You’re Lucky You Get to Travel So Much!

I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling in the over four years since I’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer. Not right after my diagnosis — I wore a neck brace for three months because of mets to my cervical spine and couldn’t even drive! But once my targeted therapy treatments kicked in and started working well, I began traveling both with my family and for lung cancer advocacy work.

There’s nothing lucky about a lung cancer diagnosis

I receive lots of comments from friends and family about the traveling I’ve done. Overall, people are very happy for me and want to hear about my experiences. However, I do hear over and over that I’ve become a “world traveler” and “I’m lucky to get to go to so many places.” Now, don’t get me wrong — I love to travel and I agree that I have been very fortunate to be able to do a lot of something I enjoy so much since I was diagnosed.

However, the reasons why I am traveling are all directly related to lung cancer and I don’t consider myself fortunate at all that I have lung cancer. So it’s tough to know how to respond to others and even how to feel myself about these opportunities. Yes, I have gone to Japan, Germany, California, Colorado, Arizona and Washington DC all within this last year. These trips were either to attend a lung cancer conference or to speak about my personal journey to a pharmaceutical company. I tried to take advantage of each trip to get a little sightseeing in and was almost always successful! However, I would give up all these trips in a second if I could go back to the time of my diagnosis and not hear that I had stage IV lung cancer.

Taking time for family and making memories

I’ve also done a lot of traveling with my family since I was diagnosed. We always enjoyed going places, especially on road trips, but now I feel an extra push to plan these things and “make memories” because who knows how long I will feel well and be able to do such things? That’s the reason behind major trips we’ve taken in the past few years to Iceland, Puerto Rico, Niagara Falls and Mount Rushmore. Again, we are fortunately in a decent place financially and can work these vacations into our budget, but in the past, my husband and I chose more modest trips and made the choice to save extra money for our retirement instead.

When I was diagnosed at the end of 2013, my sons were 10 and 13. At the time, I really didn’t think I would be around to be shopping for colleges for either of them. Since my older son is now 17 and a junior in high school, I’ve been very proactive in setting up college tours and making visits to potential schools. We had a meeting with my son’s college counselor just this week and she was very impressed with how many schools we’ve already visited and how much we’ve already investigated these choices. Well, again, I think to myself I just want to do these things as soon as possible in case my health takes a turn in the near future.

Ironically, not everyone thinks all this traveling I’ve been doing is great! My 86 year old mom has told me that she feels like I’m abandoning my family too often when I travel without them for advocacy reasons. She tells me that my husband and sons must mind me being gone very much even though they say they completely understand. So some of my trips end up being a little guilt-tinged as well!

Shaking off the unsolicited opinions

As in many areas of life, I get a lot of unasked-for opinions about the decisions I make. Overall, I try not to let others’ opinions bother me too much. I have tried to make the choices that cause me to feel the most comfortable with the way I am living my life. Yes, these choices might have been different if I hadn’t been diagnosed with lung cancer, but there’s no going backwards in time. I’m just focusing on moving forward, one day at a time!

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