As we know, having a chronic illness sucks. Just because it sucks doesn’t mean we still can’t have fun. One of my favorite articles I came across is I Won’t Apologize For Having Fun While Chronically Ill. This article emphasizes the importance of not feeling shame when you continue to live your life while having illness.
When I was recovering from chemo and living with Depression, Anxiety, Chronic Pain, and undiagnosed Celiac Disease, I wasn’t about to sit at home all day and feel bad. I wasn’t working because of my physical stamina, anxiety, and remaining side effects from having cancer. This didn’t mean I had to feel guilty because I didn’t have a “normal life”. I saw it as an opportunity to enjoy my life at my pace doing what I was comfortable doing. One of my favorite things to do is travel. The day after my last chemo, I hit the road. Obviously, I had to have the permission of my oncologist and I wasn’t exactly going hard.
My first trip was with my awesome sister. It was summer and my relatives live on a lake during that time. It is a peaceful place to be where I could do as much or as little as I wanted. I wasn’t allowed to go in the lake because my immune system was so low and so was my blood cell count. My sister was very understanding about having to take a few extra steps and precautions. We had a lot of laughs while she wheeled me through the airport and waited for me when I was tired and moving slowly. When I got to the lake, I spent most of my time in the shade watching the activity in the lake. I love the water and just being near it made me content. I knew that the way I would heal would be going to visit my friends and family and relax and enjoy my time.
My next trip had been planned for 2 years. I went to an Up with People reunion at Disney World. I shared a hotel room with one of my closest friends who I hadn’t seen in years. While I needed time to rest, I also needed to be with friends, go on adventures, and make memories.
Next, I went to Florida to spend time with my dad and his girlfriend. That year, I took 3 trips to see them. They live in a community that has more fun things to do than I can count. I spent my days working out in the pool, visiting with the neighbors, going to the town square to watch live music and dancing, enjoying movies, resting, and driving around in a golf cart. There was no pressure to be at a certain pace. Some days I had energy and other days I couldn’t do much besides rest.
After going to Florida for the first time, I went to Hawaii to attend a surf camp with 20 other young adult cancer survivors. I made lifelong friends, tried new things, ate amazing food, slept under the stars, and consumed endless amounts of shave ice. Not only did I go on that adventure, but in the 1.5 years since that trip, I have had 5 friends that I met come to visit me here in Colorado.
Between trips to Florida, I went to see my friends in Virgina for an annual holiday weekend. It was fun and exhausting to have a whole weekend of events. My friends were understanding and didn’t give me a hard time about my lower energy levels.
While making the rounds, I went to Sedona, Arizona 2 times. I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law both before and after they had their new baby- my first niece.
Another fun- filled vacation was going to my friend’s destination wedding in Mexico. It was an awesome time to reconnect with friends, have fun near the ocean, laugh a ton, dance, eat good food, and celebrate love.
I have had some local adventures- a yoga retreat, a weekend at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, SO MANY weekends with my amazing mother, and countless visits from friends and family from all over the globe.
I already have 3 trips planned for the next few months. I will go to another surf camp for young adult cancer survivors, a retreat in Oregon, and back to the lake to see my family.
After seeing all of my adventures, one might think I spent money I didn’t have, I was well enough to go to work, and that it isn’t fair that I get to do so many fun things. Here is the truth: I am the cheapest traveler you have ever met. I make CHOICES for my own wellness. These are choices most of us have. We have different responsibilities, values, opportunities, obligations, dreams, goals, energy levels, and priorities. It is totally ok with me when others follow paths which are different than mine. Most people do. My hope is that people live lives and make choices that are not criticized.
My friends and family are the most valuable people I have. My priority is to spend time with them. Work was always going to be there. It is here now. I have figured out a way to work and still have the lifestyle I desire. While I have moments of guilt about how I spend my time, I don’t have any regrets. That guilt does not remain for long. I am fortunate to live the life I do. It is not all fun and games. I didn’t choose to have chronic illnesses. I choose to be resilient, advocate, educate, work hard, play hard, acknowledge when I need to rest, go to endless appointments, and love and laugh so hard I might burst.
DO THIS: Live a life you love! Don’t apologize, and…