Up, Up and Away

Today I get to talk about a great love in my life. Travel. A love that was formed from an early age, roughly age eight. Mother, sister and I were travelling to New Zealand to visit family and the flight attendants let Sis and I hand out sweets to the passengers. I remember being so excited. I believe my career path was shaped from that moment. At age twenty-six I finally fulfilled my dream and started working as a flight attendant for Qantas. Prior to that I worked as a travel consultant. So you could say I have a fairly good understanding about travel, inside and out. And when I wasn’t jumping on a plane for work, I was making the most of my discounted travel benefits. It was a common occurrence for me to book a ticket, jump on a plane, and meet up with friends anywhere around the world. No stress; no planning, just go.

Last year I received an invitation to attend a friend’s wedding in Israel. Who wouldn’t want to miss two beautiful souls celebrate their union, plus Israel is one of my favourite places in the world. It was always going to be touch and go with the timing of treatment and finances. I didn’t think it would be possible considering I haven’t worked since last August, and now that I’m looking at having surgery done privately. Then I was blessed with a paid airfare over! I must have done a lot of good in a past life, the amount of generosity I’ve received since my diagnosis is mind-blowing. Timing was now also on my side as the earliest appointment I could get with my plastic surgeon is May. I um’ed and ah’ed. Should I go? Was I ready? I was convinced by a few people that I deserve a nice treat, considering everything I’ve been through.

Now, the Rochelle of before wouldn’t have thought twice about travelling to the other side of the world. Throw some things in a bag and off I’d go. Unfortunately, now, a bit more thought has to go into it. It’s moments like these when the reality of the ‘cancer’ sets in. The reality of how my life has changed. So what are the new concerns? Firstly, the medication I’m on can cause blood clots. I have to wear compression stockings to reduce my risk of clotting when flying. The dreaded DVT. Secondly, as I’ve had lymph nodes removed there is an added risk of developing Lymphedema (in simple terms, arm can swell), so a compression arm sleeve is recommended to reduce this risk, also. The past few weeks I’ve been telling friends and family (and this blog, actually) that I no longer need to wrap myself in bubble wrap, I’m not sick anymore. It seems I have to wrap myself in compression, instead. Sourcing these things last-minute has caused some (read: A LOT) of stress. It’s amazing how trying to find an arm sleeve can bring me to tears yet having chemotherapy for 3 months didn’t. Breathe…

The next reality check came when I jumped online to organize my travel insurance. From now on, and forever, I fit into the ‘pre-existing medical condition’ box. Box A – tick. Cancer – tick. I now have to pay a premium to be covered. Frustration sets in. Yes I had cancer. Yes I had treatment. I was fine about both (as fine as you can be about getting cancer)…but it’s these little things that will continue for the rest of my life that really bother me. I often say Cancer is a life-sentence – this is a clear example about why I feel that way. Don’t get me wrong – I know having to pay a premium for travel insurance isn’t the end of the world, I don’t take for granted that I am alive and well (and lucky enough to travel the world). That IS what’s important. But things used to be so simple…

With the support of some special people the nerves were calmed and all the little things were taken care of. The option of cancelling last-minute did cross my mind. But if I stop doing things I love because it’s too hard, Cancer wins. Cancer doesn’t deserve to win because of silly little things like wearing a compression sleeve or paying a bit extra for insurance. I just have to adapt. I have to think and plan ahead. Also, if the body coped with a triathlon, it will be fine on a flight – I just have to do the right thing and keep moving around (as everyone should do anyway!).

Today is the day of travel. Skins compression tights are on, arm-sleeves are packed in my carry on… along with my noise cancelling headphones and iPad. My new travel essentials. A nine-hour flight to Bangkok followed by an eleven-hour flight to Tel Aviv is ahead of me. My old tradition of sitting down to a glass of champagne pre-departure has been replaced by sparkling water. That’s what I call adapting (sigh). Time to go…

Side note: SURPRISE! I haven’t told many friends that I’m coming. I can’t wait to see all my favourite people in Tel Aviv!!

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