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Adjusting our sails

July 15, 2011

I’m not at all religious, but lately the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” has been coming to mind a lot.

During the planning of this trip, Michael and I had put some thought into what would happen if something went wrong and waylaid our plans. Michael is incredibly optimistic and problem-solving, with a reassuring can-do attitude. Our conclusion was: whatever came up, we would deal with it and get on with our trip as soon as possible.

There are so many things that can affect big plans, and one of them is the serious illness of a family member. Towards the end of May, one month after I posted this quote about adjusting to life’s direction, my dad was diagnosed with a malignant tumor behind his upper jaw.

I was initially devastated. My dad is 74 but physically active and quite healthy. My first reaction was to research and read up on it, so I spent many hours following the initial diagnosis at my dad’s local library. Learning about my dad’s disease helped me feel a little better, if not more in control. I’ve always been afraid of the big C. From what I’ve read, 1/3 of all women and 1/2 of all men will have it at one point in their lives. However, cancer research has come a long way, and survival rates for many cancers are high. The kind of cancer my dad’s got thankfully seems to be slow-growing.The doctors haven’t yet confirmed what the next steps will be, but it’s looking likely that there will be a major surgery to remove the tumor and reconstruct his jaw sometime in August, with a 4- to 6- week recovery period. Examination of the tumor after removal should let us know if my dad needs further treatment.

In a way, it couldn’t have been a better time for my dad to receive this diagnosis. Michael and I had just ended our jobs and were preparing to leave New York. We’ve had the time to come back and forth to Montreal to visit my dad and help him through this stressful period, while prepping to move out of our apartment and New York City. If we were still working right now, we would have the added stress of trying to negotiate time off and cover our rent while we go back and forth for the numerous hospital visits.

We hadn’t planned on spending this much time back in my hometown before our trip; we would have spent about a week here before leaving on a plane to Mexico. Getting the extra quality time with both of my parents has been priceless, despite the intrusion of the big C. Hopefully, when we finally embark on our journey, I’ll have enough of these great memories of laughing, eating, cooking, and hanging out with my dad and my mom to last me through two years of life on the road.

Has anything unplanned ever happened to make you change your course? How did you deal with it?

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