We made it back from our Europe trip! Well, nearly, I’m still in Seattle receiving chemo. But we are back to the states and kind of sad but also we were kind of ready to be home.
I tried to keep you all kind of in the loop via Facebook so I know that you guys know that we had a wonderful and exciting time! It was such a blessing and we had so many cool experiences and we got to see some really amazing sights, and the time we got to spend together was much needed after a year of spending so much time apart. So I’m not really going to go into detail about the trip as far as all that we got to do and see. At least not right here right now! But I do want to thank all the people who were so generous in giving to our trip and giving advice and prayers and all that good stuff!
It’s amazing to me how misleading social media can be. We can really make something seem like it’s totally fine, or make it seem like we are the happiest we’ve ever been. I’m so curious how much goes on behind the mask of a cute photo and a clever caption. Well because I’ve been totally transparent with you all throughout my journey, I want to lift the mask off our Europe trip and tell you about the not so glamorous side. The side that I was frustrated by, heartbroken by, saddened by, and the side that I wanted to escape from so bad. The cancer side.
Yes, it’s true, even a seemingly perfect trip to paradise will not allow you to escape the frustrations of suffering. It can often seem that way, you know like in movies when the dying people make a bucket list, drain their bank accounts, and live out their days in paradise. Seems like a very tempting idea and I will admit, I wondered if Europe would be that for me. Unfortunately the movie version of dying and the real life version are very different, so I’ll share with you what it’s really like. (keep in mind that I really DID have fun and I really had some wonderful experiences and I’m not making this to complain in any way, I’m simply allowing you behind the mask to see the truth)
The first couple days in Athens I had a burst of adrenaline and energy and was able to start off with a 4 hour walking tour. I had this false sense of, “Wow I can conquer anything, look at me go.” I really started forgetting about being sick as I gazed upon the sights like the Acropolis and Mars Hill and as I blended in amongst the tourist crowd. My tumors were giving me a little pain but they weren’t too big and they were still easily concealed with a bit of makeup.
The first day In Thessaloniki I woke up to an exhaustion like I’ve never felt before. My body felt like it was full of sand and my mind was cloudy. I could hardly function and I lay there wondering if I could even do anything that we had planned for the day. I also noticed that my left ear had officially gone deaf thanks to the tumor pressing up against my ear drum. Thankfully my husband is gracious and knows me so well because he insisted that I rest. It was a humbling moment for me, resting in Europe!? No way did I want to do that. I had a plan, I had a list, and being sick was not welcomed there. It was necessary though and I knew that. We were able to spend the next day at a beautiful island and enjoy some wonderful food.
In Paris I started to experience some pain in my rib cage. It was a new pain to me but not one that could be ignored. It was sharp and made it hard for me to walk around without taking a break. As we made the trek from train to train to bus to sight to flat I would feel weaker and weaker. That’s when I really started losing sleep. I would go to bed at night to be woken up my extreme pain in my face tumor and rib cage. It kind of alternated so that I couldn’t win. I would sleep for an hour and be up for 3. Pain meds did little for me and my poor Husband did everything he could to help soothe me to sleep, resulting in sleep loss of his own. I was so low on energy that Adam had to push me in a wheelchair around the Louvre. It was disheartening, and it affected my energy, my perspective, my positivity, and my “paradise vacation.”
By the time we made it to Nice my tumors started rearing their ugly heads, amongst all the other issues I was experiencing. I had about 4 new ones, and my older tumors started to quickly grow and become an angry red shade. That was difficult not only because of the pain and the side effects they bring, but because Europeans are the WORST about staring! My goodness the gawks that I got made me feel like a circus or a zoo creature. And the worst thing is, even when you make eye contact back, they still stare! They don’t even try to break your gaze or try to go, “Oops she caught me staring.” It was actually mortifying and it made me not want to go anywhere. I eventually got back to my roots and ended up taking it a step further by not wearing my wig, haters gonna hate right?
So our trip down the French Riveria was much easier because we had a car, so that was a nice break for my energy. But as my tumors got bigger I was experiencing new side effects. One of those being not being able to swallow. We were driving from one French Village to the next, when I went to take my ibuprofen pill and it got stuck. It got stuck and as it dissolved it started burning. This is NOT how I pictured our paradise stroll through the French countryside. Before I knew it we were pulled over so I could make myself throw the pill up. I leaned over to puke with the view of France blurred through the tears of my frustration.
I spent the rest of our trip staying up almost all night from the pain in my tumors and rib cage, unable to catch a break. I would just sit up and cry and try to let Adam at least get some rest. The tumors continued to grow and spread, making my face numb, making my eye protrude, pinching my throat and moving my nose. So there you have the not so glamorous side of Europe, the unmasking, the truth. The truth as I found out is that I can’t escape this cancer.
But what element did the suffering bring to my trip that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise? It helped me realize that if life is supposed to be centered around me and my happiness and my wants and my bucket list, it will fall short. I had my paradise vacation all planned out, and nothing went as planned, and if it were all about me then that would have been one of the most devastating trips ever. But because of my suffering I was reminded that it’s not all about me, and it forced me to think more deeply about what it is about. So instead of trying to find identity in being the most fashion forward person in Paris, or trying to be so cool for getting to be in Greece, or for living my Notebook moment in the French Riviera, I was able to focus on the quality time I had with my husband. Yes even the middle of the night crying sessions, or getting lost in the Louvre because there is no wheelchair lift. I was also able to focus on the majesty of God’s creation through the intricate design of the Notre Dame or the clear blue waters in Greece. I also realized that instead of rushing to fulfill a bucket list, or spending my last moments at the most beautiful places on Earth, I just want to be home. My bucket list is spending as much time with my loved ones as I can. My bucket list is experiencing the richness of relationships and leaving behind memories with them. My bucket list is allowing God to use me in these times and experiencing his wonder through the beauty of creation and beauty of community.