Once upon a time, there was an excellent plan, simple in its execution, adventurous in its aim and oh so enticingly in reach.
It went something like this: I’d resign into a mix of consulting and part time retirement and so, unencumbered by daily obligations, we’d take off for an extended European adventure, almost five months vs our usual three, and best of all, we’d start our travels celebrating a much longed for family wedding on the shores of Lake Como at the endlessly glamorous Hotel D’Este.
Simple right? In the year I “retired”, our 30th wedding anniversary and Chris’ 70th, it would be a celebratory champagne start to travel. I will admit to a wee sense of smug satisfaction in a sound plan about to be well executed.
Here’s what actually went down, as they say.
Flights, accommodation, hire cars are booked and paid for. Wedding outfits are carefully selected, our Melbourne lives are neatly shelved in anticipation of a longer absence. Chris is completely packed, my suitcases are brought down, awaiting action. I resign, my last week is filled with celebrations – happy and sad moments as befits leaving a job that kept my focus and dedication for over 10 years. On my last Friday, having said all my goodbyes, I walk away with anticipation, into a bright new, if a little scary, future. We’re due to fly out on Tuesday, the wedding is on the following Friday.
So far so good.
Saturday early afternoon sees me seated at the hairdresser – glamorous settings demand glamorous hair, what’s a girl to do other than oblige? And then I get a call: Chris, at the doctor’s on an unrelated matter, has just been told that he can’t travel, our plans have to be shelved pending an investigation into 2 lesions on his lung that were, by sheer accident, discovered on a scan. While I endure another 3 hours in the hairdresser’s chair, totally numb at what this finding might mean, he’s at home, breaking the news to family and starting the huge process of unpicking our plans.
Instead of jetting off to a joyous celebration, the next 9 days are spent in hospitals and specialists’ offices. Each day a different set of tests are run. Each time someone asked if he ever smoked, and they all asked, something inside me died.
There was much debate, if the news was bad, whether these were primary tumours or terrifyingly, perhaps secondary and therefore potentially too late for effective treatment.
Our family, valiantly, kept us by their side with a live feed of wedding celebrations. These were a much appreciated ray of light in a very dark time. Friends and family rallied in comfort and support. My mind, whilst it raced ahead, analysing all possible outcomes, resolutely refused to accept anything other than a positive outcome. Chris meanwhile was planning for the worst and stoically pushing through.
The tests culminated with, on consecutive days, a radioactive full body scan, a lung biopsy, then the last day, when the verdict on our future would be delivered.
Miraculously, all tests came back negative. For an ex smoker of some 40 years, Chris dodged a bullet there. One life lost. The tumours were benign, a harmless collection of misplaced cells that required no further treatment. And once again, I can breathe. There’s a bottle of Dom Perignon put down that’s been waiting for a worthwhile occasion. This qualifies, hands down. Joy abounds in breaking the news to everyone.
There’s nothing that can be done in missing the wedding, but our trip is back on. Direct to London as opposed to the original Milan/Lake Como start. Suitcases are repacked (I had to put mine away – it mocked me each time I passed), flights, accommodation and cars are re-booked in record time.
Albeit two weeks late, and a little bruised and battered, we’re finally on our way. Sitting in the Qantas lounge seems an impossible reality.
There’s one more thing. If there’s someone you love, or even if you’d just rather ride our little rotating blue planet with them in your proximity, and they smoke….slap that cigarette out of their hand, nag them into oblivion, sit on them if you have to. But make them stop. No-one should have to go through those 9 days whilst their life hangs at the edge of a precipice.