Another Crazy Christmas in France

I love going to my in-laws in the French Loire Valley for Christmas, which is a sacred familial time for them.

This year getting out of Nashville was a bit exhausting due to all the normal get-out-of-town craziness and preparations for my last Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT) which is scheduled for this week (January 9-12). I’ve been feeling good, but I was definitely burning the candle at both ends. Even so, I was a little surprised that my therapy clearance blood work showed my red blood cells and platelets plummeted. Sure, it’s not unusual for this to happen and there’s a good chance I even sabotaged myself.

I’d been hearing so much hoopla around the ketogenic diet, including that it is good for cancer patients since it starves cancer cells of the glucose they need to grow.  BUT, as it turns out, guess what red blood cells need to reproduce? If you guessed glucose, then you are correct. Oopsy!

Fortunately, the counts were still well above the therapy minimums and gave me a self signed permission slip to reinstated carbs, which would’ve been an epic failure (and just all together wrong) in France and Italy anyways.

Enough cancer.

Flying to Paris and arriving was a shit show but no more than usual. Travel in Europe is a physical work out, but I was happy to arrive to my beloved village of St. Cyr en Val to be greeted by droves of family. Also, it was extra fun this year since my friend from Nashville joined to experience a French Christmas.

We spent the first few days getting adjusted to the time, visiting Chateau de Chambord and locating a few Camino shells throughout Orleans, a potential stop for those walking to Santiago from Paris.

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In the hot seat!

Christmas Eve was the big event! This is when 50 of my crazy french in-laws drink oodles of champagne, sing, dance and eat platters of oysters.  This year the chaos was amplified by a photo booth, introducing them to white elephant/dirty santa and CLR….until 4am. It was really fun and I can officially say that I am completely acclimated (it only took nine years). We even ventured off to midnight mass where Father Jean-Baptiste called me to the pew for a little interview. I was throughly embarrassed, but also touched since I know he prays for my health often. Last year he blessed me and this year he expressed excitement about my trip to Rome to see his boss, Pope Francis.

The following days after Christmas Eve shenanigans were filled with gifts and visits and food and drinks and naps. I was tired and my brain hurt from french but I think it was my favorite Christmas in a long time.

On the 27th, we were off to Paris for a couple of days. Day one was spent walking around Galerie Lafayette, seeing the sights on a Bateaux Mouche, a comedy show and a long, late dinner at a tapas restaurant. My Nashville friend also had a great time with the exception of the last night where she was hit with food poisoning and spent the whole night sick. With her night reminding me of the months I spent laying on the bathroom floor I felt so bad for her having to travel all day feeling like that. Fortunately, I don’t leave home without  a couple Zofran, which helped her make it home after a looooooong hard day.

img_5268As she soldiered through, my husband and I got to experience something really special at the Paris Zoo. His cousin is the giraffe keeper and invited us for a private visit with her 15 giraffes. We got to feed and pet them and take pictures. It was incredible and it took everything I had not to steal one. With the day spent fawning over giraffes, we walked around the Champs Elysées and met an old friend for dinner. We haven’t seen him in seven years and wow a lot has happened and changed. Satisfied with a wonderful time in France, we went back to our friends tiny apartment for a long sleep before jetting off to Italy in the morning.

Cheers to many more Christmas celebrations in the Loire Valley!

See…they cray!

A Vacation from Cancer

 

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As featured on curetoday.com

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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