Sobering Reality & Elixir of a Travel Goal

Every now and then Reality likes to hit me over the head as I plug along in my surreal charmed life.

I am no fool – I fully realize how lucky I am to be doing what I love, travelling the globe and writing about it. I may occasionally moan about the trivial obstacles or the daily aches and pains and fatigue I’ve acclimated to as I live a life with fibromyalgia. But I am lucky and blessed. Not everyone has the time, money, or support of a patient and understanding husband to do this, to pick up their pack and hit the road, hoping to get by on the talents and grit of their pluck and pen and passion to experience the world.

But just when I think everything is coming up roses…WHAM.

I’ve been walloped by that cold, brick wall of reality.

Living with a chronic medical condition is a tightrope act, especially when you’re often on the road, far from home, the familiar routine, and the advice of your doctor. I always see my doctor between trips to catch up on life, my health routine, and the next round of immunizations. Usually it’s a comforting experience, as minor issues are handled and I skip out towards the next far-flung destination with her blessings.

This time was different. During the customary annual physical exam, as my doctor probed around my stomach and I chattered on about my next writing project,  she suddenly asks, “Has anyone in your family ever had an abdominal aortic aneurysm?”

Um, what?

Apparently Marfan’s Syndrome is still a specter rearing its head from back when I ran the gauntlet of medical tests, multiple hypothesizes, poking, prodding, and doctors and I was finally diagnosed with fibro. I fit a bunch of the criteria for Marfan’s, yet never enough to conclusively diagnosis me with a yay or nay. So when my doctor noticed something about my stomach, her alarm bell triggered. In that calm, friendly way I love about her.

It’s probably nothing, just a slight bulge, but it’s enough for my doctor to order an abdominal ultrasound to rule out that I am developing an aortic aneurysm, something those with Marfan’s often develop. Her concern is my next project – travelling the United States and Canada by public transportation, which will have me on the road for at least three months, probably more, and hiking in a slew of national parks. If something were to develop, it could quickly lead to a life-threatening situation requiring surgery.

Thanks Reality. I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically (at least, not totally dripping with sarcasm, just a soothing side dish to allay my fear.) I’m reminded of why I started travelling in the first place, despite doubt about how I would manage my health on the road or the fear something medically major might hit while I was far off the beaten path in Greenland or Thailand.

I travel and live in other places, cultures, continents because it inspires me to keep taking it each day at a time, to push myself out of bed, through the pain, through the fatigue, through the doubt, fear, and naysayers of my own inner voice and the society around me.

I travel because the world is my teacher, as if the pages of a book or the music of a folk CD have sprung to tangible form around me. I travel because I meet everyday heroes where I least expect them and kindred spirits who turn into lifelong friends. I travel because it feeds my body, heart, and soul in a way no doctor or medicine ever can.

Now here’s hoping the ultrasound brings good news.


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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