The Year of Last Holidays

Sunrise, Atlantic Ocean. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Sunrise, Atlantic Ocean. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

If you were dying, but still felt healthy now, what would you do with the time you had left?

This question is the premise for two films entitled Last Holiday.

In the 1950 version of the story, Alec Guinness plays George Bird, a salesperson of modest means and ambitions. During a routine physical, his doctor delivers a terminal diagnosis: he has Lampington’s disease, rare and very deadly — and he will die soon.

Bird wanders into the street in a daze, winds up in a second-hand shop where he purchases a Duke’s wardrobe, then takes himself off to a posh seaside resort. No longer hampered by his “keep-my-head-down attitude,” Bird starts to say exactly what he thinks.

Alec Guinness played George Bird in the original version of Last Holiday (1950).

Alec Guinness played George Bird in the original version of Last Holiday (1950).

The wealthy are charmed. A captain of industry seeks his advice. Bird finds himself the center of attention, and his whole life begins to change. Near the end of the film, his doctor discovers he’s given Bird the wrong diagnosis.


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The plot may be familiar to you, even if you haven’t seen the Guinness film. Last Holiday was remade in 2006 with Queen Latifah in the lead role, playing Georgia Byrd, a mild-mannered salesperson selling cookware in a New Orleans department store. Her boss is rude and thoughtless, and he regularly demeans her.

Queen Latifah plays Georgia Byrd in the 2006 re-make of Last Holiday.

Queen Latifah plays Georgia Byrd in the 2006 re-make of Last Holiday.

Georgia spends her evenings cooking complex recipes and dreaming of being a chef. When she receives her terminal diagnosis, she heads off to the Grandhotel Pupp in Czechoslovakia where her hero Chef Didier works. Freed from her regular constraints, Georgia blossoms.

I like both versions of the film. I first saw the original film over thirty years ago; I have to admit, I’ve always thought about it as Obi Wan takes his last holiday . . . since I was twelve when Star Wars came out, Guinness will always live in my imagination that way.

When Latifah’s version of the film came out, I went to see it. I love the re-make. It’s positive, it’s fun — and I love the premise, the “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Little did I know I would get to live the plot line myself.

SO . . . if you were dying, but still felt healthy now, what would you do with the time you had left?

The answer is different for each of us.

I have always dreamed of traveling the world and writing. There were so many years that I couldn’t — no money, then no time, job constraints, a small child at home. But I always thought that one day I would, that I had  to, that I wanted to with a large part of myself, my soul.

Royal Clipper near Soufriere, St. Lucia

Royal Clipper near Soufriere, St. Lucia. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

2016: My Year of Last Holidays

I should mention that my husband Drew, love of my life, died in the summer of 2013 after a 2.5 year fight with terminal cancer. We managed his last holiday — his dream, to go to London and Paris about six months before he passed.

In 2014, I had emergency surgery for a fully obstructed bowel. The Stage III colon cancer had spread to one of eighteen lymph nodes removed along with the tumor.

I started chemo in September 2014, and finished at the end of March 2015. As anyone who has had cancer knows, we live scan to scan.

My oncologist, my surgeon, and I spent the first half of 2016 thinking my cancer had metastasized, but could be cured after two lung surgeries and chemo.

Following a scan in June, things were worse. Based on conversations with my doctors, I expected I might live two years, and none of it was going to be pretty.

In March, I downsized from a large house to a two-bedroom condo; I figured I’d better do it while I still felt strong enough to do the work.

After the bad scan, I quit my job of 24 years.

My daughter and I watch Joe Versus the Volcano that night, another film in keeping with the Last Holiday theme. It’s one of those that people either really, really like or really, really don’t. I kind of love it. Catherine and I kind of loved it together.

Joe Versus the Volcano.

I took five last holidays in 2016.

The first trip was impromptu. I got the bad news, and took my daughter Catherine on a first-class Delta flight to New York for New Year’s Eve. We museumed, and shopped, and walked, and ate amazing food, and saw Broadway shows from the very best seats.

Afterwards came two last holidays before what I expected to be a very bad year of surgery and chemo.

The final two were the last holidays I ever expected to take. Where were these five trips? You know about the Big Apple. Three journeys involved tall ships. One was a trip to Alaska and Puget Sound.

And then something magical happened.

The spots in the pleurae of my lungs disappeared.

In January of 2017, I quit worrying about cancer. I’m staying on my path, to turn my writing and my blog into something bigger.

And you know what? If I hadn’t had the living daylights scared out of me last year, I wouldn’t be here . . . I’d still be sitting in my office, afraid to leave.

 


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

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There are two posts having to do with my cancer, you’ll find them here. I’ll post another shortly, for those who want to know more about the scans, etc.


You’ll find four of my “last holidays” here, broken up into six different blog posts:

Royal Clipper sails near Soufriere in St. Lucia.

Article about my cruise in the Caribbean on the Royal Clipper.

Photograph of Royal Clipper

Article about my voyage on Royal Clipper in the Mediterranean.

Classic Fiat in Rome

Visiting Rome in the summer? Tips for seeing the sights while avoiding the crowds.

Screenshot from Inside Passage Alaska, Minus the Cruise Ship

My trip to Juneau, Skagway, Haines, and Sitka using the Alaskan Marine Highway.

Article about my westbound Atlantic crossing on Star Flyer.

Screenshot from Land of Tall Trees and Fat Fish

On Golden Pond on Puget Sound. My daughter joined me for this peaceful time watching the great mountain, Rainier.

26 Comments on The Year of Last Holidays

  1. Your personal battles with cancer are kind of heart-wrenching to read about. It’s affected my family many times and with fatal endings as well, so I understand to what degree of a miracle you experienced in surviving a stage III tumor. Quite incredible. Having worked on sailboats and now diving (motor) boats, I think I can share a bit of your love for tall ships. The fact that these sort of trips make the list of your last holidays means that we’ll probably have a lot in common the more we get to digitally know each other 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave, it’s great to meet you :-). I’ve just barely had a peek at your web site, and you know, one of the best things about my blog is how many wonderful people I’ve found through it. I can tell after just a couple of reads on your blog that I look forward to seeing more.

      Nearly 40% of the folks out there will have cancer at some point in their lives. That’s a tough statistic. My family and friends regularly heard me say, “it is what it is.” You do your fight, you live your life — god, I got so lucky. I know it. So I try to as in the moment as I can be, and to really be present.

      Like

  2. Wow what a powerful story! I love that you shared this with us. I think it’s a great reminder even to those in good health, that things can change at any moment, and we should live each day exactly the way we want our life to be.

    Like

  3. You’re such an inspiration, Ann! I am so glad you took those trips last year to enjoy life and do what you love with your daughter! And even more proud of you for fighting cancer and not giving up! You’re right, there are always constraints that keep us from chasing our dream, but we shouldn’t wait because time is limited!

    Like

  4. Wow! First of all– so glad the cancer shows signs of . I think we all wonder what we’d do with a diagnosis like that. I typically think I’d travel more, but I can’t say that for sure. That’s my life already. It’s something to ponder.

    Maybe that’s why I like movies like the ones you mention; because I’m hoping they’ll provide the answer.

    Like

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, I’m very blessed — at this point I really think I’m out of the woods. Whatever is in my lungs isn’t cancer, or the spots would have grown.

      I liked these films a lot before my experience. And now I really love them, because the thing is this: None of us knows how long we have.

      Like

  5. I hope you experience many, many more last holidays. How freeing this must all feel in weird kind of way. I loved reading your story…while my cancer isn’t an actual diagnosed disease, what I am dealing with sometimes feels like it should be. This was inspiring to me because you talked about fear. Fear is my “cancer.” So I just wanted you to know that you have helped me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think many of us deal with fear. There are so many different things that cause it. And then the thing is this — none of us really know “when it’s coming.” Several dear friends died so young. The best all of us can do is to live our days to the fullest, to be as aware as we can, and to be good to the people we come in contact with. I hope for you all of your days with fear as behind you and as little as it can be.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Dream Big, Dream Often and commented:
    Ann Cavitt Fisher!!

    Like

  7. You are an amazing and strong woman!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you — but I’ll say this, I think cancer doesn’t give us much choice. You just kind of step and do the best you can, whether it’s with handling treatment or making the best decisions you can about life at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Marie Whelen // April 21, 2017 at 2:41 pm // Reply

    Marvelous news! May you have only good news in the future!

    Like

  9. Congrats Ann, I really mean it from the bottom of my heart! My mum wasn’t as lucky, or perhaps not as physically strong, she died to cancer aged 61. I wish I could’ve done all the things you did with her as well, but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance. We should’ve gotten out there whilst we could, you’re absolutely right.

    Enjoy your travels!

    Fabrizio

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fabrizio, I’m so sorry about your mother. Cancer is awful. And it’s so different, one variety to another, and then from one person to another. I know how lucky I am, and will do my best not to forget it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Neyda R Sanger // April 18, 2017 at 8:10 am // Reply

    You are an amazing woman and an inspiration!!!

    Even though we don’t talk or see each other, I think of you often and wish you the best life has to offer.

    Carpe diem!!!

    Love, Neyda

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Amazing story! Thanks for sharing it. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Peter Harvard // April 17, 2017 at 7:56 pm // Reply

    Well put, my Friend…

    On Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 5:38 PM, Ann Cavitt Fisher wrote:

    > Ann posted: ” If you were dying, but still felt healthy now, what would > you do with the time you had left? This question is the premise for two > films entitled Last Holiday. In the 1950 version of the story, Alec > Guinness plays George Bird, a salesperson of modest” >

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful story! So touching and vulnerable! Prayers for continued perfect health!

    Liked by 1 person

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