Cancer puts a lot of things into perspective for a person. As I said in my last post, things take on a whole new priority. For instance, I’ve always loved the holidays, especially Halloween, but this year I loved the holidays. My eyes would get wide and light up at all the beautiful Christmas decorations around town. I loved shopping, even with the crowds. I relished in Christmas music, even when the stations played the same ten songs over and over. It was as if I instinctively began absorbing every moment, trying to save it all just in case it was my last. I never know; it might be.
Despite my initial panic that I might have made the wrong decision in turning down chemo, Christmas weekend definitely confirmed that I had made the right choice. The night I was to have my treatment, I came home and quickly made a delicious lasagna (two pans worth!) that was nearly gone by the end of our cookie party. I spent the night surrounded by friends, sharing presents and listening to Christmas music. I spent time with some of the people that matter most to me and saw a few friends I hadn’t gotten to see in a while. It was nice to have the holiday bring us all together (and the cookies they all brought for the tasting were pretty darn good too!) If I had accepted the chemo, we might never have had the lasagna and the party might have been cancelled all together as I would have been tired for sure.
Christmas Eve morning was the first time in a long time Milo and I allowed ourselves to lounge around and just be. With doctors appointments and school, there isn’t often a lot of time to just do nothing together. We’ve been filling as much of our free time with people and activities; I think it’s subconsciously our way of avoiding what is going on while also trying to do the more important things. Honestly, I’ve gone from being anal about the carpet being vacuumed, the dishes being done and the tables clear of clutter to just saying to hell with it and cuddling with my husband in front of the TV. Sometimes, I let us spend a little more than we should to enjoy a good meal or go out with friends because those memories are more important than dollars in the bank (something I may regret if I have to start paying for chemo treatments!) I’m relaxing and Christmas Eve morning was just that kind of perfect. We slept in, lounged around in bed and didn’t leave the house or even get ready to leave the house until it was time for my parents’ Christmas Eve dinner. A dinner I would have missed (or regretted eating when it didn’t stay down) if I had allowed them to give me the Cis/Gem.
Christmas morning was definitely something I wouldn’t have traded for all the world. I’ve never really had the opportunity to do Christmas morning with children; I don’t have any and I didn’t have younger brothers and sister. Fortunately, this year we were able to celebrate with Milo’s nephew, Craig, who is just a ball of fire. He just…lit up Christmas. There wasn’t a moment he was still; he just excited and exhausted me all at once. Watching him open presents made me want to give him mine to open too. I enjoyed the sheer pleasure he received from it and I never wanted it to end. I’m very childlike in my exuberance most of the time, much to the chagrin of my husband, but seeing it in someone else stirred something in me. I wanted it to continue forever. Giving this up for a chemo treatment is not something I would have been willing to do. If I had been chemo-toxic from treatment, I couldn’t have been around Craig. I wouldn’t have given that time up with my nephew, sisters, brother-in-law or parents-in-law for anything.
In fact, I wouldn’t trade that weekend for anything short of a cancer cure anyway. I know I made the right choice.
I’m also glad I refused to come in before New Year’s Eve. Again, as I don’t know how many of these I have to look forward to anymore –depressing but true– I was really excited to do something different this year. My parents treated us to a Disneyland trip and for the first time ever I also visited California Adventure. This trip was just chock full of firsts for me (I’ve updated the Bucket List page as a result.) From the first moment of the trip I decided I was going to do my best to try new things and be open to the adventure ahead. I am so glad I did.
While walking Universal Citywalk, where we planned to have dinner, Milo spotted a sign and TV ad for iFly. iFly, it turns out, is one of those reverse skydiving type adventures that is probably ridiculously overpriced in this location but so awesome looking. I considered doing it until I saw the price, which was a lot more than I expected it to be, but Milo encouraged me to do it. I was nervous and from the second the girl behind the counter put the wristband on my wrist, the adrenaline started raging through my body. I was hopping around, pacing the area and just wondering if I had made a huge mistake. Would my port-a-cath survive this adventure? Would I? How likely was I to freak out? After all, I wasn’t just going to fly I was going to go up and down. Would I get sick? I really hoped not!
Just as I was suiting up, my friend Paula arrived to join us for dinner. She joined Milo and my parents in the viewing area to see my flight. I became more confident and excited as time passed. By the time we settled into the waiting section to take our turn, the smile couldn’t be wiped from my face. I watched the people before me fly and soar in the wind tunnel; I couldn’t wait for my turn. I remembered Craig on Christmas, excitement growing as he opened his gifts (and some of ours). Everything was new and exciting. This certainly was new and I definitely was excited.
Then my turn came.
I took a deep breath and trusted the trainer in the tunnel knew what he was doing…then stepped inside.
Oh. My. Lanta!
I seriously cannot tell you how amazing it was to be inside that tunnel. I was floating in mid-air, turning in the wind. I couldn’t stop smiling. For a moment, I felt like a bird, free and unhindered by silly gravity. When the trainer took the side of my suit and had us soar up towards the ceiling and back down, I was practically giddy. I was flying! How do you top flying? It was only a minute long, but it was the best minute ever. I had never done anything so cool or amazing in my entire life!
And it didn’t end. My parents so loved the look of pure bliss on my face that they paid for me to fly a second time. This time, the trainer didn’t hold on to my suit and just let me soar around the tunnel on my own. It was freaking awesome! Seriously, I wish I could explain just how great a feeling it is to be freely floating in air, adrenaline pumping through your veins with a crowd watching you. You don’t notice the cold or the ache in your arms and legs from the wind. You don’t even hear the fans –sure the earplugs helped– or other people. The mask cutting into your face so your eyes are protected isn’t even registering as you just lay in the wind and soar. All you know is that this moment is officially exciting and changing the way you look at things. (Hitting the links below should let you watch the video we took)
Before I knew it, my time was over and I was heading back to change into my clothes. I met my family, who thought they had just witnessed the most awesome thing ever, and I couldn’t stop grinning. I just kept saying “I flew!” as if no one had been watching. Nothing could quite compare and when people asked what we should do with the rest of the night, all I could say was “I don’t care. I came to do things…like FLY!”
Then I realized I wanted that to be my theme for the weekend if not for life. I needed to do things, not just say I wanted to do something someday. Today was someday. I was going to make it so.
For the rest of the weekend I did just that. At Disneyland, I didn’t shy away from rides that made me nervous. I happily joined Paula and Milo on Tower of Terror at California Adventure (even if I did start to cry because it just kept going and I wanted it to stop messing with my head!) I even suggested we go on California Screamin’. Now, this was going to be my first trip on a roller coaster that flipped –I know, sad. I was excited, but nervous. I’ve always been afraid of being the person caught mid-flip in the roller coaster. Or, worse yet, finding out it was broken and falling out of the car mid-flip. I know it is irrational, but it is a fear and I had a hard time letting go of it. Milo thought it would be great if we ended up in the front car, something I didn’t want. I even prayed that it didn’t happen…
And it did. We arrived at the front of the line to be told we were rows one and two. I started to tear up nervously. Couldn’t I just be somewhere in the back where I wouldn’t see the flip and hills coming? This was my first ride; I didn’t want to know what was in store!
What was I thinking?! That was the best ride ever! I wanted to go on it again and again. Roller coasters rule!
I couldn’t let the firsts end there. Our final day in California was spent in Long Beach. I happened to see a sign advertising whale watching. I’ve never seen a whale outside of captivity, so this sounded like a really great way to end the trip. I was so right! We started out on the ship and about an hour into the two and a half hours we ran into a pod of dolphins. They played in the water ahead of us and then swam right under our boat and jumped around in front of us. I could feel myself light up at the sight of them; I’ve always had a thing for dolphins. In fact, I’ve loved sea animals and the ocean all my life. It’s the one place I feel the most at peace. These guys didn’t exactly make me peaceful, but they definitely excited me and I couldn’t stop looking at the video I had managed to get of them. It was pretty awesome.
Then, we topped off the trip with something the captain told us was exceedingly rare: orcas. A pod of orcas were playing in the waters off the coast and we were able to see them. First, I have to admit they seemed much smaller than I thought they would be –just what are we feeding Willy? Still, it was really neat to see them in their natural habitat as they attempted to feed and play. I was really thankful Milo had been willing to go on the boat with me when I first saw the advertisement. This was not an experience I would have wanted to miss.
Other firsts this trip: I petted a jellyfish, a sea anemone, a starfish and a shark while at the Long Beach Aquarium. I didn’t let being nervous keep me from trying interesting and fun new things. (For pictures from the trip, click here)
I’m not sure I would have done any of these things if not for the cancer. I know that sounds silly, but I always said “someday” and worried about money for someday. Many people live like that. We make lists of places to see someday, things we want to try sometime soon. Some succeed and complete the items on their lists; others fail. Some of those regret it and others never really care. I don’t want to look back and say “I wish I had…” It won’t do me any good to get to that point in my life. Now is definitely the time and I am going to savor every moment of it. If I can teach one lesson to anyone reading, it’s to live. Don’t make lists. Don’t make plans. Do things. When you have an opportunity, take it. Regrets are formed from missed opportunities. If you don’t allow yourself to miss things, you won’t have regrets –or at least will have a whole lot fewer. As long as you can be safe, happy and healthy then things are golden. The rest is just the icing on the cake.
I am not sorry I didn’t have my chemo. I had two really great weekends that I will remember for the rest of my life. I spent time with the people I love and did so many new things. How can I regret that? Even with the fact that this week I was told I can no longer work desk duty and either need to go out of full medical leave or go back to the floor, I still don’t regret enjoying myself in California. Things will work out somehow; they have so far. Even though I find myself in a little more pain the last few days, I still don’t regret the chemo vacation I have taken. When we start my chemo again tomorrow, I know I will be in for some kind of miserable weekend with side effects, but I will get through with thoughts of all the things I have done and the things I’ve yet to do. Things I will do when my chemo starts working and the tumors are gone.
Because ware all came to this earth to do things…