Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Day Ends in Maui...

As today ends, I'll think about the ethereal beauty of a Maui sunset...Maui No Ka 'Oi! (Maui Is The Best!).

Images of Maui

Here are some photos from my last trip to Maui. I hope to return soon, because I have "left my heart" there...since 1985, I have been in love with Maui. I'm not a religious person, but it has a spirituality which you can almost feel. The light, the colors, the air, the water, all combine hypnotically to make you want to stay forever. I cried the first time that I left; walking up the huge set of metal steps next to the jet on the tarmac, looking around at the beautiful mountains, and wondering if it was all just a dream.

I was able to return there three years later to confirm that this much beauty could indeed exist in one magical place. It is called "The Magic Isle", and there's truth in the name! On my third, and most recent trip, it was more developed in places, but it still has its magic intact...I will go back, and hopefully, one day, I won't have to leave. 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Trip to the Ocean

Last week, I took my first actual vacation in the past 3 years. For me, this is another sign that my life has returned to normality. Being able to "get away" from your home, your job, and to realize that there was a time when this literally wouldn't have been physically possible for me makes me feel very fortunate.

Going to a place which I have held in my heart for many years, and being able to return there with my beloved husband was like a gift. His devotion, care, and patience during my illness meant so much, and to have this special time with him was truly wonderful. Even though the weather was cloudy except for one day, this didn't really matter. We celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary during the trip, and I'm very proud that we have achieved this. Those two "20-somethings" in love are now two "50-somethings" in love, and I can honestly say that our challenges over the years have only brought us closer together. He is my reason for living; his unfailing support and encouragement in everything I do has been invaluable, and I think that he could say the same about me. We're partners for life, through whatever happens to us, or around us.

My vacations almost always involve the ocean; there is something so primal and restorative about seeing the waves, hearing them break and come onshore, the scent of the salt air, the feel of the soft sand. The ocean's sense of permanence is reassuring to us, and perhaps we do feel a connection because our bodies are composed of so much water. Or, just because it's impressive, powerful, and beautiful!

Growing up where the ocean was just a drive away, and now, living on a river which is an ocean estuary, I know that I would never be happy living somewhere far from the ocean. And of course, I dream about living in Maui, where your daily activities always involve communing with the magical waters surrounding the island. Maybe someday...


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

National Cancer Survivors' Day

Sunday was National Cancer Survivors' Day, which is held on the first Sunday in June. The first thought I have about this is how wonderful it is that there are so many people now considered "cancer survivors" (over 10 million). The second thought is that I still don't consider myself a "survivor" just yet, 23 months post-diagnosis. I think that passing the 5-year mark would meet my personal definition of the term. I won't be celebrating just yet, but I certainly hope to someday...

Can you recall when hearing that someone had "cancer", that you immediately thought they were going to die? I do; and I also remember as a child hearing people whisper the word in hushed tones, or calling it 'the big C". They were afraid to say it out loud, as if it was something shameful or secret.

The very word held immeasurable power over us. It no longer does, due to the advances in research and treatment for almost all types of cancer. Also, brave people in the public eye were not afraid to let the world know that they had cancer, so others could follow their example and seek treatment. Lifting the veil on cancer demystifies it, and diminishes its power to terrify us and paralyze us into inaction.

I will never forget my first experience with cancer. A childhood friend, several years older than me, died of leukemia when he was eleven years old. He had always watched out for me when I was around, helped me ride my bike, find my lost toys, and I'll never forget how he rescued me when I fell face-first into a rosebush. I really looked up to him; he was like my "big brother". It was so hard to understand why he got sick, and when he died, I couldn't imagine how this could happen. It was so unfair. Now, the 5-year survival rate for his type of leukemia is 80%. I sadly wish that Paul had been a survivor, but I'm happy that the disease no longer claims as many children as it did decades ago.

I think that the entire survivorship movement is valuable; some kind of framework is needed to support people with cancer facing other physical, emotional, financial, workplace, and societal issues. It's not just enough to get the person through treatment; each individual, including myself, will have additional challenges that they will have to face on an ongoing basis.

Some people are consumed with the fear that their cancer will return, which effectively prevents them from enjoying whatever days they indeed do have remaining; others experience side effects from the daily medications needed to prevent their cancer from recurring; patients who have finished their treatment experience now feel confused and alone as they face their future; families are financially and emotionally strained by the treatment and caregiving experience. Most cancer patients now will have to plan for their "post-cancer" life, which is a positive development in our continuing campaign against the disease.

May we not all just survive, but learn to thrive...