Traveling with Cancer

     I am dedicating this blog to my incredible, indispensable, husband, Jon. Our trip to the Galapagos really hammered home how much I rely on him for just about everything. Jon has led me through this jungle called life, and most of the time, with a smile on his face. For the last four and a half years Jon´s words of love and devotion have kept me alive, far longer than I anticipated. He is the one who voluntarily carries my backpack so I have a prayer of ascending the rocky path without falling. He is the one who finds my phone under the bedspread, or in the purse I used last night. Jon, although I know you hate public recognition, I want to thank you, out loud, for driving me down bumpy dirt roads with a bleeding ear. Thanks for lending a hand on a “flat” path, an uphill slope, or stairs without hand railings. Thanks for buckling my sandals so I don´t get too dizzy doing it myself. Without your help I couldn´t function, especially at such a high level. Thank you for all that you do and put up with. I love you forever! Too.

Whoever decided that cancer girl needed to deal with a busted eardrum at her sister´s wedding has a mean streak. They also have a healthy sense of irony. I wasn´t able to drink more than one alcoholic beverage at an all-inclusive, nor get my ear wet in one of the twelve pools at the resort.  Let me back up a little, because last time I left you, I was at my sister´s wedding, on a Costa Rican beach, with an injured ear.

The first thing Jon and I did at Dreams Las Mareas was visit with the resort doctor about my ear.   Besides being good looking, the resort doctor inspired a good deal of confidence. He tried to insert the otoscope (Yes, I looked that up…) in my ear, but there was too much infection and puss for him to see anything. I know: gross, right?! He said the antibiotic drops were not strong enough to fight the infection, so he prescribed some antibiotic pills.   He claimed that, for sure, the horse-sized pills would get rid of the leaking and pain in the ear… and magically, they did.  However, unfortunately, I don´t remember much of my trip to Costa Rica. I know my sister looked beautiful and that she and Dustin got married on the beach. I know I gave a speech at the reception and danced a lot afterwards. I know I nearly stepped on a venomous snake as soon as I entered the country. But, mostly, I just remember the pain radiating from my ear.

As soon as we arrived home, Jon and I drove to Las Condes to have a qualified doctor examine my ear. The doctor at CLC looked inside the ear canal, and showed it up on the TV screen so Jon and I could see too. He removed a lot of wax, and declared that I could snorkel and get my ear wet in the Galapagos. I perused the seven-day itinerary, and decided his declaration was a huge boon. The Galapagos would definitely have been a much different trip without those two stipulations. He also told me he gets ear infections often, and that when he gets back from vacation, he will drain my middle ear of liquid. The ear has been clogged since I first had radiation a few years ago, so maybe that will help me hear out of my right ear again. Yay!

After my ear cleared while I was in Santiago, I immediately swelled up from hemorrhoids. I don´t know if you´ve ever had hemorrhoids, but they are painful, itchy, and in a very private place. That´s why, for most of my life, I thought they were a back injury brought on by lifting heavy objects. Now I understand why they are forbidden from conversation. However, as you know, I don´t shy away from taboo topics on this blog. The hemorrhoid is better now that I have doused it in cream. However, sitting down on a five-hour plane ride to Guayaquil, Ecuador, was a special kind of torture.

I had mentioned to Jon that this trip was going to be different than those of years past, but I didn´t want to actually believe it. I have been struggling for months to acknowledge that I am not getting better. After several boat to cliff transfers, I realized I am going to be dizzy for the rest of my life. There are certain things I will never be able to do again like hike (especially on uneven, rocky, lava paths). As I found out this summer, I have difficulty snorkeling, walking a straight line, spinning when dancing, or exercising of any kind. For an ex-university soccer player, this is difficult to come to terms with. I have always prided myself on my athletic prowess. I can do some of the above activities, at a low level with Jon´s assistance, and, an even lower level, independently. The brain radiation has also affected my language skills and my handwriting. Both are worse than before. Jon agrees with all of the above. Luckily, I still have the ability to grasp the phrases and vocabulary words that distinguish me from other writers.

The steroids have caused a great deal of weight gain, which annoys me to no end. If I have to endure all that is thrown my way, it would be nice to have some modicum of control over my physical appearance. Not luck there, though. Sometimes, after an hour or so of trying, I can make myself look like a non-cancer patient; if I don´t have an hour to spare, I fail in that endeavor. I know that growing older is partly to blame for some of these changes, but it also has to do with my disease, treatment, and the various pills I take on a regular basis.

Alright… enough complaining. Even I am sick of my kvetching. I still am fortunate to do and see many amazing things. Even though I fell three times yesterday, completely bruised and battered my body and pride, I still saw some out-of-this-world wildlife. By the end of our trip I had seen blue-footed boobies, Darwin´s finches, pelicans, many different species of crabs, two Galapagos sharks, dolphins jumping beside our boat, manta rays leaping from the water, the majestic frigate bird, and several different colors of iguanas. How many Metastatic Breast Cancer patients can say they took pictures of the Giant Land Tortoises in the highlands of the Galapagos Islands?

*As soon as my husband is done sorting through and editing the million pictures he took of animals endemic only to the Galapagos, I will share them with you.




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  1. janet mitchell

    Eli, Eli, I’m so glad you got to do all this with Jon. It was so nice to get to spend the time with both of you at the wedding. My family have been talking and we think that maybe you guys, Jon parents, D and Ali, David and Sarah all of us going to Hawaii at Christmas. Just a thought. Not sure Jon’s time off. But we really enjoyed spending time with all of you. Take care and I’m praying everyday for you! Yes we can’t wait to see pictures!


  2. Ellyn and Joe

    Hi Eli,
    Joe and I have read your blog together, and I have come to realize that you and I could be friends if we lived near one another. You write about a world I believe in, and one that I want to be part of. You travelled to the Galapagos! I remember riding a real Galapagos tortoise in New Hampshire when I was a child and they were unprotected–over 60 years ago. The spot was a petting zoo, and how they ever got their hands on the tortoise is beyond me. We think of you all the time, and send our love across the world straight to you! Ellyn Hickey and Joe Broccoli


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