Summer is a time for fun, for adventure, long walks on the beach, sundresses, shorts, campfires, concerts and patio parties. It’s a time to get out, be active, enjoy the warm weather and forget about all of your worries for just a few months. It’s a time to be spontaneous, even reckless, and try new things.
Unless you are recovering from a blood clot, then it can be discouraging, disheartening and a reminder of all the things you only wish you felt well enough to go do. For many of the reasons listed above, summertime is one of my favorite times of year (fall is the other), but when I was diagnosed with a blood clot on the first of June in 2012 and discharged from the hospital with my own oxygen tank, I knew summer was not going to be anything like I hoped. Probably ever again, for that matter.
In fact, I spent two summers not doing much of anything I once enjoyed. The heat, humidity, compression stockings, swelling and fatigue proved to be immensely debilitating and I was miserable. I gave up on the things I loved, and I have up on enjoying summer again. The thought of going on vacation and being away from medical professionals and a hospital I trusted was a source of great anxiety; not to mention, my mind wondered how would I travel and still reduce my risk for a DVT? What if something happened while I was on the air or in the road? What if I couldn’t speak for myself and was separated from my family? The anxiety plagued my mind for two years and vacation was out, I suddenly preferred to stay close to home.
As three years have gone by since my blood clots, I started to think about summertime travel and the things I once loved, like camping and bike riding. The anxiety has lessened, I know how to keep myself safe during travel, my INR and medication management has plateaued and I am tired of missing out on summertime activities so this year, I created a summer bucket list and you need one to.
Goals foster feelings of accomplishment and therefore, healing. Throughout my recovery, it was very hard for me to set goals that I thought were attainable because I felt like I could not accomplish anything. However, once I started to feel better and set a few goals for myself (like going to the grocery store alone or writing a new blog post), I started to feel better. As I began to make progress, I made more goals, which positively impacted my overall health. Goals, even small ones, are important to reducing anxiety and promoting positive feelings of self-worth.
You do not have to stop living just because you had a blood clot. Getting back to any activity, not to mention things you once enjoyed, is really hard after a blood clot. I recall wondering if I could do anything after my blood clot because it sure felt like I couldn’t. In the beginning of my recovery, I questioned whether it would even be safe to drive a car again because of the risk of a car accident. Now, I drive my car every single day with little to no thought. Does it still cross my mind? Yes, that and many other things. I still suffer from great anxiety at times, but I also have more confidence to go out and do the things I love. Last summer I rode my bike for the first time and I even took a few flights since my blood clot. I have ridden roller coasters, gone camping and backpacking. I will live my best life, in spite of my diagnoses of the clotting condition antiphospholpid syndrome and longterm treatment with blood thinners. It may take some time, and that is okay, but you can live again.
We all need a little — or a lot — of adventure from time to time. Remember that backpacking trip I told you about? Enough adventure for me for a while, but you know what? It was totally worth every second of risk. Through taking a risk that was not even normal for my everyday life, I learned I can accomplish great things and I will. Stepping outside of our boundaries boosts confidence, mood and self-esteem. Your adventure can be a shopping trip to the mall, a dinner date with a friend to a new restaurant or a picnic at the lake. Pick something you have never done or haven’t done in a long time and make it an event.
You deserve the best in life. After my blood clot, I spent a lot of time sitting back and waiting to see what would happen. Not only was I in physical pain and discomfort, I was scared out of my mind that I would have another pulmonary embolism and that would be the end of me. I was afraid to move, even afraid to breathe, because each breath might be my last. While I believe every Survivor needs to take time to grieve and process what happened to them, both physically and mentally, I do not wish anyone to live in fear of the rest of their lives. You deserve the very best life has to offer. You deserve to enjoy your time here and not be afraid every moment. Make a plan to do something for yourself and follow through. Get a manicure, color your hair, buy a new outfit or take a day trip to the lake, which you’ve been dreaming about for a few months now.
This is your only life. Your only life! Get out and make the most of it. We have all come too close to death to waste any second of it now. I know surviving a pulmonary embolism when so many have not has given me a new appreciation for the life I have. Even if my steps are small, I will take every one on the journey I am still privileged to be on. Join me!
Now that you know why you need a summer bucket list, how do you go about making one?
First, there are no rules! It’s your list. You can put as many items or as few items on the list as you want. Make your list manageable and realistic, but don’t be afraid to dream. Put a deadline on your items and do your best to reach it.
It might look something like mine….
This summer I want to:
- Go on a road trip
- Swim in the ocean
- Go backpacking
- Spend a weekend getaway somewhere new
- Visit a new museum
- Watch the fireworks for the Fourth of July from somewhere new
- Go canoeing on a new river/creek/lake
- Sleep under the stars
- Visit a new state park
- Visit a new city or town for a day
Just like any goals that render success, those are pretty specific objectives, obtainable for me and give a timeframe that I know I can reach.
I am on a road trip up the East Coast right now (my first one since my PE in 2012) where I plan to swim in the ocean, watch the fireworks in Savannah, Georgia and visit a few new towns along the way, including Colonial Williamsburg. I am more than ready to tackle backpacking again (without incident this time, I hope). These are things I don’t normally do in the summertime and they are the perfect summer activities that I missed out on during the years of my recovery — time at the beach, a stroll on the boardwalk, campfires, s’mores, roadside attractions and only a sort-of-definite-plan. I’m staying safe on the road trip by hydrating, stopping to move every couple of hours, wearing my compression socks and while I am no longer afraid to travel since my blood clots, I have been afraid I would not enjoy my time away. Even that anxiety has lessened, though, and I am looking forward to many summers full of bucket lists.
Reader Writes In: What’s on your summer bucket list?
There is hope for healing and you are not alone,