I'm visualizing myself in Rome wandering the beautiful cobblestone streets just like the one in the photo. I'll pause to take in the beauty, sit at an outdoor café to sip espresso and watch the world go by. I will have a late lunch and allow myself to eat what I like and this would include gelato. I'll cross the bridges and gaze at the Tiber river. I'll celebrate my birthday in the eternal city on September 29th!
I haven't been back to Rome since I was nineteen on a fashion study trip for a college semester. I was there for a month. I'm so grateful to be taking the journey to Rome on behalf of sendmeonvacation.org, which is a nonprofit sending breast cancer survivors on a retreat, a respite, a vacation from it all. My first exploration with them was to the Caribbean of Mexico where I connected with other survivors on a mermaid retreat and the wonderful women running the event were lovely and supporting. I was in my bliss sailing, snorkeling, and swimming in that gorgeous, warm turquoise water. The sea, the workshops, the mermaid photo shoot, yummy meals, and conversations were healing indeed.
I met the director and founder of sendmeonvacation.org, Cathy Backus at the Mexico retreat and felt an instant connection. She became such a supporter of me and my writing. Cathy encouraged me to develop my workshop, "Living and Healing Through Color" and share it in Tuscany for the retreat in Cortona in 2019. I was floating in heaven the entire time. I stayed an additional three weeks and traveled on my own. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. And December 2021, as a facilitator, I shared my workshop with a group of breast cancer survivors at a resort retreat in the Dominican Republic. Heidi Lamprecht, VP of SMOV was our fearless leader. It was so special and I loved sharing my two-part workshop. And coming up, I will be the first International Freestyle participant for one-week where my assignment will be to blog about my experiences in Rome. It is such an honor. The plan is to broaden the freestyle program. Some women may choose to travel freestyle and independently as opposed to a group environment where they can bring along a spouse or family member or travel solo (as I will be) and tour the destination at her own pace.
Traveling solo can open a lot of doors. I find being open, curious and brave will create opportunity. I met wonderful people on my trip to Italy in 2019 that took me to places I would've never seen otherwise. Italians are very hospitable people and it is in their culture to include you. As a single woman, I've found my own town exclusive at times but in Italy, they wouldn't dream of excluding you. Italians love to feed you and show off their beautiful country.
I am preparing for the trip with the residue of PTSD in mind. I obtained TSA pre-check, organizing all my travel needs to make me as comfortable as possible, travel light with carry-on, check-in with my doctors and go to all necessary appointments, receive my monthly IV globulin (immune disorder) a couple days before departure, complete house projects with a friend (house/pet sitter) in mind. My beloved kitty, Lucia is the best and she is my therapy cat so I need to be sure she's well taken care of. Understanding that I'm the type to do and do before travel, I have a goal to get tasks and writing projects done so there are a few days to spare to get a facial and a WATSU massage. It has turned out to be the best massage for me and for the natural mermaid in me by having a massage in warm water at the temperature of 97 degrees. It's blissful, and my friend who is an expert WATSU practitioner is strong and a natural as a healer. I feel like I'm held in the womb again.
I am so looking forward to getting away. Unless a person has gone through a life threatening health crisis, they can't imagine what it feels like to not only survive but to find yourself thriving and embarking on fabulous adventures. Every woman's journey is different. Life is fragile. I know for me, that after diagnosis of genetic breast cancer in both breasts, a radical double mastectomy, and nine surgeries over a six plus year ordeal due to brutal infection complications, it is a miracle to be alive. What all survivors have in common, is the knowing that we are fortunate to look forward toward embracing new life. It takes a long time to heal (maybe a lifetime) and enjoying a reprieve from doctors, treatment, and other obligations by the grace of SMOV, is a blessed gift.
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Stai bene e felice.
Keep on swimming through life,