Although I haven’t spoken about this, I wanted to share with you my deeply personal experience of travelling over the last two years. Let me first set some context, Yaya and I have been fortunate to visit some incredible places; places that spur me to see, explore, experience and make the most of every opportunity. Our travel has driven me to visit new cities, hike mountains and jump of cliffs, pushing the boundaries of what I would normally do.What I have never spoken about is how cancer has affected my family and ultimately my perspective on traveling over the last two years.
It came as a crashing shock, a phone call in the early evening – it was my Mum. I knew she had been feeling a little unwell for a while and I knew she had been to visit a consultant, but nothing can ever prepare you from hearing that a loved one has cancer. In that moment, it felt as though my life had stopped – everything went slow; I couldn’t speak – it is something you think will never happen, a conversation so surreal that it feels like it’s on TV. After my Mum broke the news, everything was a whirlwind, how can we fight this, who do I need to speak to, how can I get the best help for my Mum, why do I feel I know nothing, Why are there ‘waiting times’, why isn’t treatment happening tomorrow – nothing ever happens quick enough in that situation. It was an incredibly daunting and isolating situation that may resonate with you. It’s horrible.
After a horrendous wait, my Mum was admitted to hospital to have treatment. Everything went well, the doctors, nurses and specialists had been able to tell my mum that she had the ‘all clear’ – now lots of recovery time was needed. During this time, Yaya and I did not travel, but after my mum’s recovery we decided to visit Singapore for five months, a journey that we wanted to take and were thoroughly excited about – so was my mum! However, three months in I had another phone call, from my mum – the cancer had returned and it was much more aggressive and in new areas of her body. In that moment, all I wanted to be was beside my mum, to reassure her, to tell her it will be okay and to make her feel less alone. That is the first time in my life that I truly felt powerless and paralysed by my own fear. Being 6,000 miles away in Singapore was unbearable – when cancer affects someone you love, you stop thinking about yourself, where you visit or posting on snapchat etc. Life dramatically changes.
14 months after my mum’s second cancer diagnosis, after multiple operations, intensive care, months in hospital and more than a years recovery at home, she has been given the ‘all clear’. My mum has been brave, she is still recovering, but now able to move around, walk and leave the house for trips. I know how lucky she is. She was even able to come visit Yaya and me in London not too long ago, when I treated her to see Miss Saigon in the West End, something she had always wanted to see and never able to before. Those experiences are precious and something that means more to me than tagging myself in any destination across the globe. A truly beautiful, highly personal and treasured time that I will never forget.
Going forward I feel elated that my mum is doing so well, it means everything to me. I know how lucky she is and how fortunate I am to be planning a future with my mum, she is very special, but one silver lining did come out of this whole experience. It made me be thankful for and value the people around me and to never, ever take them for granted. It made me want to appreciate every single experience, emotion and day with the people I love. Although my mum can’t really travel too far right now, I know she is proud that I am able to travel and experiencing so much in my life – in fact she tells me almost every day and ‘likes’ each and every photo that I put up on Facebook – even if there are 300 in an album! Thanks Mum 🙂
On a personal level, this whole experience had made me value the fragility of life, something that is far too short and gone far too quickly. Life is after all something that we should all be truly grateful for. Don’t make the mistake that I did of worrying about the little things, take the ‘bull by the horns’ – enjoy each and every moment and do what you love most, with the ones you love. Time with loved ones is never enough and far too precious to be wasting and pondering away.
Cancer is an awful, hideous disease, but out of all the awfulness there can be positives. Being able to appreciate and foster ever stronger relationships with the people you love. Take every opportunity that life throws at you, mistakes might be made, but it adds to our journey which can only ever make our lives richer.