Sometimes we book them months in advance as something to look forward to, at other times we book last minute to take advantage of a offer.
Some are not far from home. Others a train, plane or boat journey away…some involve staying on said boat for a cruise.
They can be to see family, celebrate an event, have time together…have time alone.
A holiday is different for everyone, even those with you may see it…or even feel…very differently to you.
This week we took an opportunity, a necessary, unplanned week to ourselves. I needed badly to get away for peace of mind, relief and to escape. We needed time together to try to reconnect a little, be us again and do things we used to in a space that wasn’t ours. Somewhere that didn’t include needles, pills, bandages, tests, appointments or procedures.
I make no secret of the fact I’m struggling mentally and emotionally, more so now than during chemo. I feel trapped, scared, stressed, uncertain, un-nerved by life and the expectation of others that I should be a certain way, be better, be positive…be anything other than the bald, tired, crying mess that I am! So I hate to know how my fiancé really is in his head…because we are both SO good at the “I’m fine”, fake a smile, carry on.
So many have said to us that we should have a break either between treatment or after…making it all sound so calm, patient friendly and relaxed. The reality is that between how the last chemo cycle affected me, appointments or the need to be at the hospital for tests, there hasn’t been time. I know once radiotherapy starts we can’t take a day out of it, I’m only allowed a few days respite on top of weekends and Easter takes care of that. Plus once it ends…well I’ve no idea…but I feel as if everyone expects a return to normality straight away on the following Monday, no holes bared and to hell with anything else….busy, busy, busy, do, do, DO!!! Sod the bit where I’m falling to pieces as another ‘new normal’ ends and another has to start. Where I yet again have no idea how to cope and move forward, let alone the fact I’ll need a bit of time to heal.
So it felt like now or never to juggle things and get away. We found a lovely cottage, next to the town wall in Conwy that was cheap enough to cope with the cost of, ideally placed to suit everything going on with my health and big enough to be cosy…it was perfect.
Sunday – Our first full day away and my recovery run was wet and windy but lovely…that windy infact that all I could taste was the salty water being blown at me! It was great to explore somewhere new and apart from three people who I all saw on the bridge, I literally had Conwy to myself for half an hour.
We had a restful morning, taking time out for coffee and chatting.
A walk around the headland to the marina proved how strong the wind was…it blew the sea foam across the golf course like blossom off trees. Lunch was had hidden behind a concrete wall, which must have been a defence point at some time. The journey back was hastened by being pushed back inland by the breeze.
Monday – After small lie in I grabbed the mat for some strength training. I’d aimed on full body but instead concentrated on legs and core, literally due to the fact we’d planned a walk which needed an uphill start. My joints felt stiff and very in need of warming up carefully.
The sun shone but the wind howled as we walked up the hill out of Conwy. I got cold and couldn’t get warmed back up at all. Between that and the strength of the wind I missed being able to explore one hill fort…sending my boy off solo, but managed to explore the other and the old quarry as we walked along the ridge back into Conwy.
We’d not really gone far but a warm cosy seat and a hot chocolate once we got back made me instantly sleepy. We had to go back to the cottage for me to have a nap, I’d started to shut down badly. I did make it back out again…hilariously for a delicious ice cream/sorbet mix which I enjoyed while wandering the quay bird spotting.
Tuesday – 4K run in the rain and so refreshing and relaxing with the sound of water and gulls in the air.
Usually when on holiday it takes me a long time to relax but it felt different this time. After getting back we took the morning at leisure due to the weather, sitting and having breakfast together then taking time to read…it was tranquil and liberating. After a homemade lunch we wandered into town and had a windy walk around the Castle and to the Thomas Telford suspension bridge.
We took afternoon tea in L’s Coffee & Bookshop…a welcome cosy find with a great offer on a hot drink and cake, they’re dog friendly but get busy very quickly.
We finished our day out with another short walk around the town, although I was tired when we got back and in need of sleep, taking things at a steady pace had certainly helped make the day more enjoyable.
Wednesday – A summer in the light and winter in the shade kind of day thanks to Storm Gareth! I started the day with strength training while the rain poured and wind howled, focusing on upper body and core.
We didn’t let the weather stop us for long and instead headed inland.
Sat high above the valley is Dolwyddelan Castle, the views from the top are incredible…although with gale force winds they were limited to a quick look.
Across the road is Tomen Castell mound…which could have been the birthplace of Llewellyn ap Iorwerth so has significant Welsh history, making it even more special to have visited the site.
On the way to Betws-y-Coed we found the Fairy Glen and walked down to see the falls. The steps down are steep but worth the effort for the reward at the bottom!
After a short stop off for afternoon tea, and the acquisition of a some new running gear, in Betws-y-Coed we walked around Llyn Geirionydd. A flatter walk on the lower bank and accessible for all, it’s surprisingly undulating and close to the lake shore on the other side and in parts was flooded, but a fun walk none the less.
I was tired after we arrived back, by the car journey to each place as much as by the physical exertion. I’ve noticed that even though not driving, I pay the same kind of attention and get out feeling drained. I ached badly too, joints and muscles, as if they were telling me of all they’d been doing but also asking for respite. I needed just over an hours sleep in the end…my usual time to be honest, even on an easier day.
Thursday – Needing a bit more sleep I had a lie in until 7am. I’d planned a 4K run route to loop around town and back via the quay but ended up lost, had problems keeping to heart rate and the wind felt like it was battering me. I felt anxious and upset! I eventually found where I needed to be and with only an extra half a kilometre on my run, so I breathed a big sigh of relief.
After a later breakfast we strolled through town, across the bridge and down towards Deganwy along the waterfront. Red shank were running all over, oyster catchers strutting and shell ducks dabbling. The wind was cold and strong for walking in and I was pleased to return to the cottage to have lunch, rest and warm up a little. We spent the afternoon exploring the last few tourist sites, the Information Centre has a lovely display on Welsh history and poetry and the Royal Cambrian Art Gallery is currently showing a local artist. The best find is one of the smallest…Aberconwy house is an old merchant house and one of the three oldest sites in Conwy.
Afternoon tea was taken in Amelies, another little gem I’d definitely recommend. French, rustic, chic and full of charm with friendly staff and homemade cake!
Friday – I didn’t have the best nights sleep. A lot of the time I still sleep like I used to but I still have chemo insomnia nights – you’re that drained and tired that sleep evades you. It was debilitating during chemo and trying to keep going the day after would be extreme hard work. I ended up resetting my alarm for extra sleep.
I felt tired, yawny, but my legs worked really well for a good 3.5K run, my HR steady and only affected by a steep uphill that I was cocky with. Once I got back I felt energised, grabbed water and my mat and did half an hours extra strength training with a full body focus.
We then had a laid back morning of packing and jigsaw finishing before heading back to Amelies for lunch. I’d so wanted to go for fish and chips but even 5 weeks from my last chemo I’m still struggling with the smell of some foods…greasy is still out!
I had another couple of great independent store finds on the way back to the cottage – Issac Simeons Artisan Patisserie for delicate, delicious morsels. Only a few doors down in a small, chic white fronted store is Baravelli chocolatiers. The first people to make chocolate from cocoa bean to bar in Wales and only the third to do so in the UK! I highly recommend their absinthe chocolates.
I had a difficult afternoon and felt very emotional. I felt as if we’d not reconnected as much as I’d have liked…but then we sat and talked it over. It’s silly, and easy, to miss what is actually happening and we’ve had a great time, quality time and a closeness we haven’t managed for months due to cancer. I also felt sad about the need to go home. Tuesdays clinic appointment worries me and then I have a forum in Edinburgh arranged through Breast Cancer Care and I know it will be highly emotive….I shall definitely be taking my running gear for head clearing sessions.
As much as I felt sad at going, I was also looking forward to getting back home….I made a list of productive things to do around the house and garden. Some small, others larger and more time needed but therapeutic. The garden is a must this year for me, last year it got baked thanks to the weather then neglected thanks to cancer, this year I want it to blossom and grow with me as the months pass. I want to make it a beautiful spot to sit and drink tea with a friend, have supper with my beau and lounge in for birdwatching bliss after a long run.
Saturday – Two words ‘Rest Day’ …I notice that some in my running group don’t uphold this as much as others. Depending on your running, if you’re training especially, this can cause problems and make injury a greater risk. A rest day for me is at most a walk and at a good gentle pace, no running or strength training though. Good food and hydration are key as is my friend…the foam roller…we haven’t seen much of each other this week which is naughty of me especially on a cut back week!
Getting home was lovely, as much as going away was needed there’s something about home that feels like you’re being hugged.
Sunday – The eagle eyed runner readers will note the shorter runs this week and today was no different, my long run was 10K as it’s been my cut back week. My overall mileage down from last week by around 20% to give my body time to heal, rest…recovery a little, from all I’ve been asking it to do from a running perspective. Just to make clear this is a hugely necessary part of training for an event so that you’re less likely to over train – not put in for chemo recovery.
The snow was blowing sideways, it rained, it hailed and the wind blew strong. My first hill was a thing of beauty, I was so strong all the way up, kept my foot strike fast and precise and made it to the top proudly. Further on my route I followed an old railway line which slowly went uphill…and I’d not realised it did and between my stride being too long and my breathing not quite right, it started to hurt and I got too warm. When I turned for home I realised what was going on, shortened my stride and lengthened my upper body so I could breath deeper. The last kilometre was face into the wind and it felt like it wanted to push me backwards towards Sheffield! I felt like I’d gone a lot further by the time I finished.
It’s done though and I’ve a lot to learn from it. Now it’s time to recover.
The week has made me realise:
How quickly my hair on my head is growing, I’ve also potentially enough eyelashes for some mascara!
How much more I can physically do before tiring compared to only a few weeks ago.
How much more I can smell and taste.
How much my mouth sores have healed.
How quickly I still get tired.
How draining mental tasks and driving still are.
How much I still need to rest during a day.
How much joint pain and muscle aches I still have.
How fragile my nails are…I last cut my fingernails three weeks ago and there’s still no regrowth.
How dry my skin still is, I have a burn that I’ll be getting checked at clinic on Tuesday as it’s not healing properly. I also still bruise really easily.
How cold I still am…I’ve never been one to feel warm, I like being wrapped up and cosy but thanks to chemo there are days I feel perishingly cold…even during a menopausal hot flush!
How much my digestion has improved but how abnormal it still is.
How odd my tongue feels…I think its regeneration but my tongue feels odd and will be another thing I bring up at clinic on Tuesday.