My dear friend Mel from the blog I Got The Good Cancer (Good cancer, my arse!!!) who has spent a year being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, has had to postpone several holidays to Bali and New Zealand because of her treatment. After three kinds of chemotherapy over twelve months and a stem cell transplant, this time she was steadfast in her decision to take a trip to Bali in August. Nothing was going to stop her. She had had one doctor tell her not to go to Bali, and the head of her treatment team tell her that she should. Before she left she topped up with several units of blood. And like everything that has happened so far in Mel’s “adventure” with “The Hodge”, a big hunk of Mel’s family jumped on board with her. Before she knew it she had over twenty family members on their way to Indonesia.
In the lead up to this trip, across several conversations I had with her, Mel had stated that airfares to Bali were on sale. She is quite effective at sliding ideas into peoples subconscious without them having any recollection. And late one freezing cold, frosty evening, I decided to have a look at just how discounted airfares were. The next thing I remember was holding my credit card and reading my airfare itinerary.
Often the best decisions are the spontaneous ones, as what transpired was the best holiday I have ever had.
Late at night a few minutes from landing, our three year old finally fell asleep on the plane. This turned out to be a very fortunate thing, as we were escorted to the front of excruciatingly long airport customs queues by officials because Mr Cool was carrying a sleeping baby. As it turned out, we were first through customs and first to get our luggage. And as we made our way out of the airport and met our driver amongst a see of drivers holding signs, our threenager woke up and we high fived and laughed about our good fortune. Mel had arranged a sign for us and the driver had done a beautiful job in the writing.
For me, the most special aspect of the whole holiday was being witness to Mel’s family unit. With Mel at the centre of the circle, there with her children, with her Mum who sacrifices so much to be there for Mel and her grandchildren, and her beautiful sister with a penchant for shopping, with her awesomely athletic and gentle natured brother in law, her gorgeous curly haired nephew and ever so quiet niece. And there, was her Dad that stood around silently on the outside of group congregations a bit like a Kalahari elder. His tall lean physique and his silent presence, just lingering there in the background. And then there were the aunties (which are technically second cousins) the vivacious, hilarious women full of spirit and love. And some of their family connections, children and a husband. And the bubbly best life long friend of Mel’s Mum. Unfortunately we had just missed Mel’s older brother and sister in law and their kids who left Denpasar just as we arrived.
Being witness to this kind of family unit was quite the privilege. It’s the closest thing to a traditional indigenous family unit I think I have ever experienced in this modern world. A real tribe of sorts. There is no denying that this family is a very tight unit. There is a lot of love and they have each others backs when it counts. And yet Mel’s family embraced me and my family as one of their own, pulling us into their tribe as well. Even referring to me as the fourth sister. (Which absolutely delights me since I never had a sister of my own).
Bali provided us with an experience filled to the brim with the island’s rich cultural heritage and incredible volcanic and coastal landscapes. The time there was filled with sensory delights of sights, sounds, places, history, religion as well as the beautiful Balinese people we met. It had been many years since I visited the island. The issues of poverty in some of the regions were confronting. So too the issues surrounding population increases and migration from other parts of Indonesia as people search for a better life for themselves.
There was a huge amount of joy for me in sharing such an experience with my children and partner. And I hope to do a lot more travel soon. This holiday helped bring into my focus what is important. It also showed me how important a change of scenery is to facilitate a change of perspective. It reminded me that living in the moment is all we really have. So no point not immersing oneself in it.
And all the while, humming away in the periphery of our experiences and thoughts is the questions around what lies ahead for Mel and her family. At the conclusion of her trip she will head back to hospital for a PET scan to see what has changed since prior to the stem cell transplant the month earlier. One thing is clear, everyone who knows Mel is hoping, praying, and wishing the news is good.
Thank you Mel, for sharing both your family and your Bali with us. x
Thank you Kaz for collecting our mail. x