Taking a chemo holiday is a bit scary, with every abdominal twinge and pain making me wonder if this was a good idea.
But since I am indeed on a chemo holiday and the kids are out of school, we decided to take an actual holiday and travel to Moab, UT to visit Arches National Park and the surrounding area.
The massive red rocks, coupled with the fast-moving Colorado River, quickly changed our relationship to the earth.
Our city-slicker, technology-obsessed family became excited about doing anything outdoors: rafting on the river, rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking the rocky hills, picnicking in the National Parks, sitting and breathing the Utah air.
We became calmer, more grounded and less stressed out.
I felt blessed to be able participate in almost every activity. Since the early 1990’s, I dreamed of rafting and camping on the Colorado River. We only did the rafting part, but it nonetheless felt like a dream come true.
On another day, I was amazed to find myself actually climbing an OUTDOOR rock face, something I never thought I would experience!
From city living, our family is accustomed to signs and fences letting us know where we can go for each activity. You walk on the path, not on the grass. You play in the backyard or playground, but not on private property. You climb at the climbing gym. Buildings are everywhere, limiting where you can toss a Frisbee, catch a ball or watch the sunrise. Fences keep us safely on the right side of danger.
However, in this area of Utah, the entire outdoors feels like a playground, with the rules set by nature rather than humans. We can walk or hike anywhere, while we respect and not trample delicate wildlife. We can ride the rapids but the water will toss our raft while we go with the flow and deal with the outcome. We can stand in one spot and turn around 360 degrees without seeing a manmade structure. We can peer into canyons without a fence to safely hold us.
Though the landscape is breathtaking, the freedom can be frightening. As we watched the boys run and play alongside the Colorado River, I tried to focus on their fun rather than obsess over the potentially precipitous drop into the water. However, when we visited Canyonlands National Park and its canyons, I held the kids tightly while we stood a safe distance from the edge and its steep drop.
Notice my tense look and tight grip on the boys. From our vantage point, we probably missed a more encompassing view but I was not able to stomach the risk of standing on the edge.
On this chemo holiday, I am keenly aware of the contrast between staying safe and living on the edge. When I was initially diagnosed, over six years ago, I was told what to do – what surgery I needed, which drugs I would be taking, how much and for how long – and I followed those instructions. As time passed and I thankfully did better than expected, I sort of entered the Wild West of treatment, where I have more input and freedom around my treatment choices. I discuss chemotherapy dosage and schedule with my doctors. I decide what nausea meds to take. I get to choose when to take a break from treatments.
I have some really good guides to help me make my decisions. I try to remember that, even if this road does not feel well-worn, it has indeed been traveled before and is not fully unchartered territory.
Again, all this freedom can feel scary. When I feel pings and pinches and pains in my abdomen, I worry that I am stepping too close to the edge by taking this break.
But I am here. I remain conscious that a misstep can preclude a big drop and fatal fall, but I remind myself to concentrate on the view and how grateful I am to be part of it. And when I look closely, I can see that life blooms in many places, often where I least expect it.
Love, beauty and blessings,