Buildings in the city of Jerusalem with a face mask covering a dome roof.

Karen Interviews Donna about Traveling to Israel as a Stage 4 LC Patient

In January friends and fellow lung cancer advocates, Donna Fernandez and Karen Loss traveled to Israel together. Here, Karen interviews Donna about her experience traveling abroad with lung cancer.

Deciding to book the trip

What were the reasons you wanted to go on your first international trip, and why to Israel?

I have a strong Christian faith. The one international trip I have always wanted to take has been to the Holy Land, to walk where Jesus walked. To have the opportunity to go was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Did your lung cancer play any role in the decision to make this trip?

The only reason lung cancer played a role in my decision to make this trip is that I met you because we both have stage 4 lung cancer. My husband is disinterested in traveling and I would have never ventured out on a big trip like this by myself. It was because lung cancer connected the two of us that I was able to go.

You traveled with another stage 4 lung cancer patient...any thoughts about that?

Yes! I find it very hopeful that two stage 4 lung cancer patients, both who still have active, though stable, tumors were able to take off on a journey that took us across the world. It excited me to think that we could both snub our noses at our disease by taking this trip.

We decided to take out trip insurance just in case our disease kept us from making the trip. I was glad we didn't have to use the insurance!

Donna (left) and Karen (right) in Israel

Highlights and take-aways

Tell us about any surprises you encountered on this tour of Christian holy sites.

Perhaps it shouldn't have, but I was surprised that so many of the sites were covered by big Catholic or Greek Orthodox churches. For me, that was a real distraction. I ended up focusing more on the buildings than concentrating on the fact that somewhere nearby my Saviour had stood.

Since I had never taken a tour before, I was also surprised by how fast-paced our sightseeing was. We barely had time to see the place where we were before being rushed to another spot.

It will take me awhile to process everything we saw and did. I have been doing research on the spots we visited since we got home. I wish I had done it before. I think some of the sites would have been more meaningful.

Did you make any efforts to tell others in your tour group about your medical circumstances? Why or why not?

I think that most or all 28 tour members knew about our health issues by the end of the tour. I was excited for them to know about our illness because I wanted them to see that a stage 4 diagnosis doesn't mean giving up on living life...nor does it mean an automatic death sentence.

It surprised me that some of the people with whom we talked were unaware of the stigma associated with lung cancer. It did not surprise me that just about everyone had lost a loved one to lung cancer.

Does traveling, especially very long trips to foreign lands, bring with it any special challenges because of your diagnosis?

I am very fortunate and have very few symptoms with my lung cancer. Traveling had no impact on my health. I worried a bit after learning that two of our tourmates were running fevers and having respiratory issues. I was afraid that one of us might catch their illness. That didn't happen, so we lucked out.

What were your favorite sites or experiences during this tour? Why?

I enjoyed meeting people from all over the United States who were on our trip. I loved seeing Israel. I had no idea how beautiful it is.

Boats on the Sea of Galilee

I loved getting to tour Old Jerasalem, seeing where the Last Supper took place and standing in the cell where Jesus was held before His crucifixion. My favorite activity of all was probably the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

Tips for travelers

Do you have any tips for other lung cancer patients contemplating major travel?

I would suggest that they discuss the trip with their oncologist and make sure there are no medical reasons why the travel would be ill advised. Make sure you have all of your medications to take with you. Consider wearing masks when traveling (do as I say, not as I do). Have a good time!

Do you plan to schedule any more international trips in your future?

I don't really know. I would kind of like to go back to Israel with the knowledge I have now. If other opportunities present themselves and I can afford them, I will probably be ready to go! I thrive on new experiences and travel certainly provides lots of opportunities for meeting new people, seeing new places, and learning new things.

Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 8, 2019, Karen Loss passed away. Karen was a valued member of the lung cancer community and an incredible advocate and avid writer. She will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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