The holidays were an emotional journey for me this year. A journey full of memories of last year, both good and bad, encompassing how far I have come, both physically and figuratively. Lucky for me, this journey also led me onto a cruise ship for an 8-day trip aboard the Carnival Spirit with my husband and kids.
The trip was planned this past summer, after we were forced to cancel our summer vacation so I could undergo radiation treatments. I desperately needed a vacation on the books. My husband and I knew that a cruise could be enjoyed no matter my state of health, strength or physical ability. And so, it was planned. Booking far in advance, we were able to get a great deal on a great room with a balcony. Pure heaven!
The trip was just as we hoped. We relaxed. I got a massage. The kids made nice friends. We enjoyed the ports of call. We danced. We ate way too much. As I have not had reconstruction yet, there were a couple of moments for me that were less than ideal. However, the money we spent was worth every penny and I relished in every moment of the cruise with heightened sensibility.
As we laughed and played, the thought echoed in my brain, "If the cancer comes back, my kids will always have the memories of this cruise." The thought comforted me like a warm blanket on a cold morning. The context of the thought did not. It was not until I fell in love with a painting at the on-board art auction that I realized why. The picture is of a woman sitting gracefully on a couch gazing directly at her on-lookers. The innocence portrayed by her eyes, body language and even in the choice of colors struck at my core, touching me so deeply that I cried.
I put it into words for my husband when he asked me who the woman in the painting reminded me of. Without hesitation I answered, "Me".
Upon further reflection, I deduced and shared that she represented the innocence that cancer stole from me and my children. The caution that inhibits a cancer survivor. The fear that will live in my children as they are situated on what I envision to be a "most watched list" for signs of cancer. I think back on the days when I was in high school and college. I did not have a fear in the world. I was young and strong. Death and illness was not something I knew or thought about. I did not take my vitamins. I lived in excess of all of those things that young adults live in excess of. Full of potential and free from fear, I celebrated life with the joyful pleasure of the child who knew no different. Now, my kids know different. They understand life as a precious gift that once broken, can only sometimes be fixed. Their innocence is what cancer stole from us. That innocence is what I see in that painting.
I am realistic, too. I expect there will be a many, many times that my kids will choose to ignore that they are at risk for cancer. I know they are not aware of this fact now. Hell, I try to ignore my risk for recurrence myself. However, I know better than to dwell in my fears. I will teach this to my children. As Oprah stated so eloquently, "Live your best life." That is the end game. That is what this cruise was about. And when I look at the smiling faces pictured below, I know that we accomplished just that.
Happy New Year, all!!!