February 06, 2014

Mark at Cojimar Cuba - A place where Hemingway fished and not far from his home.
 Celebration of Being Alive - Mark and his mother made a trip to Cuba with Friendly Planet and a post Cuba stay in Miami.
Mark is now 9 years past his prognosis of 3 months or less to live from stage 4 cancer (esophageal and liver) with later chest wall tumor and an excised kidney cancer unrelated to his primary cancer. If you go back and read the blog you will discover that he was diagnosed on the island of Saipan where he was working as a respiratory therapist and that he took himself to Bumrumgrad Hospital in Bangkok for treatment. I (his mom) broke 2 bones in my lower leg and my ankle climbing in the mountains of Turkey last April then I had a heart attack a couple of months later. At the same time I had a small basil cell tumor on my face. It seemed like the wheels were falling off and I was no longer invincible. All those problems have been fixed. Both Mark and I wake up every day thankful to be alive and to have a chance to do something worthwhile.
Cuba is a wonderful place to celebrate being alive. We were with 21 people, two guides, and a driver none of whom we had met before and we discovered we really liked these people during our trip.We went a lot of interesting places and learned of the history and culture. For example: education including university is free in Cuba.If you are bright it is not a financial burden to become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or other professional like it is in the USA. After graduating from college there is a 3 year obligatory service in a government placed job. Our tour guide had majored in languages and one of her choices of a government placed job was tour guide. Service in the Cuban military cuts the after college service to two years. I discovered on the trip that one of the men who is just a few months older than Mark was born in the hospital where I worked on the maternity ward when I was a young nurse pregnant and expecting a baby which turned out to be Mark. I probably took care of our fellow traveler's  mother in labor and/or him in the nursery. We discovered many other small world coincidences among our fellow travelers. 

We toured schools, after school programs, an elder day care, an organic vegetable and fruit farm, a community of relocated persons, local artists famous in and out of Cuba and actually met the artists, dance groups, musical groups, learned of religions and off tour we went to a Cuban baseball game and ate out some on our own. In Miami we stayed in a hotel at the beach, toured the city, went to Little Havana for lunch, took a cruise to see the homes of the rich and famous on various Miami islands, drove to the Everglades and ate stone crabs at a seafood market. It was a great celebration. All those days and months and even years of chemo, radiation, and every side effect that you can imagine faded a little further back in memory as we enjoyed our celebration of being alive. We may have to do this every January.