Wanderlust is real. Here are some tips and tricks I have found that have been valuable when traveling since being diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer.
I know we all hate to admit the limitations that Breast Cancer has caused for each and every one of us, but it’s a reality. For some, it could be the cabin pressure of an airplane causing headaches from brain mets, others it could be fatigue or pain from treatment. Being honest with yourself is the kindest thing you can do. I always liked the “Spoon Theory” as a tool to explain where I’m at in my day. Is it worth using all of my spoons for today and borrowing some of tomorrow, knowing I’m going to need a day or two to recover? Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no.
Self care doesn’t stop when you’re on vacation, if anything this should be a time to maximize your self care time. Take care of you, take breaks, use the walker of wheelchair that your pride is preventing you from using if you need to, plan for a nap in the middle of the day if you need it. You will be able to have a more enjoyable time overall if you can find your balance.
We all know that feeling when you look at the clock and realize it’s med time. When I’ve been traveling, I’ve found the easiest thing to do it set up alerts on my phone for my med times. It’s a really convenient tool to keep you on your schedule in spite of time zones or long legs of travel be it on planes, trains, or automobiles.
As a side note: To make it easier to get through security stops, I always keep my meds in their original bottles with me when I'm traveling; that way there is no question that I am allowed to have the medications on my person. This is ESPECIALLY important when traveling internationally or with narcotic pain meds.
Anytime I plan on leaving the state on a vacation, I try to at least give my medical team a heads up in case of emergencies. Talk to your doctor as to what type of plan you should have in place in case of an emergency when traveling. Do they have recommended colleagues in their network in the area you will be staying? Would they like to be contacted and be the main point person? What type of incident would warrant an emergency trip home to your home cancer center?
I try to keep an emergency folder and go over it with whoever I’m traveling with. My team recommended having my doctor’s contact, current med and allergy list, most recent scan report, and my port card. You can also weigh for yourself if you think something like a med tag ID bracelet. I don’t wear one, but I do keep my myChart app and updated medical emergency information on my phone that can be accessed from my locked screen.
One of the best inventions in the history of cars are seat warmers. After long days of riding in the car or walking around, having a heating pad is awesome. Personally, I have a lot of pain in my hips and back, especially when I over do it by walking long distances. When my best friend and I went to Boston this past fall, turing on the seat warmer when I got back to the car after walking around town all day allowed my hips to take a break and relax without the hassle of carrying around a heat pack. Mine are factory installed in my car, but I do know you can get seat covers with the feature that plug into the power jack in cars.
There are quite a few organizations out there that see the need for breast cancer patients to get away and relax. Just a few that I know of include: Little Pink Houses of Hope, Send Me On Vacation, and Casting for Recovery.
Though not exclusively for breast cancer patients, Inheritance of Hope offers all inclusive vacations for families with a terminal parent. Caregivers are welcome. There are counselors available for both kids and parents. They tape and provide legacy videos for each child to have.
For those who are more outdoor adventure seekers, First Descents offers adventures for young adults (ages 18-39) impacted by cancer.
This is the time to make the memories that count. Take pictures. Get over that you may not be wearing makeup or looking your absolute best; you’ll thank me later. When times get tough, or you’re sitting back in infusion, those pictures can serve as little reminders of the life you’re living in spite of breast cancer.
You owe NO ONE, I repeat NO ONE an explanation of why you are traveling while dealing with breast cancer. Being sick doesn’t mean you aren’t aloud to treat yourself or spend money on something other than medications and bills.
When I plan vacations, I make a plan and put a little bit back each time I get paid. I allow for it in my budget and make it a priority not to deprive myself of things I want to do. Could the money go to other things? Sure, but sometimes spending money to get away for a week is worth escaping for a bit. I have places to go and things to see...and I WILL see Bora Bora one day.
What are some of your tips for traveling with breast cancer?
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