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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?

Lynn Henley

Saturday 7th of September 2019

As of October 25th, I'll be a 23 year bc survivor and almost afraid to say it or write it! Don't want to get too 'overconfident' if you know what I mean.

My 'go to place' is the NC Mountains and thinking of moving there. Through all of these years, my way of coping has been to plan a getaway and when I return home, I begin planning the next!

Can't believe I've never been part of a blog but Nancy, just had to join you and the others!

Nancy

Wednesday 11th of September 2019

Lynn, I like your idea to always be in planning mode for your next getaway. I love mountains too. They are just hard to beat for so many reasons. And gosh, 23 years and still going strong. That is something to celebrate, but I hear you on the not getting too confident too. Precisely why the shitstorm of cancer is never over. Thank you for sharing. Glad to have you join this blogging community. Welcome!

KAY HULBERT

Thursday 21st of August 2014

i love love' your blog

Nancy

Thursday 21st of August 2014

Kay, Well, thank you!

Lynn Myers

Thursday 16th of January 2014

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!!!

Nancy

Thursday 16th of January 2014

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.

Jan

Wednesday 9th of March 2011

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.

Nancy

Wednesday 9th of March 2011

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!

Kim

Tuesday 8th of March 2011

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. :):)

Nancy

Tuesday 8th of March 2011

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.

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