Cancer-cation Memories and Things I Learned

I think about my twin sister, Tracy a lot. Especially now that I really know how she felt, physically, while on chemo. One thing my mom, Ilse, and I tried to do to cheer her up and  was to schedule trips for her to look forward to.

I’ve just returned from a vacation we had planned before all of “this” happened, and I can see why getaways are healing.

If you just want to view 10 professionally-shot photos from Cancun, here is a link:

http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=9040b916f2cb2af9bcfd7207a7b1fe91&sid=0AcM2LFq1Zt2jFgg

If you want to see all of our vacation photos (tons!), go here:

http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=d645f2f19b8313f69a16dcf07a6807f9&sid=0AcM2LFq1Zt2jFxg

I also learned a lot, faced some challenges, and I’d like to share them with you:

  • Loved: Sunshine, fresh air, palm trees, and more. There is something healing about taking deep breaths in the beautiful air, feeling the slight ocean breeze, hearing the waves crashing against the beach, and sitting outside at night for dinner.

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  • Loved: No place I “should” be. Being able to sleep in (well, okay, I do that a lot these days in Seattle, too), not have to rush to an appointment, or feel guilty that I “should” be doing something else is wonderful. I will admit it; normally when I’m on vacation, I am thinking about where we will go next, do we have reservations, etc., etc. Mom and Mathis really picked up the decision-making since I was pretty much unable to do much.
  • Loved: Feeling the sunshine… from the shade. Since I’m taking medicine and shots, I have a high sensitivity to the sun. Good news is that I have kept out of the direct sun for many decades now. But the heat still felt great. Lather on the sunscreen, spray SPF 70 over that, wear hats with 5” rims, and enjoy! No UV for me, vacation or not! Oh, did I mention the poolside service of beverages and food?

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  • Loved: Facials and massages. I don’t get them often enough in Seattle so why not in Mexico! We have a great final day strategy, too. We book services on the last day so we can store our change of clothes and use the spa facilities before heading to the airport. On this trip, Mathis and I had a “couples massage.”
  • Loved: Laughter, music, dancing. We had a special night at the first permanent location of Cirque Du Soleil in Latin America with a show called Joya.

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  • Challenge: Dragging my tush around. The 6-hour plane ride to Cancun was long and took a lot out of me. I pretty much melted down by the time we arrived and I slept through Day 1 in our room. I have learned that I will hit walls, those walls don’t come with any warning, and they get me down. I’m working on avoiding the “pity party” that comes when I bash my head against them; I just need to check out, knowing full well that there is goodness when I wake up. My oncologist warned me that the effects of chemo are cumulative so as weeks go by, my fatigue and other side effects will only increase.
  • Challenge: Yes, I got hungry, but there’s nothing worse than forking out $30.00 for a wonderful buffet and getting full after a few bites. I had some fleeting moments of a 2nd plate, but did the best I could!

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  • Challenge: Working out. I’m used to working out on vacations simply to enjoy a new gym environment and to make up for the daiquiris, piña coladas, and mojitos. I didn’t. Not once. Oh, well… Mom and Mathis did great. Good news is that my personal trainer, Lorenzo, has been keeping me working out through chemo so I felt I could don my 2-piece bathing suit.

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  • Challenge: Getting used to my bald head. It was hard to wear scarves and hats all the time, so I started to go “Mount Baldy” as the week wore on. Warning: this is where the “stupid things people say to cancer patients” invites the best and brightest… from total strangers.This really happened:<Woman at the next beach chair over> – “So, do you have cancer?”<Me> – Yes, I do. Where are you from?<Woman> – Seattle, Washington<Me>:   Oh, me too.<Woman>: Well, Seattle is the place to have cancer. Where is your care provider?<Me>: Virginia Mason in Seattle. I have a great team I have had since 2002, my first time with cancer. Then again in 2005.

    <Woman>: Wow, you should just lop them off.

    <Me>: (shocked) Excuse me?? That is a major decision and the surgery is called a double mastectomy. I had it in 2005. And if you would please withhold recommendations of what I “should” do, that would be more helpful.

    <Woman>:   I’m sorry. You’re right, that was insensitive. It’s just that my mother died of breast cancer.

    <I got up and walked away, hoping to never see her again. End of conversation!>

    Well, time to sign off for today and thank you, again, for all of the well-wishes pouring in. They really bring comfort and joy. A special thanks to Mom and Mathis for taking care of me on our vacation.

    Hugs and love,

    Dana

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17 thoughts on “Cancer-cation Memories and Things I Learned

  1. This is absolutely beautiful. You truly are an amazing person and are an inspiration.

    Please shout if you need absolutely anything.

    Love and hugs.

    Arch’na

    >

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  2. Woke up in Toronto – super cold today (where is Spring!!!) and there was your post and pictures in my mailbox. The pictures are lovely – you look so beautiful -and looking at them makes me smile. Your words inspire me as I start my day and your patient education of what NOT to say makes me laugh but is actually super helpful because I know that I have been that insensitive clod (unintentional but true – duh).

    Glad you had a wonderful vacation – hope today is peaceful and beautiful for you.

    Gail

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  3. Good morning Dana!

    Thanks for the update! It looks like a wonderful vacation! When and where is the next one? All three of you look terrific! I noticed, by the way, that you don’t have a Penderbutt! How did you manage to avoid that?

    I hope today is a better day. Thinking of you always!

    Regards to Mathis. He’s apparently a wonderful man.

    Love, Debbi

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  4. Dana, you are rocking the two piece suit! You look great. Glad you had a good time. Vacation is so renewing.

    Peace and love,
    Arden

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  5. Dana–so glad you were able to get away and enjoy yourself with Mathis and your mom. Can’t think of two better people to spend time with. Thanks for teaching me. Thanks for making me smile looking at those gorgeous photos. And as I said in my email tell your cancer to “cut the crap” and disappear. Love you. Kathleen

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  6. So much great stuff to take away from this post! I’m taking notes from you and Mathis. I appreciated that you: 1) Added a Cirque Du Soleil show to the sand and sun, 2) Enjoyed the last day getting a massage vs. waiting in the hotel or airport after checking out, and 3) Hired a photographer. Admittedly, I especially love the pictures. You look great, …and happy,…and in love. I need to ping you sometime about your Paris itinerary from last year. Best, Kamal

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  7. Beautiful photos! You look strong and gorgeous! We’re actually in Tulum now….thinking of y and sending you love.
    Susan and Kevin

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  8. Hi Dana –

    So glad you were able to enjoy a relaxing respite! Loved your beautiful photos….they were just stunning. It brought a smile to my face reading the things you “loved”….while reading your “challenges” gave me some insight into the difficult parts of the experience. Thanks for sharing.

    I can imagine it’s hard to say goodbye to such a wonderful place and time….but I hope that you can carry some inspiration forward with you as you return to your treatment. I can only imagine how grueling it is so go through an intense chemo regimen again. What a journey that you have so long traveled. Wow – you are a warrior. Sending lots of love and encouragement to you, my friend.

    Xoxo,

    Amy

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