I stopped going on vacation.
Why not? Because the one thing I need a break from- being a spoonie – I didn’t know how to leave behind.
I figured then why go? By the time I did all the work of getting situated away from home? I’d be ready to go home.
Even when I used to travel for work I had to build-in the travel-recovery days. The fuss for even short trips taught me how seldom it was worth it.
My idea of vacation became an overnight stay at local disability-friendly hotel that had bars, room service, a pool or nearby park near a lake, river or friends.
Then my brother had a destination wedding.
Never did the idea of not going enter my mind. It was going to be very expensive and I was only working part time. So I’d save for a year and borrow from other family members.
But I was going. That was that.
My post-treatment recovery was not only not going well? it came with a new diagnosis. What I thought was age catching up to me early was reportedly Rheumatoid Arthritis.
(Still waiting on a diagnosis. I’m told hit might be an even more rare special type of asshatery, still Arthritis. Oh the fun of my 40s. Anyway…)
But to see my brother get married and see all my family and go to a beautiful all-inclusive resort in Mexico?
They didn’t have to ask me twice.
Kicking the Logistics
How in the world to pull this off though?
Handling the expense is a whole other essay.
The thing that worried me more was physically getting there.
I worried about whether they had wheelchair access at the Mexico airport.
I worried if I would last a full day of activities on my brother’s wedding day.
I puzzled over how best to avoid becoming the focus of attention, spoiling his day.
It was also going to be the first time I’d travelled with my parents using a wheelchair.
Both of my parent are… shall we say… retirement age? I wondered how they would handle my wheelchair ride.
i was hoping they’d never have to see me in one with their own eyes, though both of them knew I used one in airports routinely.
Both of them, have at some point, insisted that I do whatever it takes to take care of myself. We have our issues? But I have great parents.
Needn’t have worried. I don’t know what I expected. To disappoint them I guess? They both handled it gracefully.
I was also worried about
- getting to the hotel room,
- getting around the resort,
- using the shower,
- whether they’d have meals my post-cancer taste buds would accept,
- and what to do on day I had to go to eat with the family instead of ordering in.
What do people with canes do in a buffet line? (Spoiler alert: I still do not know! But we worked around it.)
The issues seemed endless. So here’s how I coped.
Having multiple worries wandering around in your mind and bumping into other thoughts, spawning their own creations? It’s too much. I’d get overwhelmed very quickly.
Anxiety and stress are sometimes the difference between sleeping a full night and not sleeping at all.
Or between a hard day and a nearly impossible day.
Or even a mobile day and a stationary one.
So I made lists.
What had to be done at work while i was gone?
What did I need to remember to pack?
What part of my journey included wheelchair access and what didn’t?
Was there going to be a place open at the times I needed to take medicine with food, or would I need to keep fruit handy? Is there a refrigerator in the room?
I had lists of things to check, things to do, questions to ask. I called the airports, the hotels, nearby activities– more than once.
What if I needed emergency medical attention? Could I rely on my insurance? Should I go home or get local care? Which was more feasible and would hurricane season interfere?
There’s so much you can find on the internet these days.
I looked up the resort, gauging the distance between where I thought we’d stay based on what we were paying, and where the food was.
I looked up pictures of the rest rooms.
I asked about accessible rooms.
Everything from the temperature of the locale to the temperature of the pool. Questions like what if I needed medical attention, and what my insurance would cover.
Research not only keeps you informed, it can soothe your anxiety.
When the list was over, anything that couldn’t be addressed on my own, I swallowed my pride and asked my family for help.
For example, for buffet lines, if I felt well enough, I let other adults go while I sat with the kids. one teen stayed behind to carry both my plate and theirs when I went through with some of the kids.
Or if I could make the trip, I went last and if I got stuck, someone got up to help.
Or if it was an eff a buffet type of day, I stayed in the room and order room service, leaving the door cracked if I couldn’t wall back and forth.
The Mental Walkthrough
For a week I recorded all the mandatory things and worst things that happened that week in trying to deal with them.
At the end of that week, I tried to figure out how that same day would play out in Mexico. The mental dress rehearsal was a life saver.
Because I thought through several what-ifs in my head, I was able to be more prepared for the trip as far as what to pack.
And I got an idea of what I couldn’t prepare for – I’d have to figure it out on the fly. Just like in real life.
But having a much smaller “on-the-fly” list helped immensely.
The Spoonie Away Game
By the time it was about three months out from the travel, i knew what I needed, and I knew where to get various types of help.
Now I needed to know how to handle doing the things I did for myself at home, at the resort.
For example, since a few months after treatment, I no longer need to sit down in the shower. But it’s a difficulty climbing in to a regular sized tub on some days.
There are days when my legs simply will not clear the step up and back down into the tub.
At home on those days, I’d have to wipe down with a washcloth instead. (Currently, I’m looking into shower chairs that swivel too.)
But if I had that challenge on my brother’s wedding day? Especially sharing a bathroom with several other family members, there would not be time, and I would want a shower.
Some hotels have accessible bathrooms for just this purpose. As a plus these rooms are often a bit larger at the same rate.
Luckily the way the showers at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos were designed, you just walk in.
There was also a beautiful jacuzzi tub, which I loved since soaking really helps, as does that jet action. However, I never had the time because I spent almost every minute we didn’t have other plans in the pool!
Having Some Fun!
This might sound strange, but I think it’s important to have one specific fun intention for the day, planned for the time when your energy usually peaks. As well as a rest period directly afterward.
For me, any day I get to go swimming, write freely, see the sun rise or set, is a great day. So I planned on doing one of those activities each day.
I lucked out- due to our rooms proximity, I got to go swimming every single day of our trip, except the day we departed. (I saw a sunset after swimming the day before so I wasn’t particularly upset about that.)
By planning fun into the day, and having scheduled rest afterwards, I was often also able to participate in most other activities of the day. This was unexpected, and has taught me about the importance of the work, rest, work pattern I developed in order to pack for my move from Maryland to Texas.
Room service also allowed me to be on a full tank – for the first time in years, I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, all very tasty as well as healthy, prepared to my wishes.
Even the buffet had several cook-to-order stations that I took full advantage of- though with the complication of the cane. We had to sit close and either take several trips or have someone else go back after seeing the selection so I could say what I wanted.
– My Spoonie Life might let me travel after all
To get back to the topic, having this full tank, full meds, and the ability to avoid things I struggled with most, like stairs, helped keep me in the vacation mindset.
So not only was this a successful vacation, it taught me that with enough
- healthy meals
- rest in between tasks
- sleep and
- lowered stress
… I can get a lot more done in my regular day.
And as a bonus? The post-vacation relaxation gave me a full week of adequate spoons. I could feel the stress slowly creeping back in on the third day, but being vacay-relaxed for several days after returning was priceless.
I got a lot done. I was inspired to write. I was also in a great mood – my baby brother, the little angel I’d watched my mother bathe in the sink, was starting a new phase in a happy life.
I love his bride. I love that he’s HAPPY. I love them happy together.
And I’m delighted that I could go, despite my recent circumstances. Which has also taught me that I need to be more active in seeking out the good news from other people I love. Not just to be a better friend and family member, but also because their joy makes me happy too.
Every day back at home won’t be productive, I’m also learning.
I’ll have good days – usually after sleeping a full 8 hours. And I’ll also have days where I don’t get anything done. But I’m learning to embrace those days as healing days.
And count my accomplishments in ways that don’t depend on a belief that my only worth is what I produce.