The first time I sat in the chemo chair as an outpatient at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre on December 26, 2014, I told myself aloud, “The first thing I am going to do when I’m all finished treatment is put my feet in warm sand on a beach somewhere.”
My sister and dad were sitting next to me that cold December day and my dad just smiled with tears in his eyes and replied, “If that’s what you want to do, then keep that promise and we’re going to make it happen.”
For two-plus years as I sat in a chemo chair week after week making small talk with the nurses, I found myself counting down the cycles until I’d reach the end.
It seemed like it would never come, especially when the chemo would get pumped through my veins and the instant feeling of uneasiness came.
That rush of warmth coming over my face as I blushed to heat rushing through my body.
Fortunately, I never became sick from chemo.
I never had any serious after effects. It just always made me feel as if I were having an out-of-body experience. It’s difficult to describe, but the feeling of warmth is the only thing that comes to mind, which is why warm sand in between my toes is what I wanted to feel if I had to experience “warmth” again.
After going for my post-op visit for my hip replacement and getting the all clear from my surgeon and my oncologist after the relapse scare, my dad started looking up vacations right away.
He never failed to remind me throughout those two years about my promise.
He knew how much this meant to me just as it did to my family, who were my caregivers these past few years.
It wasn’t easy for any of us, so this trip was going to mean a lot.
After weeks of searching, we finally found “the one.”
We were going to be going on another 7-day family cruise to the Caribbean where its ports of call would be: Grand Turk; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas and Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.
I was so excited counting down the weeks.
I really needed this.
WE all needed this.
We decided to do a beach excursion at our first stop: Grand Turk.
The clear turquoise water, the white sand, sunny blue skies…it’s exactly what I imagined it looking like each time I received chemo.
The moment we got there, I took my flip flops off and walked onto the warm, soft sand.
You know that feeling of relief, but comfort - almost the feeling of accomplishment, I guess?
That’s what came over me.
I was lost in my own head at that moment.
Not a single thought crossed my mind.
I closed my eyes as I took in the moment – just me, this beach, and the sound of waves coming onto shore. I was standing there for a solid three minutes just being still, taking in the peacefulness of it all.
Just as I opened my eyes, I whispered to myself, “You kept your promise.”
Tears sprung to my eyes as I recalled those days of being extremely unwell and being unable to move from the couch.
The physical pain from the steroids, which no one outside of my family ever saw me go through.
The tiredness I would fight day-in and day-out just to prove I was okay.
I was free from it.
I broke free from the chains that held me down for two and half years.
I was able to be me.
That moment, standing there, meant the world to me.
No one and nothing can take that moment away from me.
I made a promise to myself that I would live everyday to its fullest – never wasting a moment that could be enjoyed making memories.
From that moment onwards, I remembered why I was given a second chance at life: to live.
As I sit here writing this blog, I find it difficult to fathom that the ports of call where my cruise had docked last week (August 27th - September 3rd) is where Hurricane Irma has hit and left people with nothing. Today, the pictures on my phone are unrecognizable to the pictures illustrated on the news. I pray for all those who’ve been affected and that they find comfort in knowing that the world is keeping them in their thoughts and prayers.