Spring Break with Cancer and Friends

About 4 months ago, I was asked to go on a spring break trip. It wasn’t skiing, it wasn’t hiking, it was 7 days on a cruise ship making stops through the Caribbean. Excited but nervous, I said yes. After all, it would be my first spring break week where a doctor office wasn’t my most visited stop in years. Not even considering the fact that I haven’t allowed myself to be in the sun since my diagnosis 3 years ago, I packed the essential sunscreen and sun hats.

Facing hours in the sun

I didn’t pay much attention to the agenda of the ship nor did I remotely research what it was like to be on a cruise. We arrived in Miami and began to discuss the top things to do on the ship. From making reservations for dinner to planning which day is best to play bingo, it dawned on me that we would have so many hours to just sit in the sun. On a deck. Outside. In the Caribbean.

Staying in the shade

The second day on the cruise was a boat day as we made our way towards Jamaica. Most of the girls were excited to find a chair and lay out for hours. Part of me wanted to be, but inside I was honestly screaming. I couldn’t even remember what a burn beginning to start feels like and now I needed to prevent it. I didn’t want to miss out or try to find things on my own in this huge boat with thousands of strange faces. I moved into the shade for most of the afternoon but even then I felt like I wasn’t relaxing. I promised myself a week where I didn’t let cancer win.

Being cautious and still enjoying life

As the days continued and I consistently applied sunscreen, moved into the shade every 15 minutes, I started to miss the days before where I could nap in the sun without a worry. The last day on the boat I set a timer to reapply, I covered my scar from the sun, and I napped. No longer than 20 minutes, but I napped. (It helped to have friends who were always cautious for me, too). I came home and showed my mom a tan, sun-burn-less skin. I realized that cautious doesn’t have to mean no fun. I won't be trading in my long sleeves and hats for a swim suit any time soon but it doesn’t have to mean I can’t enjoy being 22 with everyone else. It took me 3 years and a week of forced relaxation to feel like I can enjoy living with cancer in the back seat instead of the driver's seat. Officially declaring myself a cruise fanatic.

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