This International Life, interrupted

OK to talk about cancerI’ve gone back and forth about whether to write this post. It was tempting to leave it out, to keep this website as some kind of imaginary version of our adventures as travel-happy expats, where life was going on as usual. But for the past seven years this blog has been a chronicle of our actual lives, and omitting something so significant seems strange. We’ve been weighing the discomfort of sharing this story publicly against the discomfort of leaving it out; looks like the scales have tipped towards telling it. Here goes.

Back in May we were finally starting to settle into life in Edinburgh after a long, drawn-out move from Munich (a move which involved detours to Italy, the US, and Japan). We were excited about our new city in a new country. We were figuring out which neighborhood grocery stores we like best (Waitrose for the win) and trying very hard to remove the word “pants” from our vocabulary. We were just starting to meet people, taking the first steps towards having a local social circle.

Also in May, Scott’s foot started to hurt a little. The doctor initially dismissed it as a minor injury which would work itself out. Then Scott’s calf started to swell a bit. Another trip to the GP, and a blood test just to rule out the possibility of a clot. A long wait in a small room for the results, for someone from the hematology department to come talk to us. Surely this doctor is in the wrong room; we’re just here because Scott’s foot hurts. Not because he has leukemia.

He was checked into the hospital immediately, no trip home to collect a toothbrush or a change of pants (see look, I’ve learned how to use that word now). Hooked up to an I.V. and started on blood parts and all sorts of drugs to prepare him for the chemotherapy, which was to begin as soon as possible.

That first few days was a blur of new medical vocabulary, tearful phone calls, and disbelief. Who up and gets leukemia like this? How did this happen? As this new version of reality sank in, we also started feeling overwhelmingly grateful. Grateful that this happened when we were home in our new apartment instead of, say, while we were in Japan, or the day before the movers were supposed to come pack up our Munich flat. Grateful that it was happening in a country with universal healthcare. Grateful for caring nurses and patient doctors. Grateful for friends and family around the world who offered their support and comfort.

That first hospital stay lasted five weeks. Overall Scott has spent about half of the past four months as an in-patient. In between rounds of chemo he’s had days when he has felt reasonably good, weak but otherwise pretty healthy. On those rare days we have been able to get out and enjoy our new city – go to the beach, take in a couple Fringe shows, have dinner out (with heavy restrictions on what Scott can eat) with visiting friends or relatives.

As I write this, the leukemia is in remission and we are approaching the end of Scott’s scheduled treatment. We are looking forward to some time away from the hospital, and starting to think about what comes next. Which Edinburgh restaurants do we need to try? Which Scottish islands should we visit first? How long until Scott is strong enough for a hike in the nearby hills? How long until life starts to feel normal again?

Now this blog is probably going to return to business as usual, chronicling our travels and expat adventures in home country number five. But I feel better knowing that when you see Scott’s bald white head in future photos, you’ll understand why.

Scott and Julie

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16 thoughts on “This International Life, interrupted

  1. Wow. I am so glad to hear that Scott is in remission and I hope all the treatments have kicked cancer’s ass. It seems so unfair and so hard to understand, but it also sounds like you have a lot to be grateful for. I’ll be thinking of you guys and sending hugs over from Germany.
    Mandi | No Apathy Allowed recently posted..Zen Under Fire | A Review

  2. So glad that you shared this–and happy & hopeful that Scott has done so well and you both are able to look forward to many, many new international adventures.

  3. Thanks for courageously sharing the experience and the good news of remission. We will keep the positive thoughts coming and hope that things quickly return to normal, whatever that is for you two travelers! Sending love!

  4. Hi Julie,

    Just saw the link for this post on Facebook. Thank you for sharing your medical journey as well as your geographic. My prayers are with Scott and you; so glad that he is in remission and feeling better. Enjoy beautiful Scotland and your expat life!

    Love and hugs from your cousin, Val

  5. I have been following your blog for about four years now, and of course had no knowledge of these events playing out after your recent relocation; stay strong, and my thoughts are with you both.

    ‘This too shall pass.’


  6. Oh my goodness! I am currently taking a lot of time out for health reasons as well – not cancer but things that could become much more serious if left alone. So I understand the need for a break. So wonderful to hear that the treatments are working and he is in remission. Sending healing thoughts your way and wishing you an amazing time on your travels when you get back to them. Health is the most important thing in life!
    Andrea recently posted..Just Beyond Maine: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

  7. Hi Scott and Julie,

    I am so sorry to have not been in touch as I myself came to know of scott’s illness through Jools. I myself have not been well for over 4 months now – my disease taking a bad turn & have been on sick leave with difficulty in walking. I am so happy to know that Scott is getting well now and it would be lovely to meet for a cup of coffee / tea this coming week – say opposite waitrose at Connect

    Do let me know and will be good to catch up.

    Sending you my best wishes for a speedy recovery and great to know you are in remission now. Stay strong and my thoughts are with you both.

    Best wishes,
    Abhishek (Abhs)
    Abhishek Behl recently posted..The Pond at Inverleith Park – Edinburgh

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