By Sandy Dewez, RN, BSN
For many of us, exploring the world is a dream come true. But long-cherished dreams such as travel feel shattered when you are diagnosed with cancer. You may remember vividly when you heard your doctor say those frightening words. But then, after the initial despair, something magical happens.
That other part of you that wants to fight and live wakes up, giving you strength and determination. You yearn to fulfill forgotten dreams. You start making up the balance of your life: How did I do? What do I still have on my bucket list?
Here is the good news: Whether you are in remission or still battling cancer head-on, traveling safely is very much attainable and adds to the quality of your life!
Different factors are at play when thinking of traveling as a cancer patient.
For example: Am I able to walk the long distances to the gate? Can I take all my medications with me? Will I get a blood clot when traveling? Can I get travel insurance? Will I get medical help in an emergency?
1. Fun fact: Vacation starts at home. First, pick an inspiring destination for your Wellness Holiday. Perhaps you like soaking in the healing waters, getting an appropriate massage or releasing stress in a drum class. Maybe you like to go on a relaxing boardwalk stroll and eat ice cream. Or simply decide to do nothing at all and just get pampered, it’s all good.
Remember Rick Steeves? He recommends prioritizing your list of things you like to do or see during your vacation. Build in flexible days to rest. Don’t push everything in your itinerary. Rick says to examine your list, cross off some items, then scrutinize it until you have a relax-do-relax-do-relax vacation. Yes, bucket lists are great, but they are there to enjoy.
2. Your joyous adventure can start as soon as you get medical clearance and are fit enough. Copy the approval letter from your doctor with your prescriptions and mandatory vaccinations. Give a copy to the airlines and your travel companions. Put one in your hand luggage and one in your suitcase. Customs must see all medications, painkillers, liquids, and injections in their original containers. Carry these in your hand luggage with a letter from your doctor. And stop having sleepless nights: A great travel agent can handle the rest of your travel details: you’re worth it!
3. More peace of mind is more vacation joy! Luckily, many companies provide travel insurance, even if you are still under active treatment. Get an excellent policy that covers unexpected medical costs or repatriation. Companies such as Allianz Travel, TravelDefenders, Aardy, or Insurancewith are only just a few of the many. And airlines have emergency policies that will get you back home if necessary. Work with your travel agent to pick the best options for your individual situation.
Less hassle is golden! Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, check in, go through security and arrive at the gate. Allow you airline personnel to assist. with a wheelchair or electric cart wherever you go; they will gladly help.
Great to know: Do you have a head covering, port, implant, pouch, prosthesis, medical device, or medications that are bulkier than the regular allotted limits? Don’t worry! Security check-in can be made easy by requesting a private screening. Always confirm specific rules with your airline airline on how to make special arrangements. Be sure to also check with the country of your destination.
Travel light! Don’t fret too much about the contents of your suitcase. You can buy almost everything at your destination. That way, you can just pack your necessary medications and essentials. And what you don’t need, leave
it behind for the locals. Often, they will be delighted you did! And when you have airport time left over: a massage, nail, -or beauty treatment will surely get you in the mood. Or maybe enjoy some fun shopping or great dining.
5. Lastly: Rest and relax. Unwind on the plane. Have peace of mind that you can breathe easily at altitude if needed because the airlines allow portable oxygen, just be sure to arrange this beforehand. Discuss prevention options for blood clots, infection, lymphedema, nausea, or other medical issues with your oncologist. Carry hand hand-sanitizing wipes or a mask during travel. Also, flight attendants will happily assign you a different seat if you feel uncomfortable with your neighbor passengers. And if you stay hydrated, move about in the cabin, or do seated exercises, you can make your journey more enjoyable.