Breast Cancer Survivor: I’ll Always Have Paris

My partner and I just got back from a week in Paris. A friend offered us the use of her apartment in the Fifth Arrondissement. Once we'd bought our plane tickets, the trip was free.

Yes, Paris was beautiful. There was the pleasure of seeing Notre Dame, St. Sulpide, the market at Bastille, the Musee d'Orsay, Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. And drinking wine that was cheaper than (fancy French) water. And eating the lovely (heart-attack) food. And reuniting with expat friends.

There was also freedom: From our aging, scooting, retching, eating-disordered cats (our daughter took care of them for us). And from robo-calls, which have seized control of our landline. And from work.

There was an additional freedom as well: the freedom from my medical tether. I am lucky enough to be done with surgery and chemo and radiation. But like many women who've had breast cancer, I've found that the burden of the disease is as much emotional as physical. And the emotional aspect can take longer to heal.

For me, fear of flying was a symptom of the emotional side of cancer. I wasn't afraid of planes or altitude. I was afraid of being flying distance away from my medical team. It's not that I saw my doctors all that often, but I took comfort in knowing that I could see them if I felt a lump or raised a rash or ached in a new place. I had to steel myself to go on vacation in Maine or to visit my elderly parents in San Francisco. I went, but the anxiety was greater than the joy. And there was deep relief when I returned and was once again a subway ride away from help.

Paris was different. It was a no-brainer. No brain cells were sacrificed in making the decision to go. No brain cells were wasted in planning for what-ifs. No brain cells went into worrying about the copious wine I drank or the rich food I ate. My experience was all about Paris and not at all about cancer.

More than seven years after my diagnosis, this was a first for me. But I'm hoping it won't be a last.