Yes, it's true. I'm getting on a plane for the first time in a YEAR.
I didn't want to share anything about the trip until now because there were so many variables that could have prevented it from happening. If the weather was over 85 degrees for more than two days, I would've had to cancel. If my stomach started giving me grief, I'd have to cancel. If I got inconclusive news regarding a cancer screening (which I don't always share publicly), I'd have to cancel. So many variables.
I'm such a fragile organism now. Which I find highly irritating. I don't see myself as fragile, never have. But it's a reality I can't deny these days.
There are a few reasons for the trip:
1) Number one is to see my old gastro doctor and new doctors at Sloan Kettering to help me figure out why I have so much trouble eating, digesting, going to the bathroom.
2) Number two is to see my peeps and walk the streets of Manhattan. I'll be that dork with a big toothy touristy grin on the subway thinking I'm finally here!
3) Number three just came to me this week: I want to do this trip to prove that I CAN do this trip. I feel like I have to get back on the horse sooner than later or I'll become paralyzed with fear that I can't survive out of my Seattle cocoon.
The impetus for this trip is, obviously, to expand the brains working on my complicated medical case.
But the philosophical reason behind it is almost nearly as important.
What makes a life?
I've thought a lot about the question I asked on Facebook recently: "what makes a life?" Since then, the answer that came to me over and over again is: travel, meeting new people, seeing the world.
I know I must give up eating normally which I haven't fully processed or mourned - I'm getting there. I had to give up my culinary career. My independence. So many losses, it's overwhelming to think about them let alone write them down.
But if there is still a way for me to travel then...then I feel like can make a life in this new chapter. Just the PROSPECT of it invigorates me like nothing else. It's the one thing that really makes me excited about the future. In some respects, the idea of figuring out how to hack my disability so I CAN travel sounds kind of cool. I love a good challenge....
Especially if it means I get to go somewhere new.
I can't stand the idea of being trapped in one place. It's why I was a freelancer, didn't settle down, never bought a house.
There is a major concern though: if traveling stresses out my body to the point that it causes things to break down faster and/or grow cancer sooner, will I still do it?
The answer is hell yes.
I'd rather travel, hug my people, and see the world then live a longer life staring out a window in Seattle. Hands down. No contest.
I've spent WEEKS preparing for this trip - which truth be told was so much fun. Focusing on my stupid health crap gets soooo olllllld. If this test trip goes well, then I'm off to Johns Hopkins, Dana Farber, MD Anderson, A-N-Y-W-H-E-R-E that has specialists that could improve my digestion, fix my endocrine system, prevent more cancer and improve my overall health. I will do whatever it takes to get better. Even if it means using a wheelchair at the airport which I HATE doing, so humiliating - but a must in order to preserve energy and strength. Even if it means transporting 6 liters of saline and all my medical equipment with me. Even if it means leaving in my port needle most of the week which isn't comfortable. Even if it means overcoming major anxiety about what could happen during the eight days I'm gone.
What if something DOES go wrong? What if they lose my bag with the saline? What if I can't get out of bed? What if there is a last minute heat wave? What if I get horrible abdominal pain that won't go away?
Travel always throws curveballs. It's actually something I used to enjoy - the spontaneity, the unexpected gifts that come from a delay in a bus station. The people I'd meet in an airport during a storm. As much as I grumbled about them, I now look back on them fondly. I didn't have to worry about being trapped somewhere so long that I couldn't find food or take my meds.
Now. I do.
Fortunately, my mad organizational skills have come in handy. I've got spreadsheets to ensure I won't forget to bring any medicines or take them while I'm gone (I haven't shared this much, but I have a lot of memory problems since chemo). I'm bringing a terrific young woman as my traveling mate (thank you Alaska mileage program for free tickets!). A lovely chef friend loaned me her apartment - with kitchen, everything I need - while she is out of the country. I have friends on the other side waiting for me and ready to help if necessary. Everything fell into place so beautifully that I can't help but feel like it's going to be ok. That I can do this.
I have to do this. Not just to find doctors who can help kickstart my worldwide search for medical answers. Not just to walk through Central Park with a goofy grin that only a visitor could wear. Not just to give my peeps a big fat hug, knowing how lucky I am to even be seeing them again, let alone doing it so far from home.
I need to do this to retain a piece of the old me. The independent gypsy that still exists and doesn't want to disappear like all the other parts of me have been forced to do. The one that hopped a plane to Central America with no itinerary. The one that traveled through Europe alone with no guidebook.
There are so many things I've had to let go of from my old life. This is one I refuse to give up.
Remember when I used to write I can do this? And then I stopped. Well, it's back.
I can do this.
SEE YA SOON NEW YORK! I've missed you madly, even though you drive me crazy.... :)