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Karen Mickleson | all galleries >> Galleries >> Joy In Beauty Travelogue: One Response to a Terminal Cancer Diagnosis >
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Southern Italy

25-29 April
Hotel Portoghesi -- Rome, Italy

For reasons I cannot remember, my Rome visit is a haze, but for observing a glamorous wedding on the Spanish Steps. I did not journal there.

29 April - 3 May
Hotel Marincanto -- Positano, Italy

Retrospective note: Positano is, of course, stunningly beautiful, perched as it is vertically on a curved set of cliffs on the Napali Coast, bathed in ochres and oranges and turquoise. But I took my life in my hands driving there, being zipped and zoomed around by speeding moto drivers who make sport of risking their lives and terrifying others on the impossibly winding road. I think it's related to testosterone.

My hotel room opened to a breathtaking view out to sea and I left the windows open at night to hear the ocean. Walks down to the beach were over narrow and steep, ancient cobbles passing tourist shops.

Here, I stupidly left my Canon Elf camera on my lunch table, and it was of course disappeared when I returned. This was a major sorrow I regret to this day.

3 May - 12 May
Montepiano Apartment -- ancient Palazzo, Montasola, Sabrina region, NE of Rome

Writing this now, in July of 2006, I cannot for the life of my senior brain remember much of what happened during these first two weeks of April. I know I got sick with a cold, which for me is always followed up by a URI, and was likely too miserable to write. I do remember a harrowing drive to Positano with motorcyclists honking and weaving around me. I remember the breathtaking view from my balcony and bed at Hotel Marincanto. I remember having to track down a physician to get antibiotics while there, and leaving my camera on a restaurant table, forever lost with many photos. There was a friendly episode with a camera store owner when replacing the camera, but dang, his name is gone from my brain.

I recall watching a melodramatic wedding on the Spanish Steps in Rome and enjoying the rooftop terrace at the Hotel Portoghesi.

And, I recall living with the birds way, way up high on a Sabrina mountain at 'Montasola' in a wonderful apartment with a terrace where the swallows swooped at me. It was in an ancient walled palazzo inherited by a zestful Rubenesque woman named Letizia.

Mostly, I rested from antibiotic exhaustion, and made a wonderful heart-to-heart connection with a woman named Adriana. I gave her a pair of earrings, and she gave me a little copper pitcher which lives to this day on my bedroom dresser.

As I gradually reconstruct parts of this travelogue into a retrospective blog, I realize how reluctant I was to write when I was feeling lousy. Maybe because I feel less pithy and entertaining, or because I knew how concerned my friends were about me and my health and didn't want to worry them, or maybe because I didn't want to think myself about the implications of exhaustion, illness or a compromised immune system. As I write now, it comes back that I was, indeed, worried--was this the harbinger of worse things to come? Was I a fool to take off on this grand adventure where if things got bad I'd have to search out a doctor who knows nothing about esophageal cancer in a country where I can't speak the language?

I have since learned that to a person, cancer survivors get scared whenever anything happens in their bodies, for a long time after remission. It's the nature of the bird.

This is what I wrote friends when I came down from the hill: Friday, 12 May 2000

Hi, all.

Well, I'm finally down off the mountain where I spent a week in an apartment in a medieval hill town called Montasola, in the "Sabina" region just northeast of Rome. I'm too far behind on journaling to have written yet about the experience, but I at least wanted to check in to let you know I'm still alive. It's been a couple of weeks since I had email access, and I'm on a stopover back at La Volpaia with Sylvia and Andrea before I go over to Cinque Terre on my way into France. By the grace of god and that guy who helped me discover I had a bad computer cord in Florence, I finally got connected and could download email today.

I'm doing ok, perhaps getting tired of the communication problems if I'm somewhere no English is spoken...But, I did have a lovely new friendship with a woman in Montasola, Adriana, who spoke not a word of English and we became very close anyway. I'll write more on that later if I ever get caught up. I got a cold and then a URI in Positano, so have been doing a lot of resting.

My phone seems to be acting up again, in that I've not been able to receive calls, but I do get messages, indicating the number of the person who has called. This is most frustrating, especially if I'm someplace where there is no regular phone, as in Montasola. I finally found out after calling home on my MCI card from a pay phone that my MCI bill last month was $300, which is causing me to limit the calls I make because the tenants at my house are paying the bill and taking it out of the rent.

The next challenge will be finding places to stay along the way from Italian Riviera over into the Dordogne of France without reservations. I'm hoping that once I get into France, I can get the B&B books I"d sent to Vienna but never got, so I'll have more options than Karen Brown places which are likely all booked.

For now I gotta go join the pre-dinner crowd outside in this beautiful place. I'm sending along a couple of journal entries from April which are done, and will send more as they get done.

Love, Karen

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