Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why We Go Home

Our trip to visit family in upstate NY and VT continued this week. We typically venture east to see family once per year. While I was going through chemotherapy, it became critically important to me to make the trip this year. I wanted to see my family and to physically be able to hug and touch the people I love. I wanted to get away from all of the distractions of our day to day lives so we could just focus on one another. I needed to take care of my soul. 

We spent time at the beach on Lake Champlain. 

We enjoyed spending time with Stephen's family in Clifton Park. We saw his mom, most of his six siblings and their families. There is a special kind of party-like atmosphere when a large family gets together. I always love seeing the cousins on the Smith side running around together, even when they have not seen one another for a year or more. 

This is Stephen and his mom, my Mother-in-law. She is really a great lady and I am fortunate to be a part of their family.

We ran along the Erie Canal. The east coast trails are so different from western trails, but they are beautiful in their own unique way.

We ran around some of the historic sights of Plattsburgh, NY. We ran through the now closed Plattsburgh Air Force base. 

We ran by monuments and historic buildings that I had seen a million times growing up. For some reason, on this trip they seemed both fascinating and beautiful in a whole new way.

We gathered four generations of women from my family together.

We spent time with friends. We saw Bridget and Curtiss. Curtiss is a chef who became passionate about creating healthy and therapeutic recipes for his wife during her cancer treatments. He contacted me during my chemotherapy and shared his experiences and his knowledge with me because he truly cares about other people. I was so happy to be able to see him and Bridget so I could thank him in person. Most of our evening conversation had nothing to do with cancer. However, when we eventually got around to discussing that topic, it was such a comfort to talk with another couple who understands what Stephen and I have been through together this year. As we shared our experiences, it felt reaffirming to be able to say repeatedly, "Yes! I have thought those same exact things!"

Curtiss's website is below. He has a cookbook and recipes available online. It is definitely worth checking out if you or someone you care about has cancer, or if you just love good food.

We had drinks with Karin and Tim. Karin is a lady I have known since sixth grade. She is a fitness instructor who teaches classes at a gym where I once taught a million years ago. Karin inspires so many people to become better, healthier versions of themselves. Her love for teaching fitness is obvious and her desire to bring new classes to her pupils is admirable. We talked about all of the good things in our lives, but it was the conversation about our vulnerabilities that has stayed with me. Thank you, Karin, for sharing both your joys and your concerns with me, and for letting me share mine with you.

There is one last thing I want to address about reunions. When I see someone I have not seen in a long time, I guarantee that I am not thinking about whether that person has gained or lost weight, or whether he or she has aged well, or about any of the other things people tend to worry about. If I want to see someone, it is because I just want to be with that person. Spend time with people who care about you without worrying about superficial stuff that just does not matter. The day may come when there is suddenly no more time, and you will wish you had not been so concerned with things that no one else notices.

When we first arrived in NY, I felt somewhat overwhelmed. I tried hard to put into words what the experience was, but it was difficult. I had wanted for months to go home to my family, and then suddenly when I was there, I felt odd, different, and somehow like I was living in some strange parallel universe. My life over the last ten months has been so completely different than what it had ever been before. My little nuclear family has been consumed with cancer, chemotherapy, illness and cure. Yet coming home has made me realize that everyone else's lives have gone on pretty much as they always have. We are separated by so much distance that there is no way anyone who lives across the country can truly understand our day to day experience. The only thing I could liken it to is when a soldier comes home from a long deployment. I imagine the soldier builds up the reunion in his mind, as does his family. He comes home and tries to communicate some of his experience to the people he loves. People can intellectually understand some of it, but on an emotional level, they just have no comprehension of what the soldier has experienced. There is a disconnect, and both parties know it.

It took me most of the trip to sort these feelings out. I had a conversation on the beach with my sister who told me how relieved she was that I was still me. I had not changed. I was still the same person. On some level, I do feel different. I feel like some things within me have changed. But by the end of my trip, I too realized that I was the same person I had been a year ago. I am still me. While my experiences have changed me in certain ways, I am still essentially the same human being. I needed to see to see myself through the eyes of people who know me well. 

This is why we go home, after all. To rediscover who we are.


  1. I love how you describe the difficulty others can have in relating to what you've been through. I think that is so accurate. I've also had some instances where I've been surprised at how some people could so relate to what the day in and day out of going through Cancer treatments is like. Those people, I think, were all ones who were either Cancer Survivors themselves or very close to one.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Sharon! I appreciate hearing from people, especially when something I write resonated with them!