One of the first decisions I had taken after having been confronted with my diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia was not to cancel the trip to Southern Caucasus we had planned. But, I have to admit that during our trip to Turkey, Georgia and Armenia (a backpacking trip by the way), I was still under shock.
(What happened before?)
I googled my unknown disease and was worried about my weakened immune system. Georgia was so cold, instead of sunshine, snow was waiting for us there and I did not have adequate clothing. I had to climb steep hills to see fantastic orthodox monasteries and I travelled in dirty mashrutkas for hours with my family. Mashrutkas are minibuses, old and dirty with drivers who are permanently on the phone and who are sometimes drunk. The passengers were drunk as well and my children had a stomach bug. I remember a seven hour mashrutka drive where all three children threw up. It was not as embarrassing as I would have thought, because the drunk passengers vomited as well. The minibus was filthy, I kept cleaning everything with antiseptic hand gel and wet towels. I was constantly trying to protect my immune system but realized that I could not do so. At least, I did everything to keep warm. In our Tiflis apartment, I spent most of the time in front of the central heating. I wanted to visit the legendary Tiflis baths, frequented by famous writers Alexander Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas. I thought the warmth there would be good for me. I did not take hygienic issues into consideration. Bacteria, fungus and being exposed to the cold again after having relaxed in the hot tube only came to my mind when it was too late. However, the children enjoyed it and I decided I could not provide for every contingency. I had to go on … somehow.
This journey allowed a first glimpse into the future. It would be impossible to take each and every potential risk into consideration all the times. It was necessary to keep on living and to take some reasonable measures. Coping was difficult though, especially when the trip ended and I went back to the grindstone. As much as it had been a preparation for the practicalities of my life as a chronic disease patient, the trip had been an escape.
The story continues here