Always set up something to look forward to

I just returned from Europe having had an incredibly fun trip. Before I left, I had all sorts of deadlines and projects that needed doing before I felt ready and deserving of a vacation.  I hurried as much as I could to get all of my lists crossed off and I found a few things that were going to have to wait until I got back.

When it was time to pack, I accepted that I did all I could get done before I left and I prepared myself to go with a clear mind, so I could concentrate on having a great time.

Now that I am back I realize how great it was for me to get away from my usual routine. I feel refreshed and ready to return to take care of my lists, which sometimes can feel endless. Having something great to look forward to helps me to enjoy the tasks I have to do. This was particularly important for me when I went through primary treatment for breast cancer.

When I had to start chemo, before meeting my oncologist, I researched all the chemo drugs recommended for breast cancer and I picked all the ones that only caused hair thinning and asked my oncologist if I could get those medications. I said, “If I believe that these other medications are going to work for me would you give me this regimen instead”? My oncologist said that she would, yet she strongly recommended that I do “dose dense” for four cycles every two weeks infusing adriamiacin and cytoxin, followed by four rounds every two weeks of taxol. This regimen would take a total of four months and the other regimen was six months.

If I did the “dose dense” chemo that would make me lose my hair, I would start chemo in February and be finished in June. My Uncle was having his 75th birthday party in June, at a gorgeous villa in Italy that was rented for a whole week to come and celebrate his 75th birthday. Many family members and friends that I love were going to the party. When he found out that I had to do chemo he not only invited me to the party but he insisted on paying for me to fly first class (I am so lucky to have my Uncle Allan-everyone deserves an awesome uncle like mine).

If I did the regimen where I didn’t lose my hair I would miss the party. I wanted to go to the party so badly so I would have something to look forward to after all the chemo, so I decided to do the chemo that my oncologist chose based on my particular case.

Knowing I had the trip ahead made the chemo so much easier to bear. Chemo was extremely difficult though. I remember while in the middle of doing chemo how much I wanted to be in the moment while I still looked forward to the trip to Italy. I remember coming home one afternoon so tired from treatment that I had to take a nap before my drive to my oncologist for blood tests and more neupogen to boost my white cells.

I had the most vivid dream about my forthcoming trip. I picked up a family member that I hadn’t seen in years in New York and after riding in Central Park. I also stopped in Austria to pick up my good friend who was going to drive from Austria to the villa to meet me. Being that it was a dream I couldn’t believe how fast the trip was to get there. I woke up so peaceful thinking how great it is to be alive. There are good days and bad days with cancer and chemo, but this day was amazing. As I woke up, I laid in bed a while thinking of how excited I was about my trip.

I happily got out of bed, threw on my wig and didn’t even mind the traffic on the way home from my oncologist. I knew I was going to make it through the treatment and I would get to go on a wonderful vacation with family and friends.

It is so important to schedule time to get away. It doesn’t have to be expensive and even if you can only spare a short amount of time, getting away helps you see things differently and takes your mind to another place and time without your daily routine. You get to live in the moment before you go and certainly enjoy the time while you are away.

When I returned from Italy I started my radiation treatments. I felt so happy that I had a magical time away after a grueling chemotherapy regiment that caused me to lose fifteen pounds because I was so sick and nauseous from the treatment. Of course I lost my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes and was looking forward to them coming back. I also would go to radiation and lie on the table visualizing the beams of light killing cells including dangerous ones that tried to hide, and destroy them before they could get to other parts of my body.

I have returned from my trip with beaming enthusiasm for all the work ahead of me. There are stories to blog, new websites to launch, lectures to attend, webinars, news stories to share, SABCS, work with the National Breast Cancer Coalition Deadline 2020, delayed tax extension (Ok I am not looking forward to that), and work to see things improve for every cancer patient and loved ones. There is also time to appreciate and be so grateful for my incredible family, friends and fellow advocates, and acknowledge there is no place like home.