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His Tahiti trip celebrated his triumph over cancer--and his tendency to overplan

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The InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa features over-water bungalows.
(InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa)

I didn’t really want to quit my job as house manager of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, but I stopped doing something I loved to start treatments for advanced metastasized melanoma.

The first few treatments were killing the cancer, but they also were killing me. I didn’t want to end up as a cancer-free cadaver, and my doctor, Melody Benjamin of UCLA Health Ventura, didn’t want me to either, so I was switched to an immunotherapy drug in 2016.

Success. Six months in, my scans showed no sign of the tumors and virtually no evidence of active melanoma. I felt wonderful and wanted to celebrate my new lease on life.

My husband, Sam, and I decided the first week of November would be a great time to celebrate life, and, coincidentally, our fifth wedding anniversary. I looked at my bucket list and Tahiti jumped out at me. I am passionate about travel and was delighted to have a project to work on.

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For me, doing this right meant an over-water bungalow. I spent hours each day researching the islands of Tahiti and the resorts with the accommodations that fulfilled my dream. I also wanted just enough activities to fill our days, restricted to seven because of Sam’s job. He cautioned me — a serial over-planner — not to stuff our schedule because he wanted time to relax and rejuvenate.

After a red-eye flight from LAX, we arrived, rented a car and drove to the resort, the highly rated InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa in Faaa. We arrived too early to check in, so we headed to the market, just a mile from the resort. There we stocked up on wine, cheeses, various charcuterie, fresh local fruit and a freshly baked baguette.

Our suite was ready when we returned. We were almost euphoric: It was one of the last bungalows away from the central building. A young man pulled up in an open-air vehicle to take us to our accommodations. The whole scene seemed like something out of “Fantasy Island.” Smiles, everyone, smiles!

He showed us into the bungalow, complete with a thatched cathedral ceiling, teak and wicker furnishings and the most luxurious bathroom I’d ever experienced over the water: a huge Jacuzzi tub, a rainwater shower, polished teak counters and Italian marble everywhere.

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The bedroom and living room opened out to an upper deck that welcomed us with down-padded chaise longues and a view that went on forever.

Sam wanted to settle in, but I insisted we take a spin and see Topatari Falls. He acquiesced. We fought traffic and took treacherously narrow roads to get to the well-publicized sight. Then we walked through damp ferns, fighting off mosquitoes and other flying objects.

When we arrived at the spot between two trickling waterfalls, Sam looked at me and said, “Now can we just go back to the bungalow?”

We scurried to the car and took the fastest route, skipping my itinerary.

Sitting on the deck, watching our first Tahitian sunset, I lifted my glass of sparkling French wine and said, “Happy anniversary.”

Embracing the moment, Sam replied, “Know when you’ve won.”

For the rest of the week, we took morning and evening swims and snorkeled off our deck, occasionally stopping by the pool for an umbrella drink from the swim-up bar. We dined at the hotel’s fine restaurants and on our deck, sometimes ordering room service, sometimes enjoying items from the local market.

A win indeed. Smiles, everyone, smiles!

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Departure Points explores the ways traveling changes us, whether it’s a lesson learned or a truth uncovered. You can submit a first-person essay of 700 or fewer words to travel@latimes.com using “Departure Points” in the subject line. Please include your first and last names and your contact information for editorial consideration.


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