A vacation from cancer

Standing under an umbrella in the rain

Despite the lovely weather in Calgary, J. and I have ventured to rainy Vancouver for a few days. Since I’m not working much right now, how can I justify going on vacation? Sometimes I feel guilty wanting to go away under these circumstances, but the alternatives aren’t great either: I can sit around waiting for the next doctor’s appointment or medical test or trip to the pharmacy or, God forbid, downturn in my health, but why would I? Even though I’m sick and have a lot of time on my hands, I still crave time away from my day-to-day routine. Being somewhere different is a good distraction from cancer.  I can forget I’m sick for a few days, and enjoy having time with J.

I try not to let the leukemia consume me when I’m away. If something goes awry, there are always doctors. In fact, the last few vacations, we’ve stayed near English speakers and within close reach of medical care.

When we go, trips are different than they used to be B.C. (before cancer). I helped pay for travel, for one; J. has graciously assumed that responsibility A.D. (after diagnosis). Once we arrived, our days were packed: we’d leave the hotel early and return late. We rarely took transit or taxis, instead walking until we were sore and blistered. On one memorable trip, we had walked so much that on our last day, we had no choice but to lay low all day. We ended up having a fabulous meal in our hotel’s rooftop restaurant overlooking the evening lights of Naples. We would have never stayed in to eat otherwise, but we both remember this night as a highlight of the trip. What a reminder that compromise doesn’t necessarily end in disappointment.


Now that cancer has zapped my energy, we leave the hotel later, return earlier, and often stay in through dinner we cook ourselves. J. has slowed her walking pace considerably so I can keep up, and my afternoon nap is routine. Coffee is my drug of choice only on vacations because, as an occasional imbiber, caffeine makes me uncharacteristically perky.

Oh, and then there’s travel insurance. No chance of my qualifying for that anymore, so we’re on our own if my health turns. But if the choice is between not travelling or taking the risk, we’re willing to take the risk.So far it’s paid off.  When I first got sick, unfortunately the weekend of my niece’s Bat Mitzvah, I landed in a Boston emergency room, but I flew back to the Land of Public Health Care before I was hospitalized. On another occasion, I had to hit a walk-in clinic when I somehow neglected to pack my blood thinners (not the kind of medication you want to go without for long). It didn’t take long to convince a doctor I needed the prescription.

So I know well that things can go terribly wrong when I’m away because they have, but I can’t live my life worrying about what could happen. I’ve also learned I can have exciting and unexpected experiences if I take the risk of going away. Any hesitation vanishes when I think of all I’d miss if I just stayed home.

Take that, cancer!



7 thoughts on “A vacation from cancer

    • I’m afraid it was not a bakery. But it was a chocolate shop, and indeed we went in, twice. (Nobody wants their chocolate to get wet!) I will admit to having three samples, the third only because the second was not what I was expecting and I had to clear my palate!


  1. Love the Naples story Annie! Another gem. Have fun in Van. xox Lyn Hesson Ph.D. R.Psych. Psychologist, Mental Health and Addictions Alberta Health Services ________________________________________


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