As the plane descended, I could hardly believe my eyes – the landscape and the scenery was something I thought only existed in picture books. I finally stopped holding my breath. After almost two years of planning, having had to cancel last year’s trip thanks to MS, we’d finally made it to Iceland – and it was everything I dreamed it would be.
Snow-capped mountains stretched out as far as the eyes could see, fresh crisp air filled our lungs. Iceland made me feel so alive and so thankful for that – geysers, Gullfoss waterfall, volcanoes, lava fields, the Blue Lagoon, Thingvellir national park – if ever there is a place to make you stop and soak in the moment, Iceland is that place. I had to regularly pinch myself to be reminded it was real.
Ever since I was 18, sat on the top of the number 9 bus from DCU with Niall as he introduced me to Sigur Ros through shared headphones and wowed me with stories of this amazing country, I’ve dreamed of going to Iceland. It was right up there on the bucket list – which is why having to make that call from hospital in November 2014 to cancel our trip was such a blow – disappointed doesn’t even come close. Iceland faded into a dream once again and illness and hospitals took over.
But then the MS diagnosis came and with it my hunger for life. I knew not rebooking Iceland would go down as one of my biggest regrets – it felt like I’d be letting the MS win by allowing it to take this from me.
Iceland was my first holiday abroad since being officially diagnosed with MS – and my first time through an airport with injections in tow. Despite working myself up so much in the weeks before about being dragged aside and having to wave doctor’s letters and explain my condition to security, they didn’t bat an eyelid when I said I had half a dozen injections in my hand luggage.
I’d become so stressed and panicked in the weeks before Iceland. The calendar was jammed with social and family events and busy work deadlines – I couldn’t stop thinking that this time last year I was in hospital. Am I going to wake up tomorrow to find that I’ve relapsed? I knew I was doing to much in the runup to the holiday too and I was terrified that fatigue would creep in and I’d find myself bedbound for the holiday. I wanted to savour every minute of our time in this country – where did MS fit into that picture?
But it’s amazing what you learn about a disease in a few months. I took the day off work before we were due to fly and I just slept and slept, building up my energy reserves and finally starting to believe that this year was the year Iceland might just happen. I slept on the plane over there, which afforded me enough energy for our Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights tour that night. And the next day I slept between destinations on the Golden Circle tour. It might have meant I missed some of the beautiful scenery en route but it was worth it to step off the coach feeling more refreshed. A few months ago I’d have been furious that I was wasting precious holiday time on daytime naps – but I’ve come to realise those 30mins here and there mean I don’t have to miss out on the moments that really matter. I think if I could sneak in a half hour every lunch time my MS would seem far better some weeks.
So after a year later than planned, there we were, stood staring over Gullfoss waterfall, the sun gleaming down, the cold air biting, the spray hitting our faces. I could hardly believe it was real – I’d imagined being here for so long that it seemed like it would never happen, that I’d put it on a pedestal and built it up so much in my mind that the reality would never match the picture in my head. But Iceland did – it was magical.
So never ever give up on what matters to you, no matter what life throws at you. Dust yourself off and focus on those dreams and those things that are important to you – they’ll be all the sweeter in the face of the hardships.