Cancer Diagnosis + Revisiting my Bucket List

This summer has not been what I expected. I’d planned to go home for three weeks to get a branchial cyst removed, catch up with family and friends, then come back to my husband for a trip to Armenia and Georgia. But one week after my surgery, I went for my post-op, and heard a word I wasn’t prepared for: cancer.

Most of my time in Florida was spent in doctors’ offices. Luke had to hear the news over Skype. My sister and mother cried, and Dad went quiet. Even with a good prognosis (thyroid cancer is one of the most curable cancers), that C-word rattled us.

After hastily canceling our trip to the Caucasus region and returning to Bucharest, I’ve had a lot of time to think. What’s my purpose in life? Do I believe in a higher power? Should I stay abroad or move back home?  

During one of these periods of pensiveness, I dug up my old bucket list. I typed it up ten years ago before moving to Korea—a time when my thoughts were permanently dancing high above my head. I was 27, heart-broken, about to lose my job, and had an intense longing to do something that would change everything I thought I knew about myself and the world.

Looking back on all of these things, I feel immense gratitude. I also feel the need to keep adding to the list. We never know how much longer we have here on earth.

  1. Live abroad
  2. Visit all 7 continents
  3. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  4. Ride a camel in the desert
  5. Stay at an ashram in India
  6. See the Taj Mahal
  7. Hike Machu Picchu in Peru
  8. See the pyramids
  9. Go on an African safari
  10. Travel by myself
  11. Live in Europe
  12.  Become a full-time writer
  13. Fly first class
  14. A wine tour in Napa Valley
  15.  Win an important award
  16. Positively affect a child’s life
  17. Become a big sister to someone who needs it
  18. Raft through the Grand Canyon
  19. Hang gliding
  20. Sky diving
  21. White water rafting
  22. Get my scuba diving certification
  23. Watch the sun set in Santorini (This is happening in October!)
  24. Eat pizza in Naples, Italy
  25. Eat sushi in Japan
  26. Complete a challenging race
  27. Learn to dance ballroom
  28. Learn to speak Spanish fluently (In progress)
  29. Drink steins in Munich
  30. Go to a coffee shop in Amsterdam
  31. Have a spa day
  32. Ride a mechanical bull
  33. Fall recklessly in love
  34. Write a book
  35. Write a food column for a magazine
  36. Learn about wine
  37. Take professional cooking classes
  38. Learn to play an instrument
  39. Take a photography class
  40. Try to surf
  41. Catch a fish and eat it for dinner
  42. Explore the canals in Venice
  43. Go to a pub in Ireland
  44. Visit a castle in England
  45. Learn to salsa dance
  46. Dance tango in Buenos Aires
  47. Learn to play golf
  48. Learn to play chess
  49. Swim with dolphins
  50. Go scalloping
  51. Fly in a hot-air balloon
  52. Explore the Louvre in Paris
  53. Learn to meditate
  54. Ride a motorcycle
  55. Get out of debt
  56. Go backpacking
  57. Go on a road trip
  58. Have a successful blog
  59. See the aurora borealis
  60. Own a convertible
  61. See Angkor Wat
  62. Explore Rome’s ancient ruins
  63. Stay inside the old walled city of Jeruselum
  64. Go to Bali
  65. Teraccota Warriors in China
  66. See a show at the Sydney Opera House in Australia
  67. Travel Vietnam top to bottom
  68. Jungle trekking
  69. Ride an elephant in Thailand
  70. Paint something and frame it
  71. Decorate my house with pictures I’ve taken from around the world
  72. Throw a surprise party
  73. Visit Pompeii
  74. Dive the Great Barrier Reef
  75. Go to Rio de Janerio in Brazil
  76. Ride a bike down “the world’s most dangerous road” in Bolivia
  77. Volunteer abroad
  78. Find a cause and volunteer regularly
  79. Learn to drive a stick shift
  80.  Become a certified teacher
  81. Take a Turkish bath in Turkey
  82. Go to a spice market in India
  83. Visit the Old Town Square in Prague
  84. Have high tea in London
  85. See Giant’s Causeway in Ireland
  86. Spend a day in Belgium drinking beer and eating chocolate
  87. Rent a car with my significant other and travel “The Romantic Road” in Bavaria, Germany
  88. Wine tour in Italy
  89. Ride the Trans-Siberian Express in Russia
  90. Take the Sampo Icebreaker Cruise in Kempi, Lapland, Finland
  91. Go to Alaska and experience 24 hours of daylight
  92. Spend the night in The Ice Hotel in Norrland, Sweden
  93. Dive in the Read Sea in Egypt
  94. See Petra, then camp in Wadi Rum desert
  95. Take the hydrofoil from Spain to Morocco
  96. 9-day trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya
  97. Float on the Dead Sea then take a mud bath in En-gedi, Israel
  98. Stroll through the covered bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey
  99. Visit the Galapagos Islands
  100. Cruise to Antarctica from Argentina

My thyroidectomy and radical neck dissection is scheduled for December 11th in Florida. I’ll be returning for radiation therapy in March and hope to get the “all clear” after that. Meantime, I think I’ll work on crossing off some more bucket list items.

Tell me: would you like updates? Do you have your own bucket list? If so, what’s on it? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

15 thoughts on “Cancer Diagnosis + Revisiting my Bucket List”

  1. I love this! Can you send me the original list so I can work on it? Thoughts and prayers (to a higher being?) are with you. So envious of you and life style

  2. You will finish this bucket list and more! My bucket list is much shorter: See you back to your healthy, happy, athletic, curious, loving self.

  3. You are living life to its fullest-You are curious, adventurous, loving. You have and will continue to make a difference in the world.

    My bucket list is simple- To see you back to good health and thriving. There are things I would like to do- live abroad for a few months, go to Greece, but nothing is as important as seeing you back to your healthy happy self.

  4. I never thought I would know another traveller with a list longer than mine. You have some I never had a desire to do until now. I have crossed off several that you have not and experienced an unexpected smile knowing you will totally enjoy them. Then there are those that we both have accomplished and it only reassured me that we really do need to meet each other…maybe on a safari, or on a hydrofoil to Morocco, long on my list is trekking Kilimanjaro. We got this! You got this!
    Nice to see you blogging again too. I thoroughly enjoy your writing.

  5. Wow I’m speechless. I ended up on your blog after seeing something from your students on your IG stories. First of all you are incredible for your courage in conquering all the amazing sights of this planet. Second, tears started to build up as you contemplated your purpose and higher power. THEN, your dad’s bucket list started the water works!

    I’m inspired by your relentless effort to “live” life, not just let life happen to you. I think our purpose in life is to experience things, then to provide impact to others based on what you’ve learned/acquired from those experiences. I think you are doing EXACTLY that.

    Thank you for your bravery to share your story. Good bless you for healing, health, new opportunities and bigger bucket list goals ahead!

    1. Thank you so much for this heart-felt comment. I am so blessed to have such love and light surrounding me! xoxo

  6. Been getting updates from your mom-we’re foodie friends at Publix! I look forward to seeing you mark off more goals on your bucket list. As for mine, I will be turning 60 this year and my plan is to make this one even better than my 50th!
    At the top of my bucket list are:
    Finish my poetry chapbook (and get it published)
    Get my first (and second, and third…) tattoo
    Travel (destination yet to be determined
    Take bolder steps towards my artwork
    Go back to school (finish my Visual Communications degree, work on Bachelors)
    and most importantly, let go and breathe

    Bless your brave soul, you and your mom inspire me!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.