Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Travel can be helpful, even while coping with cancer, maybe especially while coping with cancer.
Time is going to continue to pass whether I am preoccupied with my cancers or not. Sometimes I just want a vacation from cancer. Merriam-Webster defines a vacation as, "a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation." Though I am done with chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal medications, I am still finishing up my breast reconstruction project after my recent double mastectomy. I also am getting home from a one-week vacation riding ATVs in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is important to continue to make good memories even through the breast reconstruction process. Life doesn't always have to completely stop for cancer.
I am learning to be more interested in making memories and enjoying the people in my life rather than buying and taking care of stuff. As cancer survivors, I think we become more consciously aware of the importance of vacations, and life experiences and time with the people we love. The time to experience life is now. The time to care about the people in our life is now. There are many ways travel can benefit our mental health.
It can be hard to contemplate or make the effort to plan a vacation while in the middle of cancer treatment, but it is still important to do it. Cancer needs to be dealt with and life needs to go on. Work is important; it pays the bills. Work isn't everything. I don't know of anyone on their deathbed who lamented that they wish they had worked more or watched more television. Travel with the people you love. Make those memories now. In the end, it will be worth it.
When I need to counteract my cancer worries, I use my vacations to help me. To fall asleep, I imagine myself on a beach where I have vacationed twice. I am listening to the ocean and wind, feeling the sun again my skin and soft molding sand against my back. I visualize the blue-green water, and picture the tide going in and out over and over again as I lie on the beach near it. When I feel fearful, I think about the scary things I have done on vacation. I see myself riding an ATV up a steep mountain or zip-lining or shooting down a luge. I remind myself how fortunate I am to have had some pretty amazing vacation experiences.
Sneak away to a beach for as little as a long weekend if you can this winter. It will give you something positive to anticipate while going through or recovering from cancer treatment. Help others to take your mind off of yourself. Make memories with your loved ones. A little trip away can make you appreciate your home again, too.
Change your focus toward the horizon. Yes, I have more upcoming surgeries, and yes, I have more upcoming vacation plans. I am working on balancing the good with the bad. The negatives are easier for me to manage when they are mixed in with the positives. Don't let cancer take over and dictate your routine. Add good things to your routine as well. Live, play, love and yes, vacation while coping with cancer, especially while coping with cancer!