Escape from cancerland

I’m back from sunny, hot Jamaica, and I’d love to say I’m glad to be home, but that would be a bit of a lie. Spending a week where I was pampered and taken care of and did not have to worry about a single thing was quite luxurious. And honestly, I could have used another week. Or year.

This was the first week in nearly a year that I didn’t have to talk about cancer, or how I was feeling. No one there knew about the cancer. I was incognito, blending in with all the other happy sunburned people (sans sunburn, of course – hello, I’ve already had one kind of cancer, I’m no dummy). I got several compliments on my “beautiful hairstyle”, with no one assuming I had lost my hair, but rather that I had just been bold and cut it all off. One of the staff members, an aspiring model, even said it made her want to chop hers all off too. No one had a clue why I was there, or why my hair is so darn short, and I liked it that way. It truly was a break from reality and my life. No doctor’s appointments, no hospitals, no cancer.

I’m not sure if it was the Jamaican air, but my hair actually seemed to grow and change in the one week that I was away.

Of course, cancer wasn’t completely absent from my mind, because I am no where near at that point yet in my mental recovery. I still had some pains that made me wonder if my cancer has spread. And I still felt a smidge of sadness over the thought of my life being cut short, and missing out on moments like swimming in the ocean or watching a beautiful sunset. So many of my happy moments now seem to have this slight shadow of darkness attached to them, and I never realize it’s happening until it sneaks up on me. I hope eventually it doesn’t have to be that way, but I think it will take awhile still. Patience is something I must learn as I navigate this very confusing post-cancer existence.

Two very relaxed people.
Two very relaxed people. And of course, my port/scar prominently on display.
I ate dessert after every meal and did not feel guilty one bit. This dessert featured five different types of chocolate.

Something I also noticed from this trip was that as much as I have changed from my illness, I am still fundamentally the same person. I had wondered if perhaps my life-long fear of flying might have disappeared, now that I have truly been through something extremely scary and feel I have a new perspective on fear and how to face it. But even as I told myself, You’ve been through cancer, a bit of turbulence can’t scare you, I still panicked with every bump and squeezed my husband’s hand until it turned red and wondered how any rational human being could ever think it’s a good idea to be trapped with a bunch of strangers in a tight space, forty thousand feet above the ground. My fear of flight has most definitely not been cured as a result of cancer. Alas, I am still me, same as always.

I got a massage on my birthday in an outdoor cabana, where I could hear the waves crashing and feel the breeze coming off the water. This is my idea of cancer recovery.
I got a massage on my birthday in an outdoor cabana, where I could hear the waves crashing and feel the breeze coming off the water. This is my idea of cancer recovery.

Cake in bed. A brilliant idea which I highly recommend.

For my birthday, on the last night of our trip, my husband bought a wishing lantern for me. You’re supposed to light the lantern with fire, make a wish, and send it out into the sky, over the water. I’ve seen them before and always thought they were so pretty and magical, as they faded into the night sky. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to make a wish. Whether it worked or not, I need all the help I can get, so there wasn’t much to lose. At the very least, I got to see something beautiful, and at the very most, my wish will come true. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

Leaving the beautiful scenery and no-stress vibe of vacation land was very difficult. I began to feel like myself again for the first time in a long time. I even felt a bit pretty, instead of like an awkward looking boy. This week, it’s back to reality. Tomorrow I will be returning to work after a 10-month leave (which I initially thought would only be about one month. I think I underestimated what the year had in store for me. Oops). I will be on a part-time schedule at first and then build up more hours and days each week until I’m back full-time, so as to not shock my system and completely exhaust myself. I definitely have some mixed emotions about returning to work, but I am excited to get back to having a normal routine, and for the welcome distraction. I also have another treatment on Friday morning; unfortunately, not the massage kind, but the cancer kind. So the holiday has come to an end and it’s time to face the challenges of life once more. I am so grateful for the time I had away, to remember how beautiful the world is and how amazing it is to be alive to see it. I will dream of the next vacation, where instead of escaping from cancer life, I can just escape from regular life, like your average stressed-out, tired, burnt out human being, in need of a break. I can’t wait.


12 thoughts on “Escape from cancerland

  1. I second the idea of eating cake in bed post chemo! I had chocolate cheesecake in bed as an inpatient nightly for almost a week when my appetite returned after chemo, while waiting for my blood counts to come back up for me to be released from the hospital, and it was glorious.

    I’m so glad for you that you chronicle your experiences in pictures. I have very few pictures of my own. I can kind of forgive myself for that when my main priority in the moment was how I was feeling, but I still regret being without mementos of what I consider to be a significant episode in my life, and of having a unique look that I don’t plan on repeating. It’s nice to have something to point to and say “That was me, and here I am now.”

    Thank you for sharing your pictures. That last one of the ocean is magnificent.

  2. You are such an amazing writer. To be able to put all your feelings on paper in such a wonderful way. I am so happy you were in the sun. It really does give you energy and life.

  3. Sounds like you had one amazing vacation! I am glad to see you had such a wonderful time 🙂 Your last picture is just breathtaking. You look so relaxed and free.

  4. So glad you had a fantastic trip and mazel on returning to work tomorrow. Start planning the next trip…always keep something fantastic on your calendar that you can look forward to! XOXOXOXO

  5. You look amazing. Beautiful words and photos! I can so relate to your post and seeing your port scar brought me to tears. I no longer try to hide mine (I’m so over it). In the store the other day another survivor identified me by it and come to find out we both had the same cancer. I blogged about it. Anyway wishing you Love, Light and Healing!

    1. Thank you! That’s so neat that you met someone who knew what it was. I always wonder what people think it is when they notice it, since before this, I would have had no idea. I never try to hide it though, I don’t even think about it, it’s just a weird part of me now. And it makes things so much easier for me, so I’m happy to have it, despite it being a weird thing stuck under my skin!
      Wishing you the best as well!

      1. Yes I call it a beauty mark now. It’s amazing how she just knew what it was. I was Thankful for that connection.

  6. would agree with Pat….had tears in my eyes….and a smile on my face. Your photos are breathtaking. I think your hair looks fantastic. I do believe that air and water down there does magical things to your body. ❤

    ps Massages are awesome, even when you are in Canada. You may not feel the ocean waves but, they can put in a cd of wave sounds, my massage therapist has beautiful music playing in background.
    Treat yourself ~ you deserve it.

    1. The massage therapist actually said that it would take her a full day just to get rid of all the knots and tension in my shoulders and that I should be getting frequent massages at home. Sounds good to me!

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