I know the fluorescent lights are making my pale skin look green. “I want to run away,” I thought as I pulled my laptop out while grasping the bar on the right side of the recliner allowing me to move effortlessly from a seated position to a supine one. Feet up, sequined pink flip-flops framing my tattoos, I got situated. I had time to kill. I tuned out the drone of the TV in the corner and turned my attention to my computer screen where I was gazing at the Roaming Gnome. Such a funny little guy I thought. I love those commercials. My kids always make fun of me for that; I’m always planning a trip and hanging out with the gnome. A girls trip to Vegas, a shark dive in the Keys, a second honeymoon in an overwater hut in Bora Bora; at some point each of these places were all part of the master plan. Right now I’m thinking Europe; London, Paris, and Venice making up the ambitious agenda.
I’d traveled when I was just beginning my career in the fashion industry. Then I took several years off to raise my sons and cherish that short time I would be home with them. I always figured there would be plenty of time to travel. To take my kids along with me to experience different cities and cultures. But as always, life got in the way.
Over the years we collected guide books and priced tours. My husband and I deciding it would be more fun to spend our nights in a small boutique hotel rather than a big corporate chain. We each had wish lists of what was most important to us. My husband wanted to study the history. My oldest son wanted to spend time in cafes enjoying the local cuisine. My youngest wanted to experience the music and shops. Me? I wanted to experience all of it through their eyes. But the timing was never right. When we had the means we didn’t have the time. And when we had the time there was never enough money. But I was always hopeful that someday we’d get there.
As I ponder running away I find myself thinking through the logistics. Are our passports up-to-date? What’s the weight limit per suitcase? What are the baggage fees? Can we just hop on the next plane out? Do people even do that in a post-9/11 world? I was delving into the specifics, which I never do. I must really need a break if I’m calculating baggage fees, I muse.
A chill went through me as I adjusted my blanket. I’m fighting sleep. I can’t drift off yet. I open my email and answer messages from my business and personal accounts. I fiddle with my IV line, speeding up the drip as I always do, my nurse shooting me a dirty look. I smile, wave and wiggle my fingers. The sleepiness passes. She comes over to me, looks at my computer and asks, “Where are you going this week?” Ahhh, she knows me too well. I laugh and tell her Europe. She smiles asks me to send her a postcard. She checks my lines, slows my drip down, removes the now sloshy icepacks from my chest and tosses them in the trash. I go back to my daydream. I’m walking through a piazza; my sons and husband just ahead of me. I step into a small shop, the air damp and smelling of leather. I pick up an exceptionally beautiful handbag so unlike anything I could find at home. I feel a hand on my shoulder, the shop owner asking me in Italian if I would like to make a purchase. I turn and feel my eyes open. My nurse is standing over me, “You’re done for now,” she says softly. I must have dozed off. I blink and look around the room. I rub my lashless eyes. As soon as she disconnects me I tease, “I’m going home, packing a bag and running away.” She laughs. “No you’re not,” she states. “Only two treatments left, you can’t leave us now.” Thanks, Nurse Buzzkill.
Even though I want to go I know she’s right. I can’t run away. I have to come back. I have to finish my chemo. I have one last surgery to make me whole again. I have to get back to working on a full time schedule. I have a child to send to college. I have to continue my treatments, be brave, and beat this beast so that the day will come when I’ll be well enough to take my kids on that vacation of a lifetime. But for now, I’ll just hold on tight to my travel dreams.
About the Author: Jennifer Pellechio-Lukowiak is a print and textile colorist, freelance writer, blogger, and author of the book “Does This Outfit Make Me Look Bald? How A Fashionista Fought Breast Cancer With Style.” She has survived breast cancer – twice.
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