It was one of those precious times where the whole world is rosy and the face can’t stop grinning. One of those rare occasions where the specialness of a moment is realised at the very time it is occurring. I was bobbing at sea, aboard an inflatable dingy, laughing as Phil attempted to row us away from the beach. The sky was bright blue, the sun scorching, the water calm. My siblings watched and waved from the shoreline, my nephews busily searched for crabs, and Lottie snoozed away under a giant parasol. It was probably an experience routinely repeated by many others on many other holidays… but to me it was special. I had dared to go on a boat for the first time since having Pulmonary Hypertension, we were having an incredible holiday with my nephews, and my body was coping brilliantly despite being five days in. It felt momentous. :-)I was a little nervous about our week away in the lead up. I adore living in a different place with the ones I love, but it makes me sick. Symptomatic, exhausted and feeling like death. Everything tires me; the journey, the bigger house, continual company, extra noises and movement, daily excursions. Even though I take long rests and shut myself away, even though I take full days off alone… I still expend far far more energy on holiday, than my body, or even my reserves, have. I’m constantly balancing a tightrope: should I push myself and go further into my energy debt, so I can have experiences and make memories… or do absolutely nothing -solo- so my body can recover. An impending week of vacation is daunting. Always. So the looming week of vacation with my nephews terrified me! I adore those little monkeys, but they are wild. 🙂
My nephews are made of “frogs and snails, and puppy dog tails”. Now aged five and seven, they are always covered in dirt, up to mischief, with pockets full of stones and sticks and slime and spiders. They run and dart and race around. They climb trees, bash rocks, carve twigs, collect insects. They laugh and shout and continually chitter chatter. They’re boys! Absolutely wonderful, BUT (as I have PH) exhausting. An hour together makes me sleepy, a day together makes me ill. So in the run up to our trip, I couldn’t quite fathom how I was going to survive seven days living with those little bundles of energy.
Furthermore, there were worries about the inevitable sibling argument at some point -probably over my excessive need for tidiness versus my sister’s whirlwind tendencies in the kitchen. There was likely to be friction between Lottie and the boys as they’re not used to living together (would the trip end with a pocket of real life ‘puppy dog tail!’ 😛 ). And to top it off, there was the usual British concern about weather… continual rain would result in us all collectively exploding with cabin fever. I was nervous about how successful the trip was going to be. But it turned out to be a fabulous family holiday. Fantastic. The best. My happiest week since becoming ill. Phil’s kind cousin, once again allowed us to stay in his amazing holiday home in Weymouth. We were incredibly lucky to be holidaying during the heatwave… it felt like we were abroad! Consequently most days were spent on the local beaches- sand and rock and shingle and pebble. Sister and the boys adored searching rock pools; bravely becoming experts at finding and holding crabs! The men loved snorkelling and swimming in the sea; videoing underwater with their go-pros. I relished the chance to just chill in the sweltering sun, reading my pile of holiday books. Whilst Lottie enjoyed following her cousins around, and trying to steal other beach-goers picnics. We climbed boulders, jumped over waves, and dug ‘holes to Australia’. We played catch-ball, flew the kite (unsuccessfully!), and collected shells. And on one memorable day, when my brother visited, I bobbed about aboard his dingy- the first time I’ve dared to be on the water since being too weak to swim, and an oxygen user. Bliss.
Aside from beach fun, we scrambled over huge rocks at Portland Bill lighthouse, and enjoyed the cliff panoramas of nearby viewpoints. We tried to outwit the monster crabs at Weymouth harbour- but they kept stealing our ham whilst avoiding our line! We hid chips from preying seagulls, dropped ice creams, and ate mussels from plastic pots. We painted beach stones (for #islastones), decorated wooden rockets, and watched England win their world cup matches. We excitedly stumbled upon the real life ‘Broadchurch’ cliffs- so Phil and the Pie had to climb them! We visited different spots along beautiful Chisel Beach- and Lottie scared us by solo exploring one section! We BBQed an enormous crab, drank tonic on the roof terrace, and made the now traditional ‘Spicery holiday feast’. We picked our favourite boats at West Bay harbour, played Uno over morning cuppas, and enjoyed daily dog walks along the promenade. And the boys bonded with Lottie… they were regularly spotted snuggled together on the sofa! It was a fabulous week. The best.
My body was unbelievable. Amazing. I was still Sarah with PH, unable to walk, needing oxygen… BUT I felt better than I normally do on holiday. In fact, it was my strongest and healthiest vacation since becoming unwell five years ago. On every holiday before, I’ve needed at least one full recovery day-off midweek… this time I was out and about for eight days straight. On every holiday before, I’ve felt symptomatic and sick from twenty-four hours onward… this time it was lesser and more manageable, even at the end of the week. Instead of only taking excursions of a couple of hours duration… I was out for most of the day, every day! Instead of struggling in the evenings… I was able to read and paint and chat and play with the boys. Instead of having my regular private cry (normally on day three) as am worried about how I’ll cope for the remainder of the week… I didn’t want the trip to end. I didn’t just watch the vacation happening from the sidelines, but actively joined in most of it. I felt like a ‘semi-normal’ person. More of the Aunty I always long to be. I was, and still am, so thankful to my amazing body for allowing me to have such a super time.
We’ve already pencilled in a date in 2019 to go on holiday together again. I’ll have to source a dog’s life jacket so Lottie can join us on the dinghy next time!