Post Cancer Trip to Hawaii: Just What the Doctor Ordered
It was Friday the 13th, when I sat in my doctor’s office and was given the news that I had breast cancer. I was shocked! I had no symptoms, no lumps and I felt perfectly fine. The only reason it was discovered was because I had a routine mammogram.
After the initial diagnosis, life got busy with a whirlwind of visits to doctors, specialists, blood tests, scans, biopsies, surgery, chemotherapy, genetic testing, heart scans and finally radiation therapy.
For weeks at a time I couldn’t move, I was in pain and exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. I lost 70% of my hair – I looked like a plucked chicken or as my oncologist used to joke a “hairless eagle”.
Everything is Fine
What got me through my dark moments was my then 15 year old son, my family, friends, doctors, nurses and other patients.
I remember laughing so much with the other cancer patients as as we sat in our chemo chairs having cocktail of powerful drugs pumping through our veins and cracking jokes.
I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me and I wanted for life to go on as normal. I didn’t talk about it … I just got on with life when I could get out of bed and when I wasn’t having a bad hair day.
One of my closest friends promised me once I got through treatments we would go to Hawaii (my favourite place) for a holiday with our kids. And that was the light at the end of a very dark tunnel that I focused on. But more on that later …
A month after I finished my treatments my oncologist told me as far as she was concerned I was cured. I came home on a real high. I sat in front of my computer and started researching our next adventure.
You Want Me to Do What?
But then the phone rang and it was a call that changed everything.
I was asked to present at a women’s business conference. I was terrified of public speaking and I stressed for several weeks leading up to the event.
I knew I had many valid reasons why I couldn’t do the presentation, but I realised it was a big opportunity which would not only help me overcome my fear of public speaking, but that could potentially open many doors for my business.
And I figured if cancer didn’t kill me, public speaking probably wouldn’t either. Getting through cancer treatment gave me courage to do things I hadn’t tried before.
I Think I Can Do This
So, I started preparing for the presentation … first I sat down and wrote all the challenges I was facing
- I was suffering from chemo brain, which meant I couldn’t remember things.
- I still had fatigue from chemo and radiation therapy and I didn’t think I would be able to stand for the whole 45 minutes of the presentation.
- I had lost 70% of my hair and I was sure everyone would be able to tell I was wearing a hairpiece.
- I had put on weight during chemo and as a result I had very little to wear.
But I didn’t want to miss out on this incredible opportunity, so I decided I needed to work through each challenge to make sure I was as prepared as I could be.
- For chemo brain, I practised and practiced, so the presentation was engraved in my brain.
- I asked the organisers if I could have a stool on stage in case I needed to lean on it.
- I met a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a while and who didn’t know I had lost my hair – and she commented how great my hair looked … I was relieved to know she didn’t pick up on the fact that it wasn’t my hair.
- I managed to dig up an old dress I felt comfortable in and that I felt would be ok for the presentation.
- To overcome my fear of public speaking, I watched YouTube videos about public speaking and I also saw a kinesiologist who worked with me to overcome several of my fears.
Finally, the presentation day came … and I got through it without too many problems. I was so relieved at the end, but also very happy that I faced my fear and pushed through it when I was at my weakest.
The Ultimate Reward
And then it was time for the ultimate reward – a trip to Hawaii with my friend Molly and our kids. Almost 9 months to the day after I finished my treatment, we were on the plane bound for Honolulu.
I purposefully delayed our trip by a few months so that my hair grew a little – I knew I was going to take lots of photos and I wanted to look my best – not to be reminded of cancer.
The trip was amazing – we got to see so many beautiful places, swam with dolphins at Sea Life Park, watched beautiful sunsets, sipped pina colada like there was no tomorrow and stayed in a beautiful resort called Alohilani.
The hotel was a little out of our budget, but we figured, what the hell, you only live once and you can always make money later.
Looking at the photos from our trip makes me so happy and appreciative of all that I have and what I have been through.
Although undergoing surgery, chemo and radiation wasn’t a lot of fun, having cancer was one of the best things that happened to me.
It made me stronger and less fearful and helped me prioritize what was important. I no longer care what people think of me and I focus on what makes me happy, instead of trying to please others.
And travel and adventures is what makes me happy …
Ivana Katz is a Sydney based website designer and travel blogger. Having her own business has given her the freedom to explore the world. She believes travel is the best teacher and her passion for adventure, writing and photography has taken her and her son to some amazing places, including Hawaii, Canada, Fiji, Greece and Czech Republic. Ivana’s favourite thing about travelling is learning, discovering hidden gems and creating memories. She loves nothing more than inspiring other women to chase their dreams and explore the world with their families and friends.