If you’ve had cancer or some other life-threatening illness, it can be hard to plan for the future.
But that’s just what you have to do if you don’t want to withdraw from the life you fought so hard to save.
I have a strange relationship with cancer and travel. We usually go to Cape Cod over the summer, but in 2003 I thought it would be fun to do something different, so I booked a trip to Cape May, N.J.
Before leaving, I got leukemia, and the only trip I took was to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
I healed well after my first bone marrow transplant. We went back to Cape Cod for three glorious summers. While locked up in the hospital I had dreamt of walking on Cape Cod Bay, and when I finally got there, with the water lapping at my feet and the seagulls floating overhead, I couldn’t have been happier.
Then, in 2007 (tempting the gods?) I planned a family trip to California. Before we could go, I relapsed. The airline said we could use the tickets within a year, but nobody, least of all me, wanted to go, and we let the tickets go unused.
My son Joe said I would not be allowed to plan any trips, except to Cape Cod.
I figured that only counted during the summer, so I traveled with my daughter Katie this winter to Europe. It was wonderful, a special treat after the complications I suffered with my fourth bone marrow transplant on Jan. 31, 2009.
Feeling empowered about going someplace other than the Cape, I planned to attend my cousin’s 60th birthday in California on Saturday. Last Monday, I played tennis and went to yoga. The next day, I packed my bags and headed for Boston, planning to take an early morning flight to San Francisco. But I felt feverish when I woke up, so my sister Diane, who lives nearby in Newton, took me into the clinic at Dana-Farber.
Fast forward: I have been at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for five days, being treated for double pneumonia. My white blood count was 26, out of a normal range of 4.5 to 10, which means I have been fighting one heck of an infection. Today it is back to 10, thanks to two powerful antibiotics. I have been shivering and shaking and feeling just plain awful. My nurse practitioner wrote a note to the airlines asking them to waive the extra fees involved in reusing the ticket. I doubted that they would do it, but when my sister called and said I had a note from my cancer doctor, they actually agreed.
The hotel said they could not refund my pre-paid room, but they changed their mind when they heard about the note. Not everyone out there is as unreasonable as you might expect.
Is California a safe place to go? I hope so because I’ve already changed the reservation to September.
It’s a tricky business, making plans after cancer.
I know that I’m being superstitious about California, but it made me think about the larger picture of planning for the future. You just have to make some plans despite your fear that you might not make it, because then you have something to look forward to and some good memories to look back on.
In 2003, when I was in between chemotherapy treatments, my looking-ahead point was my son Ben’s high school graduation in June. I love the picture of us, him in his gown and me smiling proudly in my colorful bandana.
This April 20, I glowed with happiness at my son’s wedding to his beautiful bride, Meghan Toumey, friends and family sharing our joy.
Sometimes even cancer can’t get in the way of the best-laid plans.
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