In 2011, Klay and I took the road trip of a lifetime. He’d just transferred from active duty Air Force to a reservist and we were moving back home to Texas.
Instead of flying home, we decided to take on the open road, relax, and wander down the west coast.
We trekked all the way from Anchorage, Alaska through parts of Canada and the stunning Cassiar Highway to Vancouver down the West Coast–roaming through Washington, Oregon, California, Vegas and even the Grand Canyon. For a full recap of our 2011 trip, click here.
It took 17 days to make it back to our home state, but it was by far a staple moment in our lives that will stay with us forever.
It’s safe to say it didn’t take long for us to fall in love with the freedom of the open road. With no set route or schedule holding us back, we just roamed.
We just explored what willed us, stayed the night where we pleased, and made decisions on the fly; it was blissful. The trip was nothing short of epic and so we promised each other that’d we would make it an essential part of our lives (and when we had a family of our own) to travel, experience new and different places and cultures, and never allow our lives to be swept up in the daily hustle and bustle that keeps most from crossing state lines.
But we couldn’t see the future and what was to come.
Miss Cleo Couldn’t Have Predicted This Shit
Due to obvious health issues (and having the boys), we’ve been unable to become the active roadies/wanderers we once dreamt of.
Kids are conceived.
Unlucky cards are dealt (like the–cough, cough–cancer card) and you just deal with what the shitty things life throws your way.
Life can’t always go according to plan or it would be pretty freaking boring, right? But I definitely didn’t see a future full of uncertainty, fear, hospital stays, and a major showdown between me and the big “C”.
But it did happen. I was diagnosed with cancer–and boom–life as we knew it changed forever.
For the past nearly three years since my diagnosis, it’s been nothing but pricking, prodding, pain, and problem after problem. Cancer changed our lives and the way we view and think about life in general.
Dreams of travel fell by the wayside and Dallas hospitals, countless doctors, and medical lingo became a new way of life for us. Little did we know our “adventures” we’d thought we would see in our future were scary, life-threatening, and rare unpleasant ones.
I went from naivety of not knowing there were different types of chemo (just like there are different types of medicine ex: Tylenol vs Aleve) to learning there are differences between power- and medi-ports and PICC lines and trifusions to learning all the medical lingo for different blood counts, how high you want what count to be, what to look for, etc.
I even learned how to make the stupid alarm on the IV pole to stop beeping incessantly because of an occlusion or it ran out of fluids.
It’s pretty safe to say I’m practically a registered nurse now.
Haaaaa! I’m kidding my nursing friends; I could never do what you guys do! Honestly. I couldn’t. But I did learn a lot about medicine, nursing, and oncology. And that wasn’t exactly on my bucket list…
Having kids… check!
Getting cancer… um check?
Yeah, it wasn’t on my radar.
Taking Advantage Of Feeling Better + Resetting Mentally
Now that things have cooled down a bit, and because I turned 30 in October, Klay surprised me with a trip to Oregon. He had it all planned out—hotels and cities to see, and even routed it so we’d be like roadies again, only this time we were going to make premeditated stops at some of our favorite food/scenic spots along the coast.
So here we are six years later in Oregon (one of our favorite places from the 2011 trip), I’m 30 years old, have two beautiful boys, a handsome husband who’s been my rock the last 13 years (and now 10 years married) and we’re revisiting some of our favorite places from a road trip only he and I shared years ago.
If you haven’t already figured it out, this trip is a pretty big deal for me—in more ways than one.
And honestly, I didn’t know if I’d ever feel well enough to travel and explore new places. Were my traveling adventures over?
Having a chronic or life-threatening illness will do that to you–make you lose faith in finding joy in things you once did.
And because of that, I need to find myself again.
I need to figure out who I am now that my life didn’t go the direction I originally thought it would.
I need to heal some wounds from the past three years that were opened and never closed. I need to scream and cry and be reminded of the beauty nature and life offer us and embrace it all.
Feeling Stuck And Hopeless
When I was sick, I’d often look out of the window at the Dallas skyline at night and watch the highways filled with car lights, wishing I were in one of those cars going somewhere. I was stuck; stuck in a hospital bed tethered to an IV pole.
I thought I’d never see an ocean again, walk on a sandy beach, smell the salt in the air, hear seagulls flying above me, or see places that Klay and I fell in love with on our road trip again.
And, that broke my heart.
We were supposed to go back all old, wrinkly, retired and repeat the trip all over again–even if we were wearing Depends. We promised each other we’d never become cemented to life in Texas, to always travel no matter what.
I knew he would make it back there one day with or without me. He’d take the boys and spread my ashes in places along the coast—places I loved, places we loved, places only he and I knew of, places where we had some of our greatest memories together—and he’d share that with our sons.
I’ve been so isolated for the past three years, I wasn’t able to go to public places without taking the risk of getting sick, so traveling was definitely off limits.
I remember my first time back in public after my first month-stay in the hospital (after giving birth to Bex and completing my first round of chemo).
We were out shopping for Christmas presents since I’d only gotten released from the hospital days before the holidays. I had no hair and was wearing a toboggan (or beanie or winter cap for my Alaskan pals) to hide my bald head. I sported a yellow medical mask covering my nose and mouth along with some gloves to top off this awesome ensemble. I was the celebrity at Target–or so it seemed–as everyone stared at me like I had the Plague.
I mean I was practically ebola-ready with my manmade hazmat suit.
When I wasn’t out scaring the public, I was stuck in a hospital for weeks and weeks fastened to an IV pole that injected poison into my veins.
And, when I wasn’t in the hospital, I was pretty much under house arrest—warned to stay at home—to avoid crowds and exposure to illnesses.
At every juncture (or so it seemed), I was trapped indoors, away from nature, away from the sun, away from things that make us appreciate life and what it has to offer.
Although I wish it would, I don’t think one trip away from everything that reminds me of cancer will cure all of my issues; the big C stays with you wherever you go. But I’m going to try my best to let some of my anger, resentment, and pain go on this trip.
I just want to get rid of it—the negativity, the anger with those who weren’t there for me, the arguments that were brought on by my crazy emotions or shitty things people said to me; all of it, I want it gone.
I want to find beauty in life and living again. I’ve managed to lose that again over the past several months.
Most of my days are spent confined between walls, away from people, away from the outdoors, away from life.
My day to day has been a constant physical and emotional battle this year (click here to learn more about my serious depression and thoughts of suicide). Enjoyment in even the smallest things has become extremely difficult for me; it’s hard to admit, but I’ve had a tough time appreciating my moments with my kids.
I try. I do try. Some may not think I do, but I do. Some days I succeed and other days I tragically fail.
I’m a burden to my family and my kids. I’m imprisoned in a shell of a body that won’t do what it should. My brain knows that I’m only 30 years old. I still feel like a young woman who still can play football with the guys, take a jog down the street, and twerk like I could in my high school days, but my body keeps telling me I can’t. It continues to show me it can’t. And, it’s EFFING hard telling my brain I need to listen to it.
I just wish my heart would understand that.
This just wasn’t supposed to be my life. It wasn’t.
The Trip Deets
These past few months, I’ve been beaten down and taken hit after hit of something going wrong. Every time we’re trying to fix something, new health problems pop up leaving other issues on a queue waiting to be addressed again later. Klay knew I really needed this. He’s pretty amazing, so thanks babe for the birthday present!
TANGENT: With every new issue that rises and the trillion other problems that get bumped down the list, I’m reminded of the scene in Beetlejuice where he has to wait in the lobby for his “death caseworker” and his number is 384938493 long and the sign says they are now serving “3”. Then, he tries to steal the guy’s number next to him and the guy uses some sprinkle dust to shrink his head. Of course, I’d think of Beetlejuice. I mean I wasn’t Lydia for Halloween as a kid for nothing. Randomness: But aren’t they supposed to come out with another one?
We flew into Portland Friday (Oct. 27), and we are driving down to Gold Beach to stay the night there. If some of you remember, that was where we let our dogs Billie and Stretch run free on the beach back on the 2011 trip. It was an absolutely gorgeous beach and we had so much fun watching the dogs be free and run up the coast.
I still can’t believe that was six years ago.
So much has happened. So much has changed.
I think for everyone (not even us chronic sicky-types) vacationing is essential in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and mindset.
I’m beyond excited to not have to be face to face with this disease for a few days. Yes, I’m still struggling physically and I had to go up on my prednisone (due to my liver counts and swelling), so I still have limitations due to GVHD, but I’m actually in a place that doesn’t remind me of all things cancer.
Traveling here wasn’t exactly incredible, especially with how swollen I am, but I already feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders.
As much hell as my body may give me for this, my freaking brain desperately needs this.
I think I may be able to finally breathe again (well, if I don’t fall over from all the walking we’re bound to do). Let’s just hope the swelling subsides, and I can focus on hitting the MENTAL reset button.
Taking a breather and searching for the damn button,