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“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I decided when having coffee with a friend earlier this year as she talked about the summer holiday she had just booked in Spain that I’d had enough of giving into to my Cancer and letting it hold me back it was my turn. As much as I have had some great holidays in the UK, this year no more unreliable weather, no caravans, no self-catering packing the car full with half the house, we needed to travel further than the UK, somewhere hot. Our weekend away in Whitstable staying in a gorgeous chalet on Seasalter beach turns out gave us just the taste we needed we had managed to book one of very few heatwave weekends this year, sitting on our deck with friends overlooking the beach into the warm evening, watching the sunset with a bbq for our dinner we needed more of this. Last time I went abroad on holiday my daughter was 8 months old she is now 12, years of not being allowed to fly due to treatments and higher risks of complications from Breast Cancer has taken its toll. I’d like a Facebook worthy foreign holiday, proud to show off my photos of gorgeous sunsets, sunshine, warm evenings, eating outside, relaxing in the pool. Something about making wonderful memories and a luxurious treat and true escape from all the dramas and stresses in my life back in the UK.

“Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved”

Winnie the Pooh

This year I have been lucky to start the clinical trial my oncologist spent all last year fighting for, its a new type of gene therapy called a parp inhibitor targeted at those with a double positive secondary Breast Cancer and BRCA2 mutation. It has different side effects to the other chemotherapy drugs I’ve taken, I am still high risk of blood clots like previous drug treatments but not quite as much, flying now more an option than previously.  CT Scans have so far remained stable so this gave me the green light I needed, time to hit the internet. Where to go was easy I’ve had a wish list for years, so I booked myself and my daughter 10 days in a gorgeous hotel in Croatia, staying in Rovinj, a place one of the school mums has been recommending for literally years and top of my list.

I started from scratch, with nothing for a holiday abroad, if it still fitted it was horribly dated, or it had disintegrated to dust in the loft not being used for so long.  I started with a new smart suitcase with four wheels, then a pair of shorts, sandals, beach towel, and off to Superdrug to buy a factor 30, 50 sun tan cream, an aftersun, job done, or so I thought! I discovered the sunscreen, ‘Chemical or Mineral?’ debate. Having Cancer has made me far more aware of the ingredients in products and the affects they can have on your body, I try to avoid synthetic chemicals where I can and go organic, gradually replacing my shampoo, soap, washing up liquid and I now buy organic milk.  It seems the contents of sunscreen are now being questioned too the subject is even more complicated than finding a flattering Bikini?? Controversial ingredients such as avobenzone and oxybenzone a synthetic oestrogen that penetrates the skin and can disrupt the hormone system, a definite no for me.

Factor 50 is always difficult to apply, the Mineral sunscreen, described as a more natural solution with safer content such as titanium dioxide, was no exception it went on like white tar! looking like a ghost, is not a good look. Chemical sunscreen felt more familiar, easier to apply, safer somehow but the ingredients are a bit alarming and I can’t afford to take any risks, especially judging by the bottles of it I would be covered in on holiday. I opted for a slightly more expensive compromise, a Paraben Free, Broad Spectrum which ensures high UVA and UVB cover, Chemical sunscreen. Turns out even using my overly researched high factor sunscreen the skin on my arm still developed an allergic reaction to the sun, just in case for a few moments on holiday I forgot about the C word. Add in the very attractive surgical stockings for our flight in a slightly forgiving nude colour and all the ‘just in case‘ clothes, medication and the hair straighteners my daughter cannot survive a day without and my suitcase was full.

The alarm went off at silly o clock and we fell out of bed into my dads car with our cases for the airport even blurry eyes I still had room for a little adrenaline. The security guards face when he opened my hand luggage at the airport security was priceless he would of been less shocked to see a large meat cleaver. Morphine.. injections.. boxes of tablets filling most of my rucksack the poor guy didn’t know where to look 😂😂 when I showed him my Oncologists letter and explained I had Cancer in my spine he closed the rucksack hurriedly to make a nice joke about my face looking better without my hat. There are few advantages in my world but not having to stand in airport queues was a good one to discover.

A short flight and that moment soon came when the plane doors opened and the heat hit our faces and we knew our holiday had started, it’s silly but its a feel I have dreamed about a long time. Sitting in the back of our taxi heading for our hotel driving down wider emptier motorways with different language signs above our heads, looking out the window at the Croatian countryside and local buildings, the roads lined with mediterranean ‘Oleander‘ bushes covered in hot pink flowers. We were all ready to discover our new home for the next ten days.

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Cancer wasn’t too much of an issue on holiday, mainly because I didn’t do much, the heatwave ensuring we did less during the day and relaxed. It mean’t more taxis than usual, laying on a sunbed with our ice creams and soaking in the sun, enjoying the warm crystal clear sea, not cooking a single meal or having to think about chores, looking at gorgeous sunsets and no hospital appointments, it was definitely what the doctored ordered. It was not a sandy beach but us and many others had come fully prepared with our aqua shoes, great for my daughter who has now decided on a phobia of anything in the sea. The hotel was excellent, scenery stunning and food gorgeous, grilled fish, fresh pizzas and not an english fry up in sight, we took pictures of it all even the funny moth with bunny ears on our hotel room wall. My daughter happily spent as much time as she could in the pool with her new gang of German and Croatian friends and the Primark flamingo which it turns out has travelled very well this summer on many other family holidays along with its Unicorn cousin. I read my book under the huge trees that surrounded our pool part of the 100 year old pine forest next door.. Rovinj is a beautiful place, only a handful of hotels along the large bay front surrounded by the forest discovered by walking along the limestone tiled promenade past the marina and on to the old town which sits at the end of the bay on a mount of its own topped by the Clock Tower. Walking in the evening through the cobbled streets of the old town in and out of the independent gift shops for my daughter to spend her pocket money was just how it should be.

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A record heatwave with temperatures of 42 degrees last seen in 1981 ensured drama found us even on holiday, getting off the ferry from Katarina Island back in Rovinj there was a little lightning in the distance. Within a few minutes of our feet touching the ground strong winds suddenly arrived, and we saw the locals running down the street, we did the same and quickly fell into the nearest restaurant as an intense tropical storm hit, hurricane strength winds and rain battered and flooded the restaurant for about 45 mins. Like a scene from the Wizard of Oz we expected to come back up the stairs from our hiding place to see the restaurant gone. Scattered chairs, trees down, branches all over the promenade the heatwave had broken. Returning to our hotel we arrived to pick up my daughters bikini and find my shirt on the floor blown down by the storm from our fourth floor balcony, left there to dry out in the sun…

Laying back in my own bed happily shattered the holiday was over so quickly I could easily have dreamt it all. Our first morning back and torrential rain hits the windows outside and we know we are back in the uk. We had an amazing time and it was a much needed break from our everyday life and cancer treatments for both myself and my daughter to spend time together. Appreciating every small part so much more because it has been denied to us for so long and making amazing memories is so important.

We have some great times to remember and fantastic photos which of course my daughter will claim responsibility for even though a lot she appears to star in. Over 60 likes and several lovely comments on Facebook, and that completes mission holiday sun until next year

I hope you’ve all had a great summer too

Lots of Love

Angela

xx

 

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