We just came back from our family vacation…it’s been a tradition, my husband and I have gone for a week away together with the kids every year since they were about 2 and 3. I love the time the four of us get to spend together without all of the distractions of work and activities, just the four of us spending time together. Time away from computers and cell phones and TVs.We’ve done lots of things, rented cabins for a week in the Smokies and the Dells, camped, gone sight-seeing and to water parks, to Disney. But this year, since my kids are out of high school and I don’t know how many more family vacations we will get, we did something more exotic. We spent a few days in Florida followed by a 5 day Caribbean cruise.

We booked the cruise when swine flu was in the news…between that and the struggling economy, we got very good prices. I loved the four of us eating dinner together every night. For most of the years my kids were growing up, we all ate dinner together as a family. That was really important to me. In high school things changed as they were involved in so may activities. Nowadays, we all work and work different shifts, so eating dinner together is a rarity. We had a nice table for four for dinner every night we were on vacation, with great food we didn’t have to cook and no dishes to wash! Lobster tails on our plates in this pic, can’t beat that!

We spent a day in Cozumel, Mexico where we went snorkeling and shopping in the Mexican markets, ate at a Mexican restaurant.

We also spent a day in Key West, where the highlight for me was a butterfly conservatory…I love butterflies, to me they are symbols of eternal life. There were hundreds of different kinds of beautiful butterflies there in a huge garden setting.

We spent another day in the Central American country of Belize. What I loved most about Belize was being in a jungle/rain forest (tigers, monkeys and jaguars are native wildlife there!). I loved seeing iguanas running around like we see squirrels here at home. I also loved learning a bit about the culture from a Belizean native.

I am often asked about alternative medicine. In Belize a native told me that for most illnesses they go to the jungle to select plants that they boil and use to treat illness. She told me she had only been to a doctor once in her life. An infusion of Key Lime leaves is used for headaches, another plant for childhood fevers, another to induce miscarriage.

At my most recent AACR conference, I listened to a presentation discussing the development of the chemotherapy drug Taxol. Taxol was originally derived from the Pacific Yew tree. My sister-in-law is receiving Taxol now for breast cancer. One of the chemotherapies I was on was similar to Taxol, CPT-11 (Irinotecan/Camptosar), also initially derived from the Pacific Yew.

This Time article states that “According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, more than 25% of the ingredients in cancer medicines today were either discovered in rain forests or synthesized in labs from discoveries made there.” In Belize they have the equivalent of our drug stores, but many instead go to herbal drug stores for prepared herbal infusions. I wish we could have spent more time in the jungles and rain forests of Belize (though mosquitoes were the most abundant wildlife there). As a medical professional, I would love to spend time with an herbalist in a rain forest.

At any rate, I’m back on-line now…and truly refreshed! But most of all, I’m so glad to have had the time with my family….I hope I get a few more family vacations!