Under Caribbean Skies

imageI have learned well that happiness is in the little things, the morning sun hitting my face, our kids giggling, holding hands. But it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of paradise layered on top. We had a lovely family week in Jumby Bay, Antigua. Worth 2 flights,especially with the kids at generally good travel ages. I love the moment we step from the over air conditioned airport into the first blast of hot island air. As my foot hits the boat, I know I’m leaving one world behind and entering one of turquoise water, blue skies, island time, and utter relaxation. The kids and their cousins are elated. Mom and Dad have beaten us by a day and are waiting on the dock with big grins. We are happy to be together.
Jumby Bay has lived many lives over the last 500 years (and 3000 years), but has been a gorgeous resort since the 80s, and a Rosewood since 2002. The rooms are airy, Island chic, and bigger than we need. I’m particularly fond of the outdoor tub and the fact that the beach is a mere minute walk away.

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While I missed my waterskiing days, I was delighted to see Mom zipping over the wake and Will getting up for the first time. Creighton and my brother Pete sacrificed their necks and backs tubing with Will, Will cackling as they caught 6ft of air. I didn’t worry about the clock. Will woke us between 8:30-9 everyday, and after a luscious breakfast (kiwi, berries, muesli, croissants, pots of local yogurt) the day took on a simple rhythm of beach walks, swimming, reading. The safety of the island gave th kids ultimate freedom and with their bikes they roamed from beach to pool to lunch to tennis to putting on shows in the room. I loved disappearing into my books, but then getting catch ups with the kids, mom, dad, Pete, Sabrina,and Creighton on walks and at meals. Zero stress. So good.

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Minus my massive scar and weird arm compressor I don’t think anyone would guess I have cancer. I was rested, relaxed, and happy. Pretty easy in that setting! And even though I had to be more measured than in the old days, a few rum punches tasted awfully good. I find the Caribbean magical. There is something about that pristine water, being able to stroll right in and receive the warm hug of the ocean. Rainbows of fish, cooing doves, elegant egrets and rays. Sometimes I feel a desperate pull towards these spots. Our best snorkeling outing took us to Bird Island. A Gorgeous shallow reef between several small, bird filled islands allowed the kids to feel safe and confident as we took in a rainbow of fish, underwater mountains of brilliant orange fire coral, massive brain coral, and ornately branched yellow orange Elkhorn coral. Curious barracuda swam with us,and colorful parrot fish nibbled away obviously. Around the island in a quiet bay, I sipped a nutmeg dusted rum punch and saw an eagle ray catch full air leaping gracefully from the water.

Books:
**The Other Typist: I had to finish it in a day. A suspense novel akin to Gone Girl set in the 1920s. Well developed characters, plenty of mystery, and a fine look at NY in the prohibition era.
**Big little lies: funny and scary due to crisp witty writing offsetting a murder and a sad look at domestic violence set in a posh suburb of Australia. I have thank god never experienced anything of the latter and find it upsetting to read about.
**The Oregon trail: two brothers in their 50s take burros and a covered wAgon across the original Oregon Trail. An interesting look at what the pioneers experienced with solid history about the Amish, Mormons, and settling of the west. Even in 2013 the comforts of modernity couldn’t take away all the hardships of the trail. Also funny to see who helps and hinders their adventure.
**Station 11: a weird apocalyptic one set 20 years post an epidemic that wipes out 99.99% of the population. Intriguing but I didn’t love it, although it did make me worry that I could use more survival skills!!
**Power of the subconscious: a bit out there, but ultimately a thoughtful assessment of the power of the subconscious mind and our amazing ability to channel it to work in our favor. Bottom line: meditate on positive thoughts, put out good energy, appreciate the wisdom of age, keep up an insatiable curiosity, and heal. The one thing I struggle with is that I can do all of this and still die. I think it all comes back to living as well and as kindly and successfully as we can while we are given the chance, and to knowing that we can always change our habits and improve ourselves.

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The last night of the trip the kids excitedly sat us down in their room, served us “cocktails”, and dimmed the lights. Next thing, Jimmy Fallon and Will Farell were belting out “I’ve got my tight pants on!!”. Will and Bebe Reed lip synched, cousin Adam did the same minus his front teeth, and they all danced with beaming smiles. They were delighted with themselves. I was smushed cozily on the couch between mom and Pete and just felt lucky and warm and happy. I tried not to think too much about cancer this week but rather endeavored to be in the moment. I feel the best I have in a year, of course aided by pain meds, but such a far cry from where I was in December. I think back to Christmas Eve when I could barely walk a block and every move hurt with the cancer reaching further into my bones. How remarkable that 12 weeks of intermittent treatment has driven such a dramatic upswing in health and strength. I will take it while I can get it and plan to enjoy a fun series of trips while I’m strong enough to do so. Metastatic cancer is a strange disease. It is, at the beginning, a death sentence, a stark wake up call to mortality. And yet, with the right drug it can feel more like something to just manage. I’m utterly beholden to good medicine. Without it….December. Progression, brittle bones, a terrifying decline. With it, daily miracles in my view with good rest, bone rebuilding, the immune system at its brightest bravely turning away the mutations. I’m hopeful that this run lasts a good long while and the parp inhibitor outsmarts the cancer for years. Let us hope! And let us hope that the speed of new drug discovery accelerates so that I’m here for each new breakthrough. In the meantime I try my best to live optimistically and fully while also striving to become less fearful of death.
I attended an excellent talk at the JCC by Zen Hospice’s BJ Miller who spoke about the evolution of palliative care and the great need in the US to be more accepting of death and to demystify the end. Again, it really comes down to living and loving well while you are here so that when your time comes you can say goodbye with a peaceful mind and a contented soul. I have moments of real serenity on this topic, but I will admit I also still have moments of real fear where my stomach is flipping and I can almost see my hands clinging to the world I know. It does terrify me to think of an early death, of missing out on any years of my kids lives, whatever age. And yet, even now I’m so grateful that I’m here NOW. I have time to say what I think, to give back, to leave some legacies. In this pleasant drug working reprieve, I also get to just BE. For once in my life I don’t have to be graded. Of course life is busy with the kids schedules and the happy busy-ness I put actively into my life and our lives, but I’m allowed to achieve less and let the days come and go a bit more. Somehow that stretches time out a bit.
All in, I’m a lucky girl.
I have my 6wk scan this week and hope to have an update by next week. After 4 weeks on the drug uninterrupted I’m hopeful for a steady report. Give Breast Cancer the Boot will be on Saturday at 6:30pm at the General’s Residence where Franklin street dead ends into Fort Mason. Raising money for my phenomenal doctors at the UCSF Breast Cancer center

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3 thoughts on “Under Caribbean Skies

  1. So wonderful to hear how well things are going.
    If you want a chuckle, ask your parents about what Jim pulled on one of their trips to the Caribbean.
    Had to reread the part about your mom waterskiing, thought I’d read it wrong. Go Jeannie!

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