A Seagoing Healing in Alaska After My Fight with Cancer

Suzanne and her husband, Charlie, enjoying Alaska
Suzanne and her husband, Charlie, enjoying Alaska

What is it about sea air? I’ve always heard that it makes you sleepy hungry and can help restore your health. Fortunately for me, I was able to experience this theory first hand when I took my first cruise vacation four years ago.

My husband, Charlie, and I boarded Star Princess for an Alaskan cruise. We were exhausted and elated since it was only three weeks after my last round of chemotherapy for breast cancer. We had been on a year-long crusade of surgery and chemotherapy and by all accounts, I was healthy once more.

From a physical perspective, I was coming off my most challenging year. There were days I was so completely drained by the chemo that I couldn’t make it from my arm chair to my bed without collapsing on the floor for a nap. But it had also been my best year, because as a devout Christian, my cancer journey recharged my life’s conversation with God. I was talking to God, asking Him what I should dow and thanking Him for each victory over my illness along the way.

As I approached the final treatments, Charlie and I began talking about taking a vacation, something we had rarely done. His military career saw us moving 19 times in 26 years, so we already felt like we were traveling most of the time. Then after the military, we followed a similar pattern with our ministry, teaching and preaching around the world.

The few times we had been near the ocean, it felt restful, so we went with that notion and ended up planning that “once-in-a-lifetime” cruise to Alaska. We traveled from the hot Dallas of August to the breathable air of Seattle, where we boarded the cruise ship, Star Princess.

On our first day at sea, when my husband took his third nap of the day and said he felt guilty sleeping so much, I realized that he needed the rest as much as I did.

My husband was exhausted. He is the kind of man who never saw a problem he didn’t want to fix, but the cancer was out of his hands. He cheerfully cared for me despite the burdens, doing his job and mine, never once complaining about how tired or troubled he might have been.

It seems all we did on that cruise was go to our room and sleep, so we could build up the strength to lift our forks to our mouths again. Food never tasted so good. During treatment, it had tasted metallic to me, but the briny air was bringing my taste buds back to life.

While I was sick, I wondered if the physical endurance I depended on as an on-the-move military wife, mother of two, grandmother of five and traveling minister would ever come back. Energy started to pump its way back into my system during that cruise.

I amazed myself as I was able to walk from the ship to the Skagway train station to take an incredible ride through the mountain pass. While I was too frail to participate, I was an enthusiastic and grateful spectator at the On Deck for the Cure 5K walk, benefiting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the breast-cancer foundation.

We left the cruise ship filled with plans, among them, turning a cancer blog I had kept into a book, now published and available online—“Journey through the Storm: A Faith Walk through Cancer.” Another decision was to take the same Alaska cruise the following year, which I did. It was a year of clean scans, I boarded stronger and healthier and able to do the breast cancer 5K myself!

Since then, we’ve been on two other cruise vacations, and I am writing another book. I believe God gave me the strength to battle cancer and I thank Him every day for that. I may be missing body parts and I am not as strong as I used to be, but my attitude is great. I don’t waste time anymore. I invest in things that will outlive me, like my family and my books.

Charlie and I still travel for our ministry. Now we also take the time to travel for our pleasure, where we indulge in the restorative and healing effects of that fabled sea air.

Suzanne lives in Farmersville, Texas and she’s enjoyed four cruises with Princess.