two. “What will my readers think if I miss a post?” I asked my husband. “Will they keep coming back? Or will they stop reading? Will I appear unreliable if I suddenly stray from my up-to-this-point predictable twice-a-week posting schedule?”

Ridiculous, right?

Then I realized it wasn’t my readers who would miss me, it was ME who would miss THEM! I would miss out if I skipped a post or two. I would miss out by not putting my thoughts out there. I would miss out on those comments I can’t seem to live without. I would miss reading their posts. Yes, I would be the one missing out! Readers would be just fine.

I needed a vacation even more than I realized. I needed a vacation from myself!

Another thing I discovered was going on a vacation after a cancer diagnosis and treatment felt tremendously freeing. Traveling miles from home where no one recognized me or knew I had had cancer was wonderful. I walked down the street and felt normal. People passing by had no idea who I was or what I had been through. I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone. I didn’t have to worry about my sparse crop of hair or about wearing a cap constantly. No one knew I had recently finished chemotherapy. No one knew my genes were “tainted.” No one knew my breasts were reconstructed. No one knew I was facing more surgeries when I got home. No one knew I am sometimes fearful and anxious. No one knew anything! That felt wonderful. It felt, well, like a vacation!

“I feel like we are participants in the witness protection program,” I told my husband one day while taking our daily walk along the beach feeling especially inconspicuous beneath my hat and dark sunglasses, “and the “crime” we witnessed up close and personal was cancer.”

He laughed, but had to agree with me. We felt like people with new identities. We had left our old ones behind. On vacation we were just your average looking couple from the Midwest trying to escape to a warmer climate for a few days. We looked like everyone else. (OK, not like everyone else, some looked waaaay better, but you know what I mean!) We looked “normal.” There were even times when I forgot all about cancer. It was a very empowering feeling.

 Being average never felt so good.

Another important thing I was reminded of while on vacation was the tremendous healing power of nature. Problems seem less insurmountable while taking in the magnitude of things like an expansive ocean. Watching the never ending, yet constantly changing waves, was mesmerizingly cleansing, restoring and healing and I was reminded of my own “smallness” in the scheme of things. I found that to be extremely comforting.

Nature restores the soul if you allow it to. This restoration can happen while taking a relaxing afternoon drive, while walking through your neighborhood or own backyard, while admiring a spring flower trying to make its way through the snow or even by closing your eyes and imagining your favorite place of solitude and beauty.

Good things like vacations end too quickly. I must return to the real world of daily living and being a survivor. I must get back to my “new normal,” which includes yet another doctor appointment this week and three more this month. I am almost relieved to return to my computer without feeling guilty. I’m eager to read my favorite blogs and start blogging again myself. I guess I’ve become even more a creature of habit than I realized, but that’s OK and maybe even necessary now.

Another final thing I realized is there are no real vacations from cancer, at least not extended ones. But I’m grateful for the moments I do manage “to get away,” every day, whether I’m on vacation or not.

What is your favorite vacation memory?

How does nature restore you?

How do you “get away” on a daily basis?

32 thoughts on “I Needed A Vacation From Myself!

  1. Nancy, I know the feeling of ‘being free’ after Rachel’s death, all I wanted to be was just a face in the crowd. I wanted to be around people who didn’t know me, didn’t know what I was going through. I didn’t have to worry about forgetting my ‘mask.’

    I am so happy that you did get some time away, even if just for a little while. Shortly after Rachel’s death, my husband and I took a trip to Mexico, it was the first time we had taken off, just the two of us after Rachel’s death. It was perfect, we just allowed ourselves to be in the moment. No one knew us, our situation, or anything else; we were as you stated, ‘like everyone else, tourists.’ I have many, too many wonderful vacation memories, some with family, some just the two of us.

    As for nature, give me the ocean and all it’s vastness and power. Just the sound of the waves is enough to transform my mood, to calm my anxiety, to relax me in ways that are hard to describe. I am fortunate enough to live within a 20-40 minute drive the the seashore and when I find I need a break, I will take a quick ride and just sit there and listen, think and just take it all in. I never tire of sitting by the water’s edge.

    When I can’t ‘get away’ and sit by the shore, I try to read a book, open the bible, or just sit quietly for a few moments. I also find blogging, and reading posts, relaxing and reassuring, I know I can find comfort in some else’s thoughts, ideas, etc. And when my mind just won’t quit, I also find myself doing puzzles to help clear the thoughts.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, insights, and you with the rest of us. Take care Nancy, good luck at the doctors.

    Love, Rose Mary

    1. Rose Mary, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories about that initial trip to Mexico after losing Rachel. That must have been so hard for you both, but yet so needed. I agree, the ocean is transforming, good word there. You are lucky to live so close. We have a much further drive from WI! I’m happy you have found ways to get away on a daily basis as well, if only for moments.

  2. Oh Nancy. I so agree. I’m glad you got away. I’m glad you were able to enjoy yourself without cancer being in the forefront of your brain. I know how hard that is. I love going on vacation. I live for it and I think it may be for the very reasons you write about. It’s time away from our lives. New places, new things to do and our regular life slips away for a bit. There’s got to be more to this life than the everyday stuff. We need to explore and discover.

    Anyway, rambling here. I have lots of great vacation memories, but one in particular took place last year about six months after being diagnosed. My brother took my kids and my husband and I got a weekend away, just the two of us. We had never done that. As you say, it was so freeing to just “be.” I’ll never forget how excited we were when we started our drive. It was special. I’m glad you had a wonderful time!

    1. Stacey, Thanks for reading and commenting on this, Stacey. It definitely was nice to enjoy time without cancer being in the forefront of my brain! Sounds like you had a special weekend away after your diagnosis. I’m sure your brother enjoyed doing that for you and enjoyed the time with his nephews as well. After reading his guest post, it sounds like something he would do for you. Does he live close by?

  3. Nancy, firstly I am glad you enjoyed yourselves!
    This is an excellent observation about holidays – I have felt exactly the same myself… that sense of ‘no-one knows’ can be really quite liberating! I love to be by the sea too, and I love the sense of perspective that seems to bring.
    But you can’t be away all the time… so I get a lot of joy from nature and gardening, the beauty of a spring flower can give me intense feelings of delight and happiness. A lovely reminder that I can, at times, have a break from cancer.

    1. Sarah, Thanks for your comments. Yes, that feeling of “no one knowing” is indeed quite liberating as you say! You probably get to the sea quite often and I’m envious of those who can do that. I also enjoy nature through more simple “trips” to my flower garden and walks through my own backyard. It’ll be a while before our spring flowers appear around here. We still have lots of snow to melt!

  4. I’m so happy you “got away”! (Even though, ahem, you and I both know you were on your computer….) You guys should try to make a point to take a simple road trip monthly, even if they are just day trip. Something about the change in scenery does a body (and mind) good. I’m glad you back and yes, I’ll still read your blog 🙂

    1. Lisa, Thanks for continuing to read my blog! ha. I got such a laugh out of your email telling me to get off my computer now. I really did try harder after that, in fact, a couple of days toward the end, I didn’t use it at all! I agree, short road trips are great as well. We did that several times during my chemo and they were wonderful. Everyone needs a change of scenery now and then.

  5. Nancy- how lovely to get away and be able to go “incognito”….it’s funny that you talk about the attachment to blogging. I’ve been fretting too lately as my productivity is slowing down due to this new chemo regimen…will my readers desert me??? But no, I don’t think they will. If I can post every one or two weeks I think that’s okay and if I go outside that schedule who really cares? It’s the words that matter. Not the frequency. I’m with Sarah. If I can’t get away it’s all about the garden for me. Always something to look forward to and a chance to forget when the sun is in your face and surrounded by nature’s beauty. In fact I have purposely scheduled a fairly major project in my garden to start next week. I need to fast forward to Spring and nothing like a garden project to get things started.

    1. Anna, Thanks for your comments. It really was lovely to get away. Your readers will most definitely not desert you. You should post whenever you feel up to it. You are right about what really matters, and I don’t mean just about blogging! I’m so happy you love gardening so much and have a big project in the works. It must be warmer where you live then. We still have so much snow. My gardening will have to wait a while. Looking forward to your posts whenever you write them, Anna. Good luck with the project as well as everything else. Thinking about you.

  6. My most favorite vacation memory would be of our last vacation. We had planned it as a anniversary gift to ourselves, then it had to be postponed because of my cancer diagnosis. We took the trip about four months after my surgery and it was the beginning of helping me to feel normal again. Wonderful trip, beautiful memories. I try to”get away” daily by spending time in my garden, or taking a walk somewhere.

    1. Maryann, Thank you so much for taking time to comment. I’m so glad you were able to take that vacation even though you had to postpone it a while. It seems many of us get away on a more daily basis through gardening and walks are always a great option. Hope you are doing well, Maryann.

  7. My husband and I went on a vacation to Cuba a month after I finished chemotherapy for the first time. I was still quite bald, but I didn’t care about covering it up in public as much in a location where no one knew me. (Another cancer survivor who I met there called me brave.)

    It was restorative to get away, reconnect with my husband, enjoy some warm weather and marvel at the blueness of the ocean.

    I’m glad you got away. You deserved it. Keep it up!

    1. Tina, Thanks for sharing memories of that special vacation. Cuba must have been quite warm and sunny indeed. Getting away at such times is a real blessing and the ocean is capable of true healing and restoration.

  8. Love this Nancy. It brought me back to my Belizean days of two months ago (two months already! Jeez!). It was my first vacation with John and it was absolutely wonderful. I was carefree and tearfree. It was so peaceful to get that relaxation time in and feel the warm breeze while I should have been covered in two feet of snow back home. So refreshing! Two of the greatest weeks of my life!

    1. Sami, Thanks for commenting. Yes, time does pass quickly doesn’t it? I’m so glad you enjoyed those two weeks away and that they hold such great memories for you. I hope you are doing alright after your latest loss. I’m thinking of you.

  9. Nancy, I absolutely LOVE this post! As I was reading I was shaking my head up and down in the ‘yes’ sign because so much of it resonated with me!
    I have to say you hooked me with this line, “That’s what cancer does best, change things.” It is so very true and not a negative or positive statement, just a factual statement.
    And the rest of your story was so heartfelt, funny, sad, etc, all the things that life is. I too get ‘addicted’ to my computer and have felt the overwhelming ‘need’ to post on my blog as often as I can because I get all that great feedback from all those great people (like yourself) who stop by to read and support me. I guess really I am more addicted to the support and encouragement then the computer. Which I think is okay but sometimes I realize I have to stand on my own two feet.
    Also, you comment about needing a vacation from yourself! I could so relate to that, it is part of what drove my last post.
    I am so glad you had a wonderful vacation and were able to forget for a while. I am about to leave on a ski trip with a friend I have known for 26 years. We did this trip last year and it was one of the best times I have ever had. It was so good I had a little depression coming back from it, and now am so looking forward to getting away, being outside in the snow, on top of the mountain, looking out in the big world and feeling small, in a good way, like you mentioned.
    Thanks so much for sharing with your thoughts with your readers and best of luck at your upcoming appointments!
    Debbie

    1. Debbie, Thank you for your comments which always mean a lot to me. I agree, the support and encouragement are the addicting parts, as you well know! Yes, vacations are wonderful escapes for anyone and I truly hope you enjoy yours! Can’t wait to hear about it when you get back.

  10. I’m so glad that you and your husband seized the moment and got away for a nice heavenly vacation. I also find nature restorative.

    One way that I try to get away (read escape) from the psychological demons of cancer is to oil paint and, of course, write. Oil painting has provided a great venue of escape for me. The world of cancer doesn’t exist when I do this activity.

    And I know what it’s like to want comments from readers. I always appreciate comments that you have taken the time to leave on my blog!

    1. Beth, Thanks for commenting. You are so lucky to be a painter, I’m envious of that! Finding something you really enjoy where as you say, “cancer doesn’t exist,” is a wonderful thing.

  11. Love this post! I am having my expanders removed and implants placed on the 24th of this month and will be going on acruise on May 1. My feeling was getting away would be good for me and your post has assured me of that even more. Thanks so much for sharing. Sometimes it seems like you have the perfect way of knowing what I need to hear!

    1. Donna, I am so happy you enjoyed this post and I really appreciate your feedback on it! It means a lot to me. Thank you so much. I hope all goes well with your “exchange.” Taking a cruise in May sounds like a fabulous idea. Getting away will be wonderfully healing in many ways. Good luck with everything and keep me posted on how you are doing.

  12. Nancy,
    As always wonderful post! I am glad you enjoyed your get away. I loved your comments about blogging and others comments. I, too, relish and appreciate comments others leave. Since my life has been a bit on the busy side, I have not had the chance to be consistant with blogging and do understand the fear of losing the connection and friendship that is developing with my blogger friends.

    ps. although my schedule doesn’t permit much time to get away–I do try and schedule a “free” day every few weeks, so I can write and read blogs. :):)

    1. Kim, Thanks for taking time to comment, I appreciate hearing from you! It was a wonderful get away indeed. It doesn’t really matter what you do or even if you go anywhere. Just taking time for yourself in some way is what everyone needs from time to time. My cancer diagnosis delivered that message loud and clear.

  13. Nancy, I love how you express your feelings through words. You have a natural gift for it. I take a vacation every day by walking through the woods near our house and meditating on how beautiful nature can be. Just today I took a walk almost down to the flumes where a river cuts through nearby canyons. A beautiful meditative walk!

    My favorite vacation memory is going to Costa Rica with my whole family. We zip-lined through the canopied forest, white-water rafted, and snorkeled. All boy things, and all fun things to keep my mind off lymphedema and cancer. On that trip I totally forgot that I ever had cancer; I was able to do everything that others were doing, and it was empowering.

    I’m so glad you could get away and get refreshed.

    1. Jan, Thanks for the compliment. It sounds like you live some place quite lovely and that makes for great daily escapes! Thanks for sharing about your most memorable vacation. It must hold marvelous memories for you, especially that empowerment component!

  14. My oncologist advised me not to take a 9 day bus tour of Provence, France. Not between chemo and radiation, and definitely not after both chemo and radiation. She said I’d be too tired. But at the beginning of CMF chemotherapy, she did say I could keep on working. (I told her I was retired). I was a Headstart teacher spending 7 hours a day with 20 very active 3 and 4 year old, and only one assistant. My job was much, much harder and more exhausting that any bus vacation I have ever taken. What do you think about vacations between chemo and radiation? Are they doable? I’m 65 and I don’t want to “put off” my favorite thing—TRAVEL!!!

    1. Lynn, Thanks for reading this post and for posing your question. Ultimately, only you can answer it. If you’re feeling up to it, why not go for it? Just think it through carefully and perhaps have a back-up plan in case you start to not feel well. Good luck. Let us know what you decide.

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