When our children matured into adults, our ability to take family trips became increasingly difficult. Potential trips had to be geared to the diverse needs of our growing family. Each family member’s situation was considered. Their participation was dependent on work conflicts, school schedules, third trimester pregnancies, or the arrival of newborn babies. Covid added another layer of conflict since not everyone in our family felt comfortable traveling during the pandemic.
Traveling with Glioblastoma
Ira’s glioblastoma (terminal and incurable brain cancer) diagnosis in July 2020 did not stop Ira and me from traveling in the United States or abroad. For approximately two years, we participated in memorable active adventures. Many of these trips were featured in published stories on multiple websites and print publications. PDF versions of these stories our housed on The Traveling Bornsteins’ Portfolio Page. Links can also be found on the For Glio page on the sandrabornstein.com site. Our journeys included an intensive Iceland cruise, morning hikes in St George, Utah, trekking in Israel’s diverse terrain, discovering seven coastal cities on a Spanish immersion cruise, skiing in Colorado, horseback riding and snowshoeing at a Colorado dude ranch, cruising in the Caribbean, as well as getaways to Arizona, Hawaii, and Florida. Ira enjoyed these trips since he was not saddled with any cognitive or motor skill deficits often associated with glioblastoma.
Setback—New Inoperable Tumor Detected
Ira’s mobility was adversely affected after a new inoperable tumor was detected in Ira’s thalamus in early January. Left sided weaknesses created significant issues with his gait and he simultaneously lost the daily use of his left arm and hand. Just a few weeks earlier, we had skied black runs at Keystone Resort in the beginning of December and at the end of the month snorkeled and kayaked in the Caribbean. We joyfully celebrated New Year’s Eve aboard the Celebrity Edge cruise ship. The dramatic changes Ira experienced within just a couple of weeks were surreal.
Planning a Family Trip
Shortly after receiving the diagnosis of the inoperable tumor, a new round of radiation and chemotherapy commenced, along with a remapping of the FDA approved Optune device. Our four sons worked together to find a mutually agreeable time to celebrate life during a multigenerational getaway. Our search focused on family friendly resorts that were near mid-size airports within a two-hour flight of Denver.
I located a reasonably priced online package that bundled airfare, rental cars, ocean view accommodations, and daily breakfast. Each family unit decided on the duration of their stay. Luckily, our two youngest sons booked the same flights as us so that we could have assistance in the airports and did not need to rent a car. I also reserved a wheelchair for airport transfers and a handicap accessible room to accommodate Ira’s new mobility issues.
Huntington Beach, California
The conveniently located Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa was an excellent choice for this family getaway. The immaculate and spacious grounds included a large lagoon style heated swimming pool, a Water Playground with a couple of kid friendly waterslides, and a bridge that connected pedestrians to the adjacent public beach.
Our six grandchildren ranging in age from one to seven years old divided their time between frolicking in the heated swimming pools, building sand sculptures on the beach, collecting seashells at low tide, and scampering in the Pacific Ocean. Everyone took advantage of the hotel’s beach chairs, towels and umbrellas. The younger generation also participated in the resort’s fish feeding and s’more roasting activities. Ira was able to navigate the relatively flat terrain without any issues.
We gathered at the onsite Watertable Restaurant each morning for breakfast. The weekend buffet, along with the daily menu offered delicious and healthy food options. The buffet was free for children four and under, while the resort breakfast credit covered a bountiful selection of entrees, sides, and beverages. Each night, we sampled Southern California cuisine at nearby restaurants.
Flexible Family Time
The key emphasis was on spending time together as a family. We replaced our customary long treks and active excursions with shorter walks and sedentary outdoor options. Since walking on the beach was no longer possible for Ira, we strolled on the paved walkway running parallel to the shoreline. Countless hours were spent at either the beach or poolside. Supportive water shoes made it possible for Ira to take a dip into the swimming pool.
After driving a short distance, we found our way to the Huntington Beach Pier to watch surfers of varying abilities ride the waves. On another day, we took advantage of a handicap accessible walkway near The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel, to walk to the shoreline. This is a wonderful perk for people who walk with a cane or walker or require a wheelchair.
Ira’s inability to participate in his usual activities did not stop us from celebrating life. Our precious time together offered an abundance of opportunities to snap images of our family enjoying simple activities.
The Importance of Embracing Life
Ira’s incurable brain cancer diagnosis has made us reevaluate the optimal way to spend our days at home and on the road. Since we agree with Og Mandino’s quote, “The greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories,” we hosted many gatherings in our Colorado home.
Our spring 2023 multigenerational getaway was the first time in decades that the whole family celebrated at an out-of-state destination. The extended time together provided numerous back-to-back opportunities for our grandchildren to play and eat together in a sunny, beach location. Ira and I loved our respite from our day-to-day life and recommend that others facing a terminal diagnosis find ways to remain active and enjoy family get aways for as long as possible.
While the Optune device and cognitive or physical deficits may cause additional travel challenges for glioblastoma patients, the desire to embrace life rather than cancer needs to prevail. Multi-generational trips are an exceptional way to enjoy life without regrets. Huntington Beach, California is just one option. Consider identifying your family’s ideal location and booking your trip as soon as possible. For travel tips, read Essential Tips for Traveling with Glioblastoma. As Ira and I learned earlier this year, the symptoms associate with a tumor recurrence can reappear without much warning and can escalate quickly. Even though it is impossible to predict how Ira’s inoperable tumor will respond to his latest treatments, we remain grateful for our glioblastoma travel experiences and the time we spent with our children and their families.
In May, I encourage readers to wear gray to bring awareness to Brain Tumor Awareness Month.
It was my intention to publish this story at the beginning of the month. Disappointingly, one of the entities that has published my stories for several years chose to ignore my submittal, despite numerous follow up emails. Due to the time constraints of pitching a time sensitive story, I am posting on this website near the end of May. I’m hoping that my smaller audience will share this link to bring more awareness to glioblastoma as well as the need to keep moving without regrets. For more information about glioblastoma, please visit my For Glio page.
When Sandy isn’t trekking or writing in the Colorado Rockies, she is traveling. She has visited more than 50 countries and lived as an international teacher in Bangalore, India. Sandy’s award-winning book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, is a resource for people contemplating an expat lifestyle and living outside their comfort zone. Sandy’s second book, 100 Things to Do in Boulder Before You Die was published in September 2022.
Sandy shares her lifestyle and travel experiences with international and domestic online sites and print media. Her stories have appeared in Travel Awaits, Wander with Wonder, Wander Magazine, Compass, The Healthy, Arvada Lifestyle, Hemispheres, Destinations Magazine, KUHL’s Born in the Mountain blog, Grand Magazine, Wandering Educators, Golden Living, One Travel, Miles Away, Canadian Jewish News, Getting On Travel, Far and Wide, Colorado Parent, Traveler Confidential, Family Circle- Momster, and others.