The Longest Journey: Reflections on a Cancer Scare

Sometimes the longest journey is a weekly 1½ hour road trip from La Crosse, Wis. to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to find out if the reason your breast is bleeding is cancer, or not.

After a summer of making that road trip, thankfully, for me, it is not.

Rollerbag Mister and me.

The journey is not yet over. While the scare culminated with surgery a couple of days ago, my brain is still trying to wrap itself around the greater implications, the deeper meaning. It’s been a challenging summer for me personally. The experience of facing the unspeakable possibility of losing my breast or my life has left me physically, emotionally and financially leveled, certainly in no condition to do any major travel, and vacant of the chronic wanderlust that has plagued me for so many years. Inasmuch as I know how lucky I am, how relatively minor my surgery and outcome was, it is hard not to feel depleted. And while the experience magnifies some aspects of life, it shrinks the importance of others. It suddenly clarifies the importance of solid, dependable health care insurance coverage, something I have taken for granted in the past. It gives me a mirror, enabling me to see clearly how pathetic I must look to some: the hopeless dreamer, the directionless wanderer, the seeker, the optimist, the woman who is never at home. It makes me look forward to quiet mornings on the porch, tendrils of steam rising from coffee,  a chill in the air, and my husband by my side, reading the paper.

Maybe clarity is the greatest gift of a cancer scare.

The rollerbag at rest.

I can’t help but wonder whether I have become too old, at the age of 41, to continue to nurture these dreams – of travel, of learning, of writing well, of living in a city that has called to me since my childhood. Maybe this is what it boils down to: me, alone in La Crosse, Wis., huddled under a blanket at 3 a.m., shaking hands with resignation and my own middle-aged mediocrity: a small market writer in the Midwest whose reflections may never grace the pages of major publications, who might never pen a novel that anyone reads…and the knowledge that maybe I no longer care. A girl who lost 50 lbs., only to discover most of them had a return ticket. A woman who is not sick, and yet not entirely well. A wannabe traveler, who truth be told, has never moved very far from where she started.

It takes an incredible amount of optimism to maintain a little-read blog. And I am a travel blogger who has not had the hopefulness necessary to dream and write, because this summer, that hope was necessary elsewhere.

Gathered around the campfire in Fifty Lakes, Minn. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

What I know for certain is this: when so much is at stake, the most important travel is not to a quiet out-of the way beach, or an exotic trip to the other side of the globe. It is the trip that gets you closest to normalcy. It is a favorite restaurant with your spouse or a well-walked park path with a beloved pet. It is the trip across town to have a glass of wine and spend an hour with a friend. It is the trip to see family, who are just a state away. This summer included drives up north to Fifty Lakes, Minn. to the beautiful land my parents own, road trips to Cody, Wyo. for my nephew’s high school graduation and one with a dear friend, a Minnesota Twins game with family, and not much else.

For that, and for the long, straight, road to Mayo Clinic that I will no longer need to travel so often, I am incredibly grateful.

My heart goes out to those who are still making that journey.


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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, food-lover and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 


Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb

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Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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2 thoughts on “The Longest Journey: Reflections on a Cancer Scare

  1. I know the journey all too well, and I’m so very relieved to know that God has had his guiding hand on us both. After struggling over the boulders that He sometimes throws in our paths…the lessons; the breaths; the simplicities of living…all become much clearer, and everyday life beacons with much greater importance. Every minute, every moment, every second, are true gifts to treasure. I thank YOU for being a part of my life. ❤


  2. I am very relieved that your journey turned out positive. Many of family and friends have rode down this path, we all handle it on a level we alone are capable of. I am touched by you sharing your story and I’m sure you will touch the hearts of others on their travel……..


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