I just spent a week in Jalisco, Mexico reenacting the last good time I had before my shocking breast cancer diagnosis. I was surprised at how emotional the trip was for me.
Last spring I bonded with a group of people on a tour of premium tequila distilleries. Because I was a stranger to the word “moderation,” my zest for fun and good tequila made it seem even more shocking to my new friends when, two weeks later, I learned I had a very aggressive form of breast cancer.
Of course I stopped drinking immediately, preparing my liver for chemo and other drugs. As the year of my confinement to bed and the sofa wore on, I often daydreamed about my last fun time – wondering if it would be my last, hoping and praying that I would feel good enough by the next trip to go again. All while I was feeling like I would never be able to walk to the mailbox, much yet travel in a foreign country.
Along the way my new tequila buddies visited and sent encouraging emails of support. A few even started a drive that landed me several bottles of a no-longer-produced tequila from one of my favorite distillers, Casa Noble. They were designed to be my incentive to get better so that one day I could enjoy my favorite beverage, albeit in much smaller amounts.
My tequila buddies were just part of a large group of friends and family who have pulled me through this long ordeal. I could hardly wait to see them again in part for the friendships, and in part because it would mark the end of a very long year.
The trip was a success. I took a book anticipating I would spend much of the time resting on the bus since the trip was the first time I had been out of bed all day. I was weepy at times, but their enthusiasm and encouragement kept me going, especially when I was dragging on the second half of the trip.
I learned a lot on the journey, but mostly I learned that there is a universal distain for cancer. The word translates into Spanish exactly. When people called me “senor,” confused by my short hair, I responded with my new phrase “Tuve cancer.” I HAD cancer. Their beautiful responses moved me. I got so many hugs from people I don’t know that I quit counting.
So today I am home suffering, bone weary and exhausted from trying to do too much. But I am happy for so many reasons: I survived the year, and I was reminded that love and support transcend distance, time and even language barriers.