Super excited! Tomorrow we are taking off to join our friend Beth in Naples for our fourth annual “Cake By the Ocean Tour”. Okay, it’s not what you may be thinking! A group of us gals go down to celebrate life, friendship and simply having the privilege of being physically able to do so. Our now annual trip began four years ago.

The summer of 2016 was spent at University of Chicago (UIC) Hospital, well two weeks of it, followed by six weeks of recuperating at home. The three months prior to being in the hospital I was “getting ready” for my stem cell transplant. It was a long, tiring, frustrating year. My immune system was shot, my energy sapped, and then of course I lost my hair; which in retrospect was not the worst thing, just kind of like the icing on the cake. I really couldn’t go anywhere for a while (nor did I want to), fear of germs (the whole crappy immune system thing), not to mention I was tired.

My dear friend Beth had recently bought a condo in Naples, Florida. “When you are able to fly, we are going to Naples for a girls vacation, a celebration of you being healthy.” She declared.

Sure enough, January 2017 I was off to meet Beth in Naples. Our friend Courtney and her daughter Katie joined us.

Wonderful, magical, exhilarating, exactly what I needed to start feeling as if I was alive and healthy and part of the human race again, not someone watching from the outside. We quickly established a routine of long early morning walks on the beach, breakfast and then of course more time on the beach. Simply soaking up the sun, being rejuvenated by the never ending, calming, therapeutic ocean waves… The biggest decision of the day was where to get grouper for dinner.

Beth, one of the most generous, thoughtful people I have the honor of calling a friend, took it a step further and had a surprise for us. Ordering the most delicious carrot cake ever known to man (as far as we were concerned) and a couple of bottles of wine we ambled our way down to the beach to celebrate our friendships, health and life. So. Much. Fun! (The song “Cake By the Ocean” had recently been released and Katie had started the wonderful idea the month before while on a trip with her mom, simply eating cake while sitting on the beach enjoying the ocean and all it has to offer.)

During one of our morning walks we happened upon a race in progress. A half marathon. The Naples Half Marathon. It didn’t take either of us too long to decide we were going to run this race the following year.

So Sunday, the 19th of January three of us will be participating (run is a rather strong word) with another four cheerleading in our third Naples Half Marathon. Last year there were four runners, four cheering, the year before six running with one cheerleader. It changes every year based on schedules, but we all look forward to it and do our best to be there. After the race we load up our wagon with the best carrot cake ever, a fantastic flourless chocolate cake, several bottles of wine, forks, glasses and napkins. No plates or knives allowed! It’s one of our unwritten rules. And we enjoy. We laugh, we dance, we eat, we drink, we celebrate.

I think we all need something, some sort of get away to look forward to. Whether it’s yearly, monthly, bi annual… just something to break away from our everyday lives. Spend time with some of our very favorite people. Refresh, rejoice and be thankful. The ocean and running (or something resembling running) are two of my very favorite things, this combined with my friends is my idea of a perfect recharge.

Make time to do this for yourself. You deserve it. You’ll be oh so glad you did! I promise!