Last week my husband and I traveled to the Dominican Republic for the vacation I’ve been craving since beginning chemotherapy last July. Long before we departed, a pact was made. The island was declared a cancer-free zone. There was to be no mention of the “c” word. Doing so was punishable by a contribution to the swear jar, changing the kitty litter for the rest of the year, or, the worst task of all, laundry.
We were quickly reminded what time of the year it was as the beach was packed with college students. At first, nothing made me feel more old and uncool than having a post-surgery chemo body, avoiding alcohol due to a regenerating liver and rising when our fraternity brother neighbors were coming in from a night of fun. Initially, I was a bit jealous and irritated, but I then decided the carefree and fun environment wasn’t such a bad thing. They were on spring break and I was on a cancer break.
For eight full days, we pretended as if it never happened. I read four books, napped under a palm tree, swam in the warm Caribbean Sea and tipped the beach waiter enough that I never saw the empty bottom of my drink. My husband played hours of beach volleyball and kept a diet of fresh tropical fruits. Both of us played and rested hard. It was absolutely glorious.
A break makes so much sense for cancer patients. Our bodies require rest and relaxation, especially when they’re recovering or fighting an intruder. Treatments, appointments, paperwork, recovering and medications alone are all exhausting. Throw in a job, family or anything else, and fatigue and stress are two things that are guaranteed. And what happens when we’re stressed and fatigued? Our immune system is lowered, leaving us more susceptible to disease. Workers are given vacation time to avoid burnout and recharge their batteries. Students are given breaks to rest their brains. If anyone needs or deserves some time off, it’s cancer patients and their families.
Now, I know everyone can’t take a vacation or a cancer break. When I was in treatment, I had several appointments a week, making a getaway impossible. And when I wasn’t at the hospital, I felt horrible. Also, cancer can devastate finances and the ability to earn income, making a trip low on the priority list compared to paying for treatment and living expenses. So, if these situations apply to you, let me pull out my magic wand, wave it around your current space and hereby declare you on a cancer-free island.
Now go make yourself a drink and do something fun for the next hour, day or week. Remember, no mention of the “c” word. And most importantly, enjoy. You deserve and need it!
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