I travelled on Contiki with a brain tumor. This is my story.

This article was created for The Travel Project by Jessica Buck, a UK based travel blogger and ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation, currently on a mission to visit 25 countries before her 25th birthday.

When I was 18, I started to become sick- I was having headaches, and feeling faint and dizzy. After endless prods, tests and trips to the doctors and the hospital, my consultant finally had a diagnosis.

He told me I had a tumor in my brain.

Hearing the words brain and tumor in the same sentence scared the shit out of me, and I really struggled to comprehend my diagnosis.

Yep, that’s right – I was 18 years old, diagnosed with a prolactinoma; the medical term for a growth on the pituitary gland in my brain.

I was terrified.

Thankfully, I was told right from the start that the tumor was benign, so it was a huge relief to know it wasn’t cancerous. Nevertheless, I still couldn’t get that diagnosis and the term ‘brain tumor’ out my mind. I was told I would be on medication for life, but last year I came off the tablets for the first time since 2011 and seemed to be doing ok without them. Fast forward another year, and my original symptoms reappeared – meaning I had to go back on the tablets.

On a day to day basis my tumor doesn’t cause me a huge amount of physical trouble; you could look at me and you would think there was nothing wrong. Mentally and emotionally though, it does affect me – especially when I travel. I’ve suffered with travel sickness since I was a child, even on short car journeys. On previous trips I’ve spent days cooped up in my hotel room, and I’m convinced this is to do with my medical condition.

It did get me down, and made me think ‘why me?’ Why should I suffer while my friends are out exploring the beach? Why should I stay in here being sick whilst my family are out enjoying themselves on holiday?

I was so worried about travelling with my health condition before I went on my Contiki Grand Southern trip. It was the first time I’d ever been out of Europe, and the longest time I’d ever been out the country. Going away for a whole month meant that I could get sick at any time, and I was especially worried that my headaches and travel sickness would be a big problem for me. Who wants to sit on a coach full of strangers whilst having the worst stomach cramps and headaches in the world?

Not having my home comforts, like my headache patches and my hot water bottle, did worry me a little. Miraculously though, my condition didn’t seem to affect me too badly whilst I was in the States. I don’t know how I did it, but it’s like my body was just saying: right, get on with it and don’t let this tumor get you down!

Girl grand canyon

I was able to enjoy myself day after day, night after night for 27 days straight without being poorly. I coped a whole lot better than I thought I would do – and I’m so proud of myself. I remembered to take my medication and I didn’t need any medical assistance while I was out there.

I didn’t tell many of my tour mates about my condition; only my roomie and 2 of my other close pals found out when they saw me taking my tablets and asked what was up. I guess I just felt they may have thought I was weird, and might have treated me differently.

I’m not ashamed of my condition; it’s something I’ve grown up with for the past six years, but I just didn’t feel I wanted to share my story whilst I was away - I wanted to feel NORMAL for a change.

I wouldn’t say that my health improved whilst I was on my trip (I don’t think it will ever improve unless my tumor is removed), but it certainly made me realise that I can travel and enjoy myself without worrying about the impact that it has upon my health condition. I did things I never thought I’d be able to do, like taking a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, parasailing along Daytona Beach and white water rafting in Durango. I also got to fulfill my lifelong childhood dream of visiting Walt Disney World for the first time!

These things gave me the most amazing experiences to tick off my bucket list and I am so proud to say I have done them, and that I didn’t let my health condition stop me. Sadly, my tumor is here to stay, but it doesn’t mean that I’m gonna mope around and let it get me down!

Girl sitting monument valley

I would urge ANYONE to travel as much as they possibly can, whilst they are fit and healthy enough to do so. Travelling broadens your horizons on so many levels; it opens your eyes to the rest of the world and fills your heart and soul with memories that will last a lifetime.

If you have a health condition like me, and it is safe to do so, then I would urge you to travel even more and make the most of every single second you have on this beautiful planet.

I’m on a mission to visit 25 countries before I turn 25, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna let this tumor stop me! Nothing will get in the way of me achieving my dreams, and ticking more and more off my bucket list. I’m so proud that I took my leap of faith and booked myself onto the adventure of a lifetime – I have nothing but amazing memories and I would do it all again in a heartbeat! #NOREGRETS!

Has travel helped you to learn to let go, or helped you accept or overcome a personal challenge? Share you stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two.

READ MORE