Twas’ the night of my first chemo to treat lung cancer (non-small cell) and I was all hopped up on steroids. Sleep eluded me, as it often does, when I was overcome with excitement! My favorite musician, Tori Amos, announced dates for a UK/European tour. It just felt like a COVID miracle, especially as a US tour seems unlikely.
I impulsively sent my best friend a text with Tori’s tour dates, saying “any city, any date…. I want to see this tour.” My husband was snoring next to me and I hadn’t even discussed this international trip, but I just knew I had to plan an epic experience.
My friend, Jackie, chose a London tour date in March! I’ve never been to London (or the UK). I live in the USA…Texas to be precise. It’s been 12 years since I’ve traveled internationally. Chronic health problems, including a successful heart transplant in 2016, have kept me on terra firma. I dream of travel, obsessing on anything that transports my mind and body from the pain I often experience related to my cancer treatment or heart transplant.
Jackie knows that I use travel as escapism, which is why she responded at 6am with a concert date for Tori Amos. I had tickets purchased before the sun rose. For months, I’ve been day dreaming, envisioning myself eating tapas in Barcelona and watching Tori perform live. Oh yeah, we’re going to Spain too! I’ve never been there either. I have, however, seen Tori perform live every 2 years or so, since 1995. I’ve never missed a tour, never. Tori’s music speaks to my soul.
Two weeks ago I got the news that due to COVID, all the European concert dates were cancelled, but that the UK dates are still on. Whew, the concert is still on. I feel like I dodged a bullet. Now, I just need to continue to watch the COVID numbers and make sure it’s feasible to travel.
Realistically, as a heart transplant recipient that is dealing with lung cancer I probably shouldn’t be traveling anywhere, but I need to liiiiiive. My life has no color, it’s a dull gray. Planning a bucket list trip to London/Spain to see my all-time favorite singer/songwriter with my bestie….now, that’s living in color.
I’m happy to report that I completed chemo this past fall and CT Scans show that I am CANCER FREE! I also have my *4th* COVID booster, intended for immunocompromised 🙋♀️ people.
After months of should-I-go-or-should-I-stay, I asked my transplant doctor if this trip was advisable during COVID. In 2020, I was recommended not to travel anywhere, let alone internationally. That was a very dull year, as it was for most people. Yeah, I baked bread too. This year, much to my surprise, my doctor gave me the “ok to travel,” saying “you get a heart transplant, so you can live…now go live.”
My doctor and I discussed mitigating my COVID risk with all the precautions we know all too well: frequent hand washing, wearing a n95 and keeping my distance from people. But the fact remains, that I can travel. I’m thrilled. This feels like living.
This is the second time, that I’ve had a trip to honor the pain and suffering of enduring chemotherapy. It’s like finding gold at the of the rainbow 🌈 . Except that chemo is nothing like a beautiful rainbow. Chemo is loathesome and find the experience traumatic. I had chemo in 1991, for the treatment of childhood bone cancer. I was 15 years old at the time and I would describe treatment as brutal.
After my chemo as a teenager, I became a Make-a-Wish kid. My entire family traveled to the Bahamas. It was the trip of a lifetime and I cherish my memories of this experience. For months leading up to the trip, whenever a painful procedure was presented to me, I would visualize the beach and pretend I was in the Caribbean. It was a powerful, transformative experience that allowed me to endure the brutality that was childhood chemo circa 1990s. During this time, I learned to transform my travel into transcendental meditation 🧘♀️ and 30 years later it still helps me through my medical battles.
I recognize that I have incredible privilege in my life and that I am able to travel and attend concerts. I’m grateful to have set my eyes upon the Sistine Chapel and to have walked the abby at Mont Saint-Michele. It’s not just about the destination, but taking the journey with loved ones that makes it so meaningful.
And so, I leave you with my final thought that I’ll repeat for emphasis: Life is not just about the destination, but taking the journey with loved ones that makes it so meaningful.
May you be surrounded by loved ones and have the opportunity to live in full technicolor. 💕
Thank you for reading blog, it means alot to me. If you leave a comment or DM (even months or years after this initial post), I’ll respond to you. I’m proud to be a bad-ass survivor and if I can answer a question or help you in your journey, then please contact me.
Thanks again, Jennifer