There are things I learned going through cancer that have served me well since that time– now over nineteen years ago. One that came to mind on a hot day this past August, was the need to take breaks from your situation by getting away to another place.
When I dealt with breast cancer, I knew my treatment would be spread over months and it would help to have something to mark my progress. I planned a family trip to DC right before New Year’s. We’d never been to the city during that time and it was a nice change from the holiday bustle. The cold air and wintry beauty of the silhouetted trees, buildings, and monuments were a refreshing change from the sameness of doctors’ offices, chemo bay, my house and workplace. Being away from home in a different city helped me to get my mind off cancer– at least for a while, and helped me to open my mind to the future. When I returned, I felt ready for the thirty-two radiation treatments that would take me into February.
Last August when I realized that I needed time away, I half-prayed half-wished that some place would be provided. I didn’t have the energy to plan something myself. All my energy was going toward working through the changes that had occurred since the break-up of my marriage.
Within twenty-four hours, three people reached out to me and offered just what I’d asked for at three different locations: a mountain house, a cottage at a lake in the Piedmont–the center of our state, and a condo at the ocean. How grateful I was that I received such a quick response. My family and friends have been very supportive of me– and that was just more evidence of God’s provision through them.
I scheduled the three trips to strategically fall after challenges I faced with work deadlines, therapy sessions, and household tasks. Once a month in September through November, I’d go away and try to release some of the stress that had accumulated and refocus on how to navigate through this time. At the end of those trips, I would face another ‘leg’ of this journey: our first holiday season.
Last weekend, I took my ocean trip with my younger sister, Peggy. How I appreciated that she’d arranged for our lodging and took care of the driving. What a treat for me compared to my usual do-it-all-myself Solo Journeys. I was glad she knew the area where we stayed in North Myrtle Beach and made choosing from all the restaurants, theaters, and shopping options much easier. Peggy let me know that she would follow my lead with what I wanted to do, to talk about, how much time I needed alone vs with her. How nice it was to have her support and understanding of what I needed at this time.
I alternated between napping, journaling, reading books given to me as gifts that were both instructional and inspirational, and taking walks on the beach. I asked a woman to take my picture and in return I offered to take one of her and her husband. They held hands and walked toward the sun, the light perfect for their photo. She was happy with the results and told me they were celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary, smiling and looking over at her husband who grinned. Bittersweet, I thought, remembering back to my twenty-fifth.
Every morning, Peggy and I went out for a late breakfast and every night we searched for the best seafood. It was great not to cook– even though I’m not doing much of that these days.
We went to the theater and saw the movie Judy, which was sad– but still it was time away seeing drama on the big screen and smelling popcorn– not a bad use of time. Later we rented a Redbox DVD and laughed at The Upside enjoying the humor of Kevin Hart and the character acting of Bryan Cranston.
I shopped and bought jeans and a green dress– perfect for one of our Christmas dances– something to look forward to. Often, I’m a reluctant shopper so for me this was quite a haul!
The entire time at the beach, the focus for me was to do just what I wanted; that’s not something I’ve often felt free to do. But like when I went through those months of cancer treatment, I knew– this time in my life calls for different actions. It requires me to look at how I want to be nurtured– and over time, this is how I, like others, heal.
What About You?
Would it be helpful for you to get away to a place where you can be nurtured?
How would you like to spend your time while you’re there? Would you want to go alone or be with others?
How could you let others know that you have this need?