Feeling Defeated

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

July 31st, 2016 • Travel Dance HealPrint Print

It’s 5:30 am in Kauai, HI. The roosters are crowing at the top of their lungs. But I beat them to it, waking up somewhere around 3:45 am, anxious about getting woken up by the roosters at the usual 4:00 am.

I’m currently in a studio apartment with a set of odd windows that have a spring keeping them open. You have to push against the spring to shut them, and being that they are high up, it creates an uncomfortable position in the body. When I tried closing them yesterday morning, when the roosters were keeping me awake, the action pulled my back and left me in pain.

I was going to leave those windows shut for the duration of my stay, but it gets so hot in here, without an air conditioner, and it being summer and all. Because this set of windows is high up and small, I feel safer with them open than with the big window and bathroom window open, which I’ve been closing each night. So I opened the high-up windows again before going to sleep last night.

I went to sleep just after 10:00 pm, which is highly unusual for me, but my body has been adapting to the environment here. Perhaps because there’s really nothing to do late at night, but plenty to do in the morning, when it’s not as hot, my body has decided to start going to sleep a couple hours after it gets dark. However, the guys in the main house were listening to television loud enough that I could hear it until sometime after 11:00 pm. With windows open to stave off the heat, you can pretty much hear everything in close quarters.

I couldn’t get back to sleep after waking up. I tried putting on a very loud floor fan, which I reasoned would block out the rooster sound (in addition to the earplugs I was wearing – which alone are not a match for the roosters’ lungs). But the noise of the fan, white noise though it may be, itself was keeping me up.

The thing about traveling is that I am in different situations for short amount of times, and I never know ahead of time what situation I’m getting into. Then again, we can’t always control our environment. Case in point: When I moved into the last house I lived in, I scoped out the neighborhood and asked the previous tenant about any barking dogs and smoking neighbors, hoping to prevent a bad living situation. The house was perfect for the first five months, and I was healing by leaps and bounds.

Then the neighbor to the east began tearing up the street with all manner of heavy machinery, to fix his sewer system, and refused to let me know ahead of time when jack hammers might be involved. It ended up being one of the worst living situations I’ve ever being in, with the highest cost: My stress levels went through the roof, feeding the cancer and growing it for the first time in five years, by 15%, as well as skyrocketing my cholesterol and sugar levels, additionally putting me in danger of heart disease.

Now here I am in Hawaii, trying to relax, trying to enjoy my vacation. It’s quite the buzz kill, however, to receive news confirming that the nodules on your thyroid are indeed cancerous, and that the entire nodules might in fact be cancer, just a few days into your trip to paradise. I wonder if I’ve come to the end of this holistic healing path. Am I stupidly risking my life by not getting surgery, when the nodules are currently self-contained? As my integrative oncologist pointed out, I’ve been working my ass off on my diet, over the past five years, but the cancer didn’t go away. It’s highly unlikely, he said, that it will disappear if I continue on the holistic path alone. Meanwhile, if I remove the thyroid at this time – at my current age, and when the cancer is staying put, instead of spreading and/or metastasizing – there is a high chance of surviving and not having additional issues.

On the other hand, would I stupidly risk my life by getting surgery, given how the medical system is primarily responsible for injuring me (eye doctor ruined my vision during routine eye exam, chiropractor tore my rotator cuff during adjustment, and the list goes on); given what I’ve seen goes on in hospitals; given that the thyroid and vocal chord are close if not intertwined, and that I could therefore be left unable to speak or sing – in which case, I just might rather be dead; and given that I do not have in my life someone who can take care of me the way I took care of my mother when she was hospitalized?

Suffice it to say, a whole lot is churning around in my head. I don’t know which way to go, and I just cannot get back to sleep. Added to the mix is that I don’t know whether to stay in Kauai or continue my travels. I knew out the gate that it would be a challenge to travel with multiple health issues. I’m discovering that it comes down to a lot of micro details.

For example, in my storage in Seattle lies an awesome Bianchi hybrid bike, with mountain bike handles but a road bike frame. It’s got a comfortable seat, with an extra cushion that I added; it’s got a rack in the back, where I can hang paniers and therefore take with me whatever I need; it’s got “sticky” pedals that eliminate the need for straps (where your foot can get stuck if you skid and fall – as once happened); it’s got a high-powered front light that matches the strength of car lights; it’s got a blinking reflector light on the back; and it’s got a loud-ass bell that keeps me safe biking on the road with cars. On this bike, which fits my body and my needs so very well, I can zip along at fast speeds and bike for miles and miles, taking me to my happy place and giving me the daily workout my body needs.

While traveling, however, I don’t have access to my bike. So I need to rent a bike at $30-$45/day. Given that I’m spending more on a tiny single apartment than I spent on a massive three-bedroom, two-story house, it’s not like I have cash lying around, and the cost of bike rentals adds up. In addition, the cheaper bikes are beach cruisers, in which I can’t go all that fast. In addition, there are no paniers, bells, or lights on either end of the bike, making it entirely impractical to do anything other than take a joy ride. What’s more, I don’t have a way of getting the bike to the place where I’m living, because I rented a small car (trucks and SUVs are significantly more expensive), and the bike rental companies are not necessarily located within biking distance of where I’m staying (especially in the case where I was way up in the hills – not doable for me on a beach cruiser).

I’m finding myself more frustrated than relaxed. This is why people with health issues don’t travel. There are so many micro-considerations and costs involved. Between that and the cancer stress, not to mention the roosters, I woke up feeling pretty damn defeated this morning. Which doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Life, I have (re)discovered during this trip, is made up of moments. One does not define the next.


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