Travelling is good for you

Yes! Punch in the air! Cross off my first vacation of the summer. It’s been about two years since Zsolt and I travelled (apart from trips home, but that’s more comfort than adventure), so landing those excellent tickets to Faro was a real treat. I mean, it was essentially a confirmation of my recovery from chemotherapy. For anyone going through the process of chemo, it will knock you down – but you will get up.

Totting a badeau bikini I went sans prosthesis to the beaches in Lagos. Really, my chest is so flat anyhow it’s hard to notice the absence of a second breast. Plus, my bathing suit has a busy pattern, which helps disguise the difference. Because it’s early April, Lagos hasn’t hit its peak tourism season. Therefore, we were actually able to find a beach to ourselves – like, literally, only the occasional sightseers came along, and even then they stayed just a few minutes. Essentially we had our own little resort amongst the cliffs.

In the mornings we would tour the old town, then pick up some pizza (gluten alert!) and fruit, head to the beach, and then eventually return to the guest house. We stayed in this lovely place outside of the city centre – it was about a fifteen minute walk, but worthwhile due to the kindness of the owners, the cleanliness of the rooms (five stars for cleanliness) and utilities provided. Plus, everyone who stayed at the guest house was really easygoing. I had forgotten how enjoyable the company of other travellers can be. When people are on vacation, they’re generally pretty cool. In fact, we even met a lovely Hungarian couple – honestly, for such a small country the Hungarians seem to be everywhere. I haven’t gone on a trip yet without hearing Hungarian at some point. We cornered this couple in the kitchen and essentially twisted their arm to play a card game with us (Zsírozás) – Zsolt was the reigning champion, but Dávid was quite a competitor. Meanwhile Hajni and I did our best, but seemed to get trumped every round. And I ate ice cream the entire time.

Now we’re back. I have the month of April off work because the students are all gone, and that’s how my contract rolls. However there’s plenty of writing to do. Tomorrow I need to rework a chapter of my fiction, plus add to Catherinebrunelle.com and figure something for facingcancer.ca. Also, I’d like to start an online literary magazine for breast cancer survivors and fighters. Something light, quick and easy to digest. I’m naming it The Narrative Nipple. (If you think this is a stupid name please do let me know, but otherwise it makes me laugh). And finally I’m filming a quick video for this website called ‘the day I found out’ which features stories from cancer survivors about the – duh – day they found out about the cancer. I’m not 100% positive there is a pin point day that I realized the cancer existed. . . first came the lump, then the uncertainties, then the worry, and finally the diagnosis . . . but I’ll run with the actual diagnosis date for this video.

And in the meanwhile Zsolt will be studying for his viva. The date is set for May 6th and the man is about to engage into full throttle study mode. Again. But I’m crazy proud of him.

Overall, it was wonderful to take a vacation. I think if you can afford the time, then make the effort to vacation (sitting in your backyard sans responsibility for a day counts!). If you can’t afford the time, then try and at least have a cup of tea in the sunshine. Pause is a very good thing.

Cheers to travelling, and being healthy again. Man, it was wonderful to walk the cliffs of Lagos and not get winded. Really wonderful.

travel insurance trouble

As you may (or may not) know, Zsolt and I have decided to get away. Where to? Portugal. Not for long, just a short break – the Ryan Air ticket was so inexpensive that we jumped on the opportunity for a reasonably priced vacation. I’ve heard rumour that the weather is above 20 degrees and sunny (drool) in Faro, which means for the next few days I’ll be sprawled across a beach towel and soaking the vitamin D.

Anyhow, jump back to last night. What’s an essential when travelling abroad? Finger on nose if you’ve guessed it: travel insurance is essential.

When comparing prices we generally go to moneysupermarket.com. I’m not positive they’re the best, but their advertising is hilarious – good marketing wins again. With their search engine narrowed to ‘travel insurance’, the enter button is pushed and a long list of options appear on the screen.  Hmm, cheap.

The EU has this scheme established where you can go into another EU member country and have access to their medical assistance in an emergency. There are limitations, but in general if you fall and scrape your knee – and  you’re an EU resident – you won’t need to pay 100$ for a bandage. However, what is covered varies country to  country, which is why buying travel insurance is smart.

Which takes me back to moneysupermarket.com  – £6 for two person coverage sounded almost too good to be true. And guess what? It was.  Okay okay, for £6 (about 9.50 Canadian bucks) you cannot expect too much from an insurer. . . but I wasn’t  quite ready for the shut down they delivered.

Looking over the policies and conditions I ‘CNTRL+F’ed  (aka searched) “cancer” and found nothing. Then I ‘CNTRL+F’ed “illness” and found lots. Essentially most insures state they won’t cover any medical costs arising from an existing illness. Fair enough. It’s not as though my boob(s) are about to explode, so no worries on my end about the existing illness.

Onwards. Click “purchase” and proceed to the next screen.

This is where the brick wall showed up. Essentially, the medical screening consists of a question along the lines of “have you or anyone being covered by this insurance have or ever had any of the following,” and of course – of course, there was cancer. It’s not like they cared what type of cancer, or whether it’s gone, or in recession, or appeared once and then disappeared forever . . .they don’t care. It’s just: tick this box if you’ve ever had it.

So I ticked the box.

And of course was denied insurance.

Anyhow. I became a steaming kettle of indignation. Like I said, my breasts are not going to explode because last year I had cancer. Right, my lymph nodes are gone – so maybe there is a risk of lympodemia . . . but the question didn’t ask about lymphodemia, it asked about cancer.

Grumble grumble.

That’s when I gave up on the hunt for cheap insurance and went digging through my breast cancer information. There is a company called ‘insurepink’  who cover those diagnosed with non-terminal cancers (specifically aimed at breast cancer) – it was still more expensive than what moneysupermarket.com offered, but I suppose that’s to account for my pre-existing medical condition.

Even on this site I had to answer about 25 questions about my condition, but at least they bothered to ask the specifics rather than apply a blanket policy of exclusion.

Funny . . . imagine being cancer-free for over 35 years, and you still need to tick that little box. Even when cancer is gone, it’s not totally gone.

So that was an interesting experience. Thank goodness for Insurepink. Righto – on a brighter note, time to fly away to warmer places. No more cancer thoughts for the rest of the week. Have a lovely start of April. See you soon.