Travel Dreams

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Journal – April 2002 : If I ever felt that my boat dreams represented an unsuccessful folly, I was always surprised that my dreams of traveling the world came rather more easily to fruition.  In 1994 I saw an article in an American Cancer Society publication offering travel grants to nurses that were presenting papers at a cancer congress in New Delhi.  I submitted an abstract dealing with culture and cancer care.  It was accepted, as was my travel grant application.  As easy as that I was traveling to the other side of the world.  After a surprising bout with culture shock and a serious bout with typhoid fever for which I was hospitalized for nine days, I was ready to travel again.  The rest is a serendipitous tale. One encounter leads to another.  As part of my first India trip, I gave my presentation to staff at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, an internationally known cancer center.  An invitation to return in 1996 for a convention of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care.  A conversation in the lobby of the Metropole Hotel on the English Channel leads to a series of trips to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to plan cancer-nursing courses.  I remember Pearl Moore, chair of the nursing project that would send me, saying “I don’t think it will be too dangerous.” In 1998 I travel to Amsterdam and Jerusalem.
My Latin American projects in turn leads to membership on the International Union Against Cancer’s (UICC) Nursing Project Committee, which eventually allows me trips to Vienna and Oslo.  In a quaint outdoor bar at a famous 19th century Viennese subway entrance I am invited to speak in Panama.  I return to India in 1999, traveling with a past-president of ONS, Dr. Linda Krebs, and giving lectures in a series of cities across the sub-continent.  We end our tour at Tata Memorial Hospital, the premier cancer center in that part of the world.

A few months later I am engaged in nursing courses in Guatemala, Honduras and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.  In the summer of 2000 I accept an entirely unanticipated offer to become the Chairperson for the Cancer Education for Nurses Project at UICC.  This leads to trips to Geneva in December, a return to Panama in March, a quick PAHO sponsored trip to Trinidad in May, and a return to England in June.

I was chairing a nursing course to Kazakhstan to be held in October.  But after September 11 and the military action in Afghanistan, only 300 kilometers south of Kazakhstan, that course was postponed.  The bombing in Afghanistan started on the day our nursing course was to commence.  By November, though, it was safe enough for me to travel to Lisbon for an international conference, the last of my global jaunts before my leukemia.
Before 1994 if you would have asked me if I might ever travel abroad, I would have doubted it (unless it was to the Caribbean in a sailboat).  But by daring to dream about it, I had become an international traveler.  I traveled to Europe at least twice a year.  I have been to exotic countries.  Half of my incoming e-mails come from abroad.  I am acquainted with nurses, physicians and ministers of health from all over the world.  I carry business cards with a Geneva address.  The pages of my passport were half full.

This was just the beginning of a new and exciting phase to my nursing career.  And this too was brought to an abrupt halt with my diagnosis of aggressive leukemia.

Sometime in late January I began to allow myself to dream again.  The clouds had lifted partially.  Perhaps it started with the miracle of snow on that Christmas morning. And as I began to allow myself to dream again, the world seemed lighter, possibilities seemed more attainable.  I try to keep dreaming in perspective, acknowledging the healing effect of focusing on the positive, on the future, but realizing that all such dreaming depends upon the fate of my body in its struggle to corral my wild and mutant blood cells.  This permission to begin dreaming again is a gift.  It allows me to raise myself up and push myself forward towards lofty and colorful goals.  It allows a respite from grieving, from despairing.  I take such gifts willingly now and am heartily grateful for them.

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About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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