When I was six years old, my dad died of lung cancer. Naively, It was at that point I, naively, decided that I could save lives by becoming a doctor. Through my medical training and practice, I realized that we, as physicians, primarily help people manage their illnesses rather than fix them. Moreover, I learned that part of treating the whole person is recognizing the psycho-social implications of disease. Let me spell this out in no uncertain terms–your ability to cope with whatever the medical issue is going to be better controlled when you are happy, carefree and on vacation as compared to when you are stressed and depressed. And, I learned, firsthand, that if you sit around waiting for “it” to go away, you may never get to do those things you have been planning.
I got my severe case of wanderlust from my mom. But raising two kids as a single parent on a NYC school teacher’s salary grossly limited her travel budget. With my brother and I grown and gone, my mom planned to travel the world after she retired. But, my mother, a smoker, died less than three years after she retired. never would. Among other things, my mom missed out on her opportunity to travel. Since then, I have been trying to travel for both of us.
As an only child, my husband knew that it was his responsibility to care for his parents. For more than six months, my Alex and I flew back and forth between our medical practices in Louisiana and Southern California every week. But as my mother-in-law, Eva, was losing her battle with metastatic breast cancer and my father-in-law’s dementia progressed, it became apparent that we needed to be with them full-time. Managing the symptoms from Eva’s cancer and her cancer treatment were paramount since we clearly were not going to cure her disease. I heard myself telling Eva the same thing that I have told numerous patients over my 20+ years, as a board-certified pain management physician, “No one controls how long they live, only the quality of life while they are living it.” My mother-in-law passed away peacefully at home three years ago.
Less than a month after Eva’s death, we were at a major cancer hospital to have an “incidental” mass evaluated. Talk about a wake up call. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and decide if you practice own advice. Thankfully, the incidental finding has not changed in the past three years and, hopefully, never will. But, we made the conscious decision that, while we are observing it with periodic tests, we needed to seize the moment and live life to its fullest every day so that there would be no regrets.
The more places we go, the more I want to go. My goal is not simply to check off my travel bucket list but to embrace the people, culture, food, scenery and history of every place I go. I want to share my travel experiences with you!