May 29, 2017

It was the view that undid me. I walked into our room and straight to the balcony to peer out at the starlit sky and silhouetted palm trees that danced in the wind. Waves crashed on the shore under my feet.

Pete joined me after dismissing the man who delivered our bags, and as he watched tears silently roll down my face, he admitted that he had fought back the urge to cry several times on the plane.

Why? I asked.

For the same reason you are crying now.

Because I almost died and this may not have been possible?


We stayed out there for several more minutes, just standing and staring in silence, until the heaviness of our long travel day overcame us and we went to bed.


We haven’t been on a real vacation in years. But aren’t you always on vacation? The chorus asks. No, no we are not. It is a rare occasion where we afford ourselves the luxury of several days strung together in which we have no commitments and the freedom to (mostly) unplug from our lives online. We can never entirely disconnect of course, being entrepreneurs and all, but we were committed to making our best effort on this trip. And once we made it to the Dominican Republic and removed ourselves from work and the fuss of settling into our new home, I succumbed to that which I had unknowingly buried: a PTSD-like fallout from the whirl of the last six months, survivor’s guilt, and the knowledge that I am both lucky and not.

To complicate things further, I traded one set of maintenance drugs for another to continue the scorched-earth campaign on my body and any possible remnants of cancer (21 days down in this crusade, 709 to go). My fear of their unknown side effects caused several sleepless nights in anticipation. A couple of tiny new bruises also appeared on my knee and I made a panicked call back to the cancer centre; I pleaded with one of the nurses to look up my latest blood test results and tell me I was okay. (She did, and I am.)

The weight of it all crashed over me as quickly and as forcefully as the waves I faced down everyday on the beach.

(In the beginning, when I was told of my good prognosis, I really honestly thought I would be that person who just bounces back from it all immediately. I thought, rather foolishly, that I would be able to bookend the stress of my cancer when the in-hospital treatment ended. Although, admittedly, I’ve never exactly met anyone who has done that so I am not quite sure they exist. Are they mythical cancer unicorns? I am not sure.)

But instead, for the first few days on the beach in the Dominican, near everything around me became a tearful metaphor infused with significance. The waves, not quite Caribbean green because of the sand that swirled within, relentlessly pounded against me as I challenged them with intention. The undertow tugged at my ankles and threatened to pull me under if my resolve to defeat it did not hold. Every so often a wave would crest the top of my head, knocking me off my feet, the seawater mixing with the salty brine of my tears. I got back up to face the next one.

I cried, again and again, retreating to the room several times a day to do so, wanting to shield Pete from my swings and give him the chance to enjoy the relaxation that I knew he needed as my devoted and tireless caregiver. I also know myself, and I know that solitude is my answer. I require time to internally process everything and to mourn with abandon. I realized by the third day that I just had to take this vacationish for what it was.

As much as I desired a holiday from Cancerland, as much as I wanted to just forget and enjoy myself, I needed this too. I needed to deal with emotion I had not yet tended to. And I did it while bobbing in the water, while sprawled under a patchy whitewashed palapa on the beach in the Samaná Bay, and while in our room, stretched out on the crisp white bedspread alone as the air conditioner hummed. And once even while sitting at the bar on a rainy afternoon; I abruptly cracked open and let a solitary tear escape. The rattle of heavy rain hitting the exposed marble near my feet graciously muffled my whimper.


As our week drew to a close, I began to feel swept clean. I let myself tumble in the waves and laugh at them. I encouraged deep discussions with Pete on how this experience has changed us and what our future looks like, and I did it (mostly) without dissolving in grief.

I’m not done with the misery yet, I am sure, but I feel closer and somewhat restored. This is not what I thought our vacation would look like, but this is also not what I thought our life would look like. I am slowly beginning to accept that.

P.S. I promise another (more travel-y) blog post coming soon about our trip to Dominican Republic.


  1. Wow. Just… wow. A very powerful post that goes to show that with any tragedy or hard time, there is follow up impact that must be respected. Glad for both of you that you got some vacation(ish) time to process in peace. Take care.

  2. I’m so glad you guys were able to take this time for yourselves, even if it wasn’t what you expected, it sounded so healing and a part of your journey. Sending much love!

  3. Your writing is so beautiful I am sitting here all teary eyed. Thank you for not being afraid to share your inner most thoughts with your devoted readers. Am so hoping you are well on your way to the other side of this experience.

  4. I pray for the day you No longer have to take Any medications at all Dade and soon that day will come.
    ?Relax, Refuel, Rejuvenate. ? You deserve nothing less. And don’t ever doubt that because you do.
    Love you so much

  5. Ah, dear. Thank you for writing such a personal, revealing post. PTSD indeed. My heart went out to you and I’m happy you were able to have some healing in the end. What a wonderful man you have by your side.


  6. It sounds like the tranquility of your vacation(ish) gave you a chance to process the healing part of your journey. Powerful. Take Care. So much love.

  7. I think though this did not feel vacation-y, it did serve a very real and important purpose. I think we have to travel through grief to get to the other side. You needed to deal with those feelings and sometimes it takes a change of venue to be able to. I am so glad you are doing better and I love your posts even if they aren’t travel-y.

  8. I know it’s a tough thing to deal with and it will continue to be an emotional roller coaster, but I also know you will adjust and heal. This was beautiful, and sad and hopeful at the same time. Thanks, as always, for sharing such a raw and vulnerable piece of yourself.

  9. A beautiful post. I hope writing helped with the healing as well. Wishing you the best of luck with the long journey ahead.

  10. Thanks again for sharing your deep true feelings about this journey you are on and it is a journey. It’s so hard to be ok all the time. Glad you both had time to grieve and check in with each other. What’s the saying, “We make plans and God laughs”. Continue to heal, it is a process and love each other.
    Thank you for your very good writing and check in….

  11. Be grateful for your tears. A cancer diagnosis changes the lives of everyone connected. You are allowed to grieve, to let go of what was because now you have room to look forward to what is coming in the future. You are allowed to cry, to reduce the stress, to be wary of the future, but try to remember this is a new beginning. All things come to an end but an ending always suggests a new beginning.. The one thing cancer does is change our priorities. We learn the value of loving more, laughing much
    much and to treasure each day. A person with cancer sees their mortality but that is the very reason to move forward with joy. Yesterday is the history, tomorrow is a mystery and that is why we call today the present. Take gentle care of yourself. Love you guys

  12. This is the most beautiful, heartfelt thing I’ve read today, Dalene. Much love to you both, and hope the days ahead are less vacationish and more adventurish. x

  13. Thank you for sharing your feelings on this journey. This has really opened my eyes to understanding what you and others are going through.
    Wishing you peace and good health.

  14. It’s not surprising that you would have such a reaction. Glad you did in a way. Healthier that way to feel it and move on instead of repression. The piece was eloquent and heartfelt. You have a gift. Wishing all good things as you recover. xo

  15. Thank you for letting all of us follow on your journey. I am so relieved that you’re on the upswing, even though the challenges are not yet over. My husband and I have been nomads for a few years now – thanks in part to your website – and fortunately had the flexibility to help out during my father-in-law’s losing fight with liver cancer. We learned so much through those ups and downs, and like you, will look at our chance to see the ocean forever in a new light. Thinking of you and cheering you onward!

  16. I am sad to hear of all the feels you felt on your vacationish, and I’m sad there is no mythical cancer unicorn – although I pictured one in my mind and I think I know what it might look like. Still, there is beauty and peace in allowing yourself to feel all the feels. I salute you for naming the feelings and letting them in, and out. While I can’t understand, you gave me a glimpse by describing it so vividly. Thinking of you always,

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