Have you been in the situation where you have to stay in bed for more than a month
with 40 surgical staples on your chest, drainage tube inserted into your body
pain 24/7, don’t have the strength to eat, talk, laugh or open your eyes
meds that make you drowsy
can’t even doing your business in the toilet
without asking a help from someone
wondering if you can ever run again or diving or
doing the normal daily things you like to do?
Over a year ago, that was me.
It’s no longer death that I scared of.
My biggest fear is not being able to live the way I want to live.
That’s why freedom tastes so good. That’s what travel is for me.
A taste of freedom that was once, lost.
One day, God forbid, I might be in that position again.
Until then, let me stay close to what makes me feel alive.
Let me inspire you to go out there and live.
Our days are numbered. Tomorrow may never come
Today is a gift.
Don’t take it for granted.
Exercise, eat good food, be healthy.
Tell your loved ones how much you love them
Achieve your goals.
Live to your purpose.
As cliché as it sounds, live to the fullest
— Greta Clarissa, July 1st, 2017
I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The doctor closed his office door and sat down in silence for a couple of minutes before breaking the news, “The test result came out positive. You have cancer.”
It was August 2015. I was turning 25 that year.
“We need to do a couple more test to make sure cancer hasn’t spread……surgery then chemotherapy..”
“…The chemotherapy will take around 6-8 months…”
Everything became a background noise. I looked at my mom who was talking to the doctor about my survival rate and I was praying that she won’t cry because if she did, I will start crying too. There was only one thing in my mind.
I haven’t even seen the world and now, I’m dying.
I looked back all the years behind me and started to wonder what have I done. Why so little time. I felt like I have wasted my time, living a life I’m not proud of. I had a stable job with a good salary, I traveled once in a while, I had a long-time boyfriend who loves me, my family was well-provided, I was settling in the Philippines.
“But I haven’t seen the world”
That was my wake up call. That moment I knew what I always wanted to do. I want to see the world. I need to see the world. I determined to get better. I browsed every corner of the internet, every article, every research about the cure for cancer. I read endless testimonies from cancer survivors from all over the world. I prayed more. I agreed to do the surgery but refused to do radiation and chemotherapy. The doctors were not thrilled with my decision. They believed it was the best option I have to avoid the relapse. But my decision was final.
The surgery itself wasn’t easy. It took me 3 months to fully recover and regain my strength. It was the worst 3 months of my life. I cried in my sleep. I wish I could take morphine every day to endure all the pain I went through. I chose to do holistic healing approach and that means drastic lifestyle changes; more sleep, regular exercise, I stopped consuming all kinds of processed foods, drank juice detox 3 times a day, became a vegetarian, keeping a healthy mind and positive attitude.
On December 2015, I met someone on my flight back to Jakarta. He was traveling the world. He’s been on the road for 9 months. He showed me photos of all of the places he went. My eyes were brimming with fascination and the wanderlust inside me started to kick in. He asked me what is my dream destination. I told him I wished to go to Machu Picchu someday.
I stunt with my answer. Yes, Greta. When are you going to do it? Is it when you have enough money? or when you get a cheap plane ticket? or when you are healthier? or when you find a friend who wants to go with you?. I realized there is no perfect time but now. 2 weeks later, January 2016, I flew to Peru and spent 10 days backpacking around the country. It was my first time sleeping in a mixed dorm, being 18,000 km away from home, in a country that speaks zero English, got lost most of the time. But when I reached the top of Huayna Picchu, standing at the edge of the cliff, looking over Andes Mountains where the Lost City of Incas is nested, I was dumbfounded. It’s like falling in love but better.
Some people want to travel because they like it. Because the taste of adventure is exhilarating and addictive at the same time. Some travels because they want to experience something new and unfamiliar and learn new skills, cultures or knowledge. Some travels to escape. They need to escape their boring routine or to help them heal from a bad break-up. Some travel to celebrate life; birthday, anniversary, honeymoon.
I travel because I realized I might not have much time in this world to do so.
Funny how the very worst thing that ever happened to me was at the very same time the very best thing that could happen, and only God is able to do such a thing. Living with cancer is a blessing in disguise. It made me realize that my days are numbered and I couldn’t just waste my time doing things that make me unhappy. Not only that it changed me as a person but it also changed my life. I found a sense of direction and purpose in everything I do.
It’s 2018 now. This year is going to be my third year being a cancer survivor. I live more than my cancer prognosis, praise the Lord. If anyone asks me what is the secret to living to the fullest: gratitude. There will always be something to be thankful for, no matter how small. Our lives are beautiful gifts from God. As Tony Robbins said, “..It (re: life) offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more”. My determination to travel and see the world is stronger than ever. I want to feel more, live more and inspire more people.
If you are reading this and perhaps you are unsure about what you want to do or you are going through some tough times, let me give you a virtual hug. Believe that the storm won’t last forever. It will pass. Keep the faith and I hope you will find what you are looking for. Otherwise, live to the fullest 🙂
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
Happy New Year!