The other day I said to my husband that Yosemite was my “cancer place”. The first time I went there was as a brief holiday before the beginning of chemotherapy. We went again for our anniversary while I was in the middle of chemotherapy. My memories of Yosemite are all tied up in my cancer experience. I said the same thing about the condo we rented for the last two years. It is the place I lived when I was diagnosed and went through cancer treatment. I was very ready to move on to a new place that did not have those associations.
The problem with getting cancer right after moving to California, is that I don’t have non-cancer memories of places. Almost every place I go, the memories associated with that place are cancer memories. My brain does not have non-cancer memories to fall back on. The sights, sounds, and smells, all remind me of different times in my cancer journey.
I definitely need to try to find some new places, but I also need to make new memories. I need to create memories in places that are not cancer memories – so that when I go someplace, I’m not remembering my cancer or my cancer recovery, but rather I’m remembering what I enjoyed about the places.
Last week I got to create new memories at a place that I love – Calaveras Big Trees state park. We visited there last summer almost exactly a year ago. We really enjoyed it despite locking ourselves out of our rental van! Last time I wasn’t able to complete the entire South Grove hike – in part because I was hiking too slowly and we had to leave that day.
This time we planned a little better and did the South Grove hike on the day where we did not have any other plans. It was nice to have the freedom of time to explore the trees. Despite my various injuries, I was able to do the complete hike – all 10.8 km of it! I was also able to create some new memories of the place – not involving me and cancer. We enjoyed sharing the Big Tree experience with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and 9-year niece. I’m happy to say that I now have some new memories of the place – memories that don’t involve me and cancer. I hope to spend the next couple of years working towards re-programming my brain for all the local places. I want to be able to go places and not have flashbacks or be reminded of the emotions I had the last time I was there. I’m ready for California to not be my cancer place!