Survivor Stories Travel Is Part of My Recovery Plan

Bisa MylesBisa at Three Sisters in Blue Mountains. Before I had ever taken my first trip, I knew I loved travel. As an adult, I’ve managed to go on at least one solo trip a year. Less than two months after returning from a three-week-long trip to Thailand and Bali in 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 41.

I had promised my primary care physician before I left that I would get my annual mammogram when I returned. What I had thought would be a routine test turned into a diagnosis that changed everything – stage II triple negative breast cancer. 

I was determined to not let cancer halt my plans to travel. To prepare for chemotherapy, I spent the weekend in downtown Chicago. Even though I live less than 45 minutes away, the quick weekend trip gave me an opportunity to mentally prepare myself for the months ahead. Traveling, no matter how far or near, helps me focus. I call it my therapy.

Bisa at Sydney Harbor BridgeAfter eight rounds of chemotherapy and a lumpectomy, I rewarded myself with a weeklong trip to Florida to stay with relatives. I had to go somewhere. I had to feel like I was in control of something. Travel was the only way I knew how. And, as a single, full-time working parent raising three teenage girls, I desperately needed a break. I spent the week sleeping in and lounging by the pool.

In March, I came across an unbelievable flight deal to Sydney, Australia. I could fly roundtrip from Los Angeles for less than $600. There was no way I was passing that up. 

If you’re going to vacation in Australia, you need more than a week. I decided to take four. I didn’t reveal my plans to many people because I was afraid they would try to talk me out of them. I finished radiation in July. By October, when I was scheduled to jet off to Australia, I would be well on my way to recovering physically.
Traveling, no matter how far or near, helps me focus. I call it my therapy.When I arrived in Sydney, I was surprised by how easy it was to get to the beach. So, I walked on the beach almost daily. It wasn’t until I arrived at the Gold Coast that I experienced my most healing moment. The first morning I was there, I walked to the beach. As I looked out at the ocean, all I could do was cry. I cried, awestruck, as I took in the beauty of God’s creation. I cried because I had finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Australia. I cried because I was ALIVE.

I know not everyone can – or wants to – travel around the world. The objective is to find that one thing that inspires you to carry on through the challenging times. Travel is mine. What’s yours?

Bisa Myles is a breast cancer survivor, writer, and photographer living in Northwest Indiana. She blogs about her travels at MylesToTravel.com. You can find her on social media @mylestotravel.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2017.