TRAVELLING AFTER A CANCER DIAGNOSIS - A PERSONAL STORY | Published December 4th, 2021 | Last Updated December 4th, 2021

Ladies hand holding a toy plane on top of a passport and the whole image is faded in pink.

It's been two and a half years since I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The road has been bumpy, winding and sometimes just downright shitty! After a period of shock and denial about the curveball life had hurled at me, I moved on to acceptance. It's taken some time, but I'm finally learning to live in the moment and planning for future travels.

Since releasing crossing5oceans six months ago, I've struggled to find my identity in the sea of solo travel websites. I wondered if there was anything else I could do to benefit other people in my situation that went beyond solo travel advice. This led me to my latest thought; How can I help people who have questions or need inspiration about travelling when they have cancer?

The Beginning

Before I go on, I should probably put things into perspective by giving a little background on my journey so far...

I spent ten blissful years travelling solo around the world, visiting 26 countries. I was carefree and completely addicted to travel and photography.

On May 22nd, 2019, at the age of 46, four simple words, "you have ovarian cancer," altered the course of my life. My ovaries were found to have a 15" x 9" tumour, and I was scheduled for a total hysterectomy on June 6th, 2019.

I had, what was called by my surgeon, a "miraculous" debulking surgery (removing all visible signs of the tumour). I was told it was a miracle that a tumour that size had not spread beyond where it did. In short, this news made me feel invincible.

Despite this success, I still required chemotherapy. It was referred to as "insurance," and its purpose was to eliminate any microscopic cancer cells they may have missed.

Less than a year later, I discovered my so-called insurance policy had some flaws. The cancer came back; it reappeared as four nodules on my now non-existent ovaries, which left me with questions for my doctor. Serious questions! How can ovarian cancer reappear in ovaries that no longer exist? I was irritated, terrified, depressed, and frustrated.

Within a day of receiving this news, my sweet, larger-than-life father passed away. I was struggling on every level. How or what do I process first? How do you work through your emotions in this state?

The grieving process was difficult, but my dad would want me to fight. And fight I have!

Six more rounds of chemotherapy were ordered to try to reduce the nodules. But, unfortunately, a CT scan at the end of the treatment revealed that the largest nodule, measuring 2cm in diameter, had not shrunk at all. I was devastated, but I felt better knowing that I was starting a medication to prevent tumours from growing larger and help people with ovarian cancer live longer lives.

The next step in my journey was to have a double mastectomy. It wasn't enough that I had ovarian cancer; I was also told that because I carry the BRCA1 gene, I had an 85% chance of developing breast cancer.

You know the saying about life giving you lemons? Yeah, well, as far as I was concerned, life could keep its lemons; I wasn't interested in making lemonade. I was too busy focusing on how unfair this was and feeling sorry for myself, but I knew the surgery would relieve my mind and body of the constant stress of developing breast cancer.

I was required to have another CT scan before the mastectomy, and the results showed that the nodules were shrinking; they were half the size they were six months ago most likely due to the medication I was taking.

This is a woohoo, shout-it-from-the-rooftops life moment, but I was in shock and had difficulty processing this excellent news. It was difficult for me to be overjoyed. I had just digested the fact that I would always have at least a 2cm nodule. That was in my head, and I'd gotten used to it, and now the cancer is shrinking?

Take it from me: the emotions you experience while undergoing cancer treatment are seriously messed up! I am now reveling in the fact that the cancer is reducing in size. This is most excellent news, and I'm celebrating it!

After a great deal of planning, doctor's appointments and testing, I went ahead with the surgery. After seven weeks of recovery, I could not be happier with my decision. In one day, they performed a double mastectomy and rebuilt the breasts using tissue and fat from the abdomen. It was an incredible accomplishment, and I'm overjoyed that my risk of breast cancer has been reduced from 85% to 3%...not to mention a new figure to boot!

So, how does this all relate to travel? While I will continue to provide the same helpful content chock-full of travel tips, budgets, and so on. I've decided to document my travel journey as well, hoping that people with cancer will see that they don't have to give up their passion and desire to travel. There will be information regarding travelling with medications, getting blood work in other countries, uplifting anecdotes, inspiration and anything I can do to help pull someone up out of the dark place that cancer can take you.

And that's the story. That bumpy road that I was driving in the past few years seems to be a little less damaged than it was. It seems to be free of road rage and construction. When I look ahead, I see a wide-open highway with no one slowing down the passing lane. If I hit a speed bump along the way, I'll slow down and take it with ease. One thing is certain: the world is my playground. I plan to travel and continue to explore as long as I possibly can, and I'd love to bring you all along for the ride as I document my adventures!

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