5 YEARS, 205 TRIPS, 1 INCURABLE CANCER DIAGNOSIS
An 81-Year-Old Georgia woman with incurable cancer continues to travel the world
“My most recent PET scan was at the end of August this year,” said Margo Bentley, an 81-year old retired attorney in Georgia. “I have multiple metastasis in my lungs, sternum and lymph nodes throughout my body. I will never be cured.
“My hope is the progression will be slow and I will be able to continue to enjoy life and my passion for travel.”
205 and counting
Bentley is a member of the Traveler’s Century Club, a nonprofit that promotes “the passport to peace through understanding.”
This organization was started in 1954 in Los Angeles. To become a member, one has had to have traveled to 100 countries.
“Some of my most recent trips have been to Belarus, Moldova, Transnistria, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritius, Reunion Island, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa,New Zealand, Madeira, the Azores and Norway,” Bentley said. “I visit the Traveler’s Century Club site when I begin to start planning my new trips.”
She was born with a passport in hand
Margo Bentley was born in Bay City, Mich. She grew up traveling with her parents on cruises and land trips.
After graduating from the University of Michigan with a speech pathology degree, Bentley, already married at the time with a child, found herself in Germany during the Berlin crisis.
“My husband at the time graduated medical school and we moved to Boston,” she recollected. “In 1962, he was drafted by the U.S. Army and we ended up spending two years living over in Germany. During the time there, I was able to explore Europe.”
A new chapter
“After 23 years of marriage, we decided to divorce.” Bentley said. “By then, we had three grown children. I decided to go back to school and become a lawyer.
“I graduated and became a member of both the Michigan and Georgia Bar Associations.”
As time passed, Bentley eventually found a new love.
“I remarried in 1989. Sadly, my husband was killed in a plane crash six months after our wedding,” she said.
Left with few options, Bentley uprooted her life. She moved to Georgia to be closer to her sister and her grandchildren.
The dreaded diagnosis
One New Year’s Eve in 2015, Bentley got the news everyone fears – she had cancer.
“After 18 months of misdiagnosis and mistreatment, doctors finally figured out I had Sebaceous Cell Cancer, which is rare and aggressive,” she said. “It usually starts in the eye. In my case it was my left eye and eyelids.
“Within two months I had my entire left eye removed. Since then, I’ve endured chemotherapy, multiple radiation treatments, surgery, and now I’m on a course of immunotherapy.”
And yet, through it all she’s continued to travel the world.
“While it’s devastating to learn you have cancer, you can’t think of it as a death sentence,” Bentley shared. “That’s easier said than done. Your initial reaction is to curl up in a ball and plan your exit strategy.”
At first, that’s what she did – but it didn’t last.
“I could not envision a life with only one eye, and months of surgery and difﬁcult treatments, none of which were guaranteed to work,” she said. “But, now it’s been almost four years since my diagnosis.”
Pick a travel buddy carefully
Thankfully, cancer didn’t stop Bentley from travelling (or giving travel tips).
Many times, great voyages are great because of the people on the trip. That’s why Bentley believes choosing who you travel with can make or break a trip, especially if you don’t share the same passions.
“The right travel companion will share your interests, energy level, and enthusiasm,” Bentley said. “She will also respect you and your personal space. I have been fortunate to have a dear friend who has all these qualities.
“She introduced me to the Travelers Century Club, so she has the same passion for travel that I do. We have traveled together for more than 30 years.”
Bentley said she also enjoys traveling with her daughter Dana and granddaughter Olivia.
Deciding the next stop
With her unwavering passion for travel, how does she decide where to go next? She goes to her trusted community.
”I look at the Travelers Century Club List of countries and territories to see what places I have yet to visit,” Bentley said. “Then I try to put together a trip including as many new places in a region as I can. Sometimes it is only possible to visit one new country or territory.”
Will she go to the same place more than once? Undoubtedly yes.
Bentley just came back from China and Japan this year. She’s been to the countries twice before, but this time she visited Okinawa.
She has favorite places and returns to them frequently. Some include England, Ireland, Italy, and Provence in France.
Just because LIFE strikes, doesn’t mean it dictates your path
Margo said it best:
“Each year I thought would be my last. Yet, in spite of the grueling treatments I have managed to continue to travel and enjoy many happy occasions with my family and dear friends.
“Keep up your strength, do everything you can to have a positive attitude and enjoy every day you can.”
Your MINDSET matters
Margo Bentley continues to defy the odds.
She keeps planning. She keeps traveling. She keeps persevering.
Mind over cancer.
If we took Margo’s mentality and applied it to other aspects or challenges in our lives, imagine the possibilities!