It’s been nearly a month since I boarded a United flight to San Diego. Outwardly, I knew I wasn’t showing too much excitement because I kept getting asked if I was looking forward to my trip. I was though, I was so excited. I was eager for a break from the daily grind and having never been west of Kansas City, the idea of San Diego felt exotic and appealing. But mostly, I was incredibly excited to meet some people I’ve known for almost a year but had never met. I’m pretty sure I fell in love with the city from the second I stepped out from the confines of the airport and took a breath of salty air.
When my beautiful host, A, picked me up, we headed south of the city to connect with another sister, G, who has, much like A and myself, had more than her fair share of complications, but mine don’t hold a candle to hers. If you’re a numbers person, between us we’ve had more than 20 surgeries since 2011. Twenty. G was still recovering from a recent surgical procedure, so the initial plan for her to meet A and me in San Diego was scrapped and we went to her. We could’ve spent hours together comparing war stories and battle scars, but we really could’ve spent hours together because it felt immediately like we’d known each other for a lifetime.
We lunched, we laughed, we looked at each others’ boobs (a new norm) and then we went our separate ways. But not without a selfie.
That evening, we had dinner with A’s beautiful family before her husband and daughters left for LA and left us to to our own devices. The result of this was a small tour of Carlsbad and a stop at a laid back wine bar. We curled up in the big chairs with our large glasses of wine and a bottle of water, and the conversation kept going. It never really stopped all weekend.
So, the plan had been to have a fairly large group of people for a beach dinner on Saturday. However, thanks to a tropical storm rolling up from Mexico, we were woken up by rain and thunder Saturday morning. We got up and, undeterred, set off for a farmer’s market and a kombucha tasting, all the while crossing our fingers that the rain would wane. It never did. And our large group dwindled to just a handful of us but the company was still amazing. A put together an amazing meal from our farmer’s market haul, coupled with a delicious bottle of wine. A’s sister joined us and a girl from San Diego’s Bright Pink group, and eventually her best friend as well. We talked about BRCA, our surgeries or our surveillance, we talked about our BRCA friends and the way it’s affected our families. It can be depressing, but it was a beautiful thread of conversation all weekend.
By then, the rain had let up and while it would’ve been too wet to sit on the beach, we could still go watch the sunset. It was magical: salty ocean air, fog rolling in, the sunset hidden by heavy storm clouds. It felt like a quintessential California night when we saw a small pod of dolphins swimming around a paddleboarder. For an East coaster, who lives on the Great Lakes, it felt surreal that people can live that experience every day.
Our perfect night wrapped up with a delicious fresh fruit fondue and almond champagne.
Sunday morning, most of the crew reconvened at Torrey Pines Reserve for a hike up the cliff (with a spur of the moment decision to climb up to the highest point) and back down to the beach. It was a beautiful warm, sunny morning and the hike gave us stunning views of La Jolla and Del Mar. The morning wrapped up with an acai bowl for breakfast at Swami’s and walking through the nearby meditation gardens.
By the afternoon, another tropical storm had rolled in from Mexico and A’s family had returned from LA. The day was capped off with cooking, coloring, and some reluctant packing on my part. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend, but there was not a part of me that wanted to leave San Diego. As a lifelong resident of Western New York, I love the Great Lakes and our too-short Summers, I love our Autumns that are always too short and I tolerate longer-than-necessary Winters, and I never thought I could love a place without four distinct seasons, but I had the chance, I would call San Diego home.
I think it’s a rare gift to find a community that you fit into immediately, but the sisterhood is exactly that. The playing field isn’t level and it isn’t fair, but there is so much love and support to be had. I will be eternally grateful for the massive social media spheres of Facebook and Instagram for bringing us all together. And I can’t wait for next year to do it all again.