When my wife and I first started seeing each other, we travelled around a lot. My previous relationship had been pretty static - I don’t think I even had a passport. But before my diagnosis, we travelled to Verona and Venice, Paris, Barcelona, Prague. Even after being diagnosed we made it to Rome, Sicily, New York and we got married in Venice. But having a chronic disabling health condition can’t help but make you think twice before travelling.
Last week we were on holiday, the first holiday we’ve been on as a family – just the three of us – in over two years.
The last time we tried this was immediately before my last relapse - the holiday may have added to it but it was likely a build-up of a lot of stress. That was the first relapse I’d had since becoming a father, as well as the first one since starting my three-times-a-week beta interferon injections.
Since then we’ve gone away a couple of times with a (more-than willing) tag-team drawn from parents, in-laws, sisters and brothers. Maybe we over-reacted, but that last relapse was a doozy – sending me into courses of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Physiotherapy, as well as *ahem* Bladder Retraining. Be as bullet-proof as you like but that’s the kind of thing that will put a slight crimp in anyone’s self-confidence.
Just to make sure there were no mishaps, we decided to go to a Center Parcs village – you don’t have these in the US but they’re holiday villages that are based in various locations throughout Europe. You might have something similar - everything is on a site where cars aren’t allowed, and there are water sports activities including a huge sub-tropical swimming pool, cycling trails.
Or you can just sit back, relax and spot animals in beautiful countryside.
The one we went to was an hour’s drive from our house, in the middle of Sherwood Forest – y’know, where Robin Hood lived. So we didn’t exactly give ourselves a long drive (another hangover from the last holiday) – this time we were close enough to enable us to be collected if required.
But it was perfect for us and was yet another example of the great things that can happen when we plan in advance – we paid a little extra to be more central which meant everything was within easy walking distance.
As well as that, it was an example of knowing when to pick our battles - the idea of a holiday in the sun is very attractive. But as soon as I start thinking about packing, flights, transfers… to be honest, I’m exhausted. And that’s before you take into account the possibility of sapping heat.
Anyway, I don’t know if we’re quite ready as a family for a flight (we have no idea how our little girl will react for a start) - not to be defeatist, but I’ll probably get stressed, and my wife will worry about my fatigue, and so on. It doesn’t sound like too much fun.
But last week, we were pleased to see that little things could be put into place when we simply let people know that we might need some assistance.
Yes, we have friends who have been abroad and gone on ‘holidays-of-a-lifetime’ with young children. But to be frank they’ve all come back needing another holiday.
The end result for us was that we all had a perfect and relaxing break - simply because we thought honestly about what we needed from the time away - not to keep up with our friends but to have a holiday as a family.
We’re already planning our next break!
And ironically, I now feel that the idea of a flight away to the sun isn't completely beyond the realms of possibility - it would just require a similar amount of planning.
But lets not get carried away - baby-steps, yes?
How well do people around you understand MS?