Take That Dream Vacation You Had Planned - Cancer Treatment Doesn’t Have to Interfere
Vacations are a quality of life issue and it’s not necessary for cancer patients (even those in active treatment) to give them up. Quite the opposite, it’s time to take that trip you always dreamed about. The timing of treatments does NOT need to present a problem. Preparing for a trip can be difficult when you're in the best of health. Traveling with stage 4 lung cancer can be frightening and overwhelming. It shouldn't be. These are a few things that make a difference for me.
Managing your treatment and medications
If you are on a 3-week cycle for chemotherapy or maintenance infusion tell your oncologist you would like a break because you’ll be gone that week. That way you can experience the trip without your usual side effects. Chemotherapy, targeted meds, or precision medications have a half-life that will protect you.
Medication refill cycles should not be a challenge either. A recent trip took me out of the country for a month. During that time my prescriptions for my pain and my breast cancer medications would run out. I called my insurance company to discuss my concerns, I learned that they offer something called a Vacation Exception. I was told to request the refills and when they were rejected by the insurance company the pharmacist should contact them and request the Exception.
Most of my refills are required to follow those straightforward directions with one exception. I use a Fentanyl patch to manage pain. With it I manage everyday activities, can walk many miles, and participate in ordinary activities. Without it - forget all that. The pain would have ruined the vacation. To qualify for the Vacation Exception for my pain meds my doctor had to write a new prescription and fax a note to the insurance company stating that it was Medically Necessary and an Exception was requested. My insurance company granted the Exception with no hesitation. I paid the usual monthly copay rate.
Tackling the airport
When flying, ask for a wheelchair. They get you through the TSA lines quicker and you have early boarding privileges which translates to no competition for overhead cargo space. Distances between terminals are often great. Rushing to catch your next flight is tough if you get short of breath or you’re dealing with treatment induced fatigue.
Tips for touring
Rent a wheelchair for sightseeing. Conserve your energy for activities. You can always park the chair for a bit to get up and dance, shop or walk the buffet line. Rental of non-motorized chairs are inexpensive. I've flown cross country and had a wheelchair delivered to my hotel for a small fee.
There were times that I went out that didn't require the chair and left it in the room. It was a comfort to have it available if needed. The advantage is that my energy level will drop significantly after an hour or two of activity and with a chair, I will go 5-6 hours without a break.
Take pictures. Later when you're having a tough day you can look back and let those pleasant memories transport you to a happy place. Remember, you’re making memories for a lifetime; yours and those who love you.
Do you travel for leisure as a lung cancer patient?