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My wife and I took a weekend break from the worries of cancer and everyday life, but things did not go as planned, forcing me to tap into all the self-work I’ve been focusing on this year.
This weekend, my wife and I visited friends out of town for my birthday weekend. With another year of clear scans, we had a lot to celebrate! It’s been one hell of a ride these past five-plus years, after overcoming five separate recurrences and being told I had less than a 10% survival rate fighting a rare and aggressive bone cancer.
Our flight arrived Thursday afternoon, and my wife and I were intent on making the most out of every minute away from our apartment back home, which has been riddled with triggers and constant reminders of cancer. After a while, you forget how toxic that all can be, but our hotel was the perfect escape.
We hung out for a bit, grabbed a coffee at a local cafe and then made our way to a fun restaurant for dinner. Everything was going great. We let down, had a cocktail or two, enjoyed some delicious food and found ourselves engaging in the type of larger-picture conversations that are important, but often difficult, in a cramped, one-bedroom New York City apartment. It was really healthy for us to have a chance to slow down and reconnect. Then on the way home, we caught some live music at one of the bars. It was nice to remember what it’s like to have fun again.
The next morning, we grabbed brunch with our friends and caught some sun outside the hotel pool lounge. Again, it was all going incredibly well. More coffee, wine, fine dining and good conversation. Everything you hope for in a celebratory weekend away.
By Saturday night, we were about to hit our peak. I was laying down to recharge before a big concert that night with a buddy, while my wife and her friend had planned a girls’ night. That’s when I received a reminder to check in for my flight, which I did.
Except when I refreshed my email, instead of confirming that I was checked in, I saw the phrase “flight canceled …”
I immediately clicked to investigate, wondering what could have changed in just a few minutes. Did I click the wrong buttons?
Heart rate climbing, palms growing sweaty.
As the email loaded, I realized that this was real. Our flight home the next morning was no more.
I called my wife, trying to stay composed, but inwardly felt the adrenaline surging through my veins.
“The universe can’t be trusted,” I thought.
The trauma from every brutal call of doctors sharing concerning scan results, each setback with my health along the way … all those terrifying, miserable feelings were rising to the surface. I caught myself in a state of shock and paralysis. My nervous system had run on overdrive for way too long and was tapping out.
Fortunately, my wife and her friend took charge trying to book another flight. Except there wereno flights available.
Now my wife was getting worked up because she absolutely needed to be home the next day for a work obligation. We continued checking different airlines.
The good news was she finally found one and booked two tickets for early the next morning.
The not-so-good news was that it cost over $1,200 for a one-way, three- or four-hour flight. And of course, we’re talking middle seats.
I was fuming and angered at the injustice of it all. This wasn’t our mistake, so why were we the ones getting screwed?
And that’s when I caught myself at a crossroads, because I’ve been working on myself a lot this year. I went through lots of therapy, self-help books, mindfulness and meditation. All that good stuff. And I learned a few things.
First off, it’s important to nip anger in the bud as soon as possible. Otherwise, it keeps building until it’s taken over and you can no longer think clearly. Second, I had to remind myself, I had a fun night planned and there was nothing I could do at that moment to change the flight situation. Why punish myself by being miserable? Plus, I didn’t want my wife to worry about my emotional state.
I banged out a few pushups, took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that even aside from the whole cancer thing, a certain percentage of time in life, things like this happen. If you travel and put yourself in situations to enjoy life and make memories, you’re bound to run into the occasional setback.
And within an hour of accepting my new reality, I was able to move on and have one of the greatest nights I’ve experienced in years. The concert was legendary.
It was as if all the self-work I’ve been putting in behind the scenes required a life test for me to graduate. Once I held my own by not being totally frazzled and swept up in it, I was rewarded with three hours of musical magic with one of my closest friends: a memory that I’ll cherish forever.
Looking back, I’m proud of myself. Mainly because the past few years of working through life after cancer have not been easy. And honestly, I’m not sure I would have had the mental strength or inner calm to withstand this type of blow even as recently as last year. That kind of growth is encouraging and provides both hope and reassurance that I’m moving in the right direction. One day at a time.
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