Traveling Around the World as a Lung Cancer Patient
Last updated: March 2023
I was not very into travel before I got lung cancer, though I used to travel for work every year. At that time, I thought there was plenty of time later to enjoy travel. After I got lung cancer, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, I realized everyday matters. Now, I never miss the chance to travel all over the world. In 2022, I traveled six times to various cities in Canada, the USA, and Europe.
Three things to prepare for traveling with lung cancer
As a lung cancer patient, there are three things I must do whenever I plan to travel.
Communicating with my doctor
I always talk to my oncologist first. Luckily, my oncologist is always supportive. I’d like to think that’s because my lung cancer is well under control.
Check on travel insurance
Next, I will make sure that I have good insurance, especially traveling outside Canada. I’m a Canadian, and we are under public insurance. Besides, the university I worked at also has extra insurance for the employees. Although the combined insurances aren’t worry-free, at least I know that if I end up sick abroad, my insurance will cover part of the medical expenses or at least fly me back to Canada.
Listening to the wisdom of my body
Thirdly, I think it’s extremely important that I always listen to my body to make the right decisions. Maybe because it has been over 7.5 years since I have been diagnosed with lung cancer, I pay attention to every tiny change of feeling in my body.
In addition, I’m good at identifying all the causes of "imaginary" cancer-related symptoms, and one by one, I eliminate them. I know that listening to my body might sound weird, but it has worked so far. As it’s said: it can only feel but can't express.
Reflecting on my latest trip
The last time I traveled was before Christmas in San Diego, 2022. I went with my husband and my daughter, and we met one of my two sons who studies in San Diego.
The weather there is so mild, like early summer, around +18 degrees Celsius, and the sunshine makes you warm but not feel burnt on the skin. Compared with the city I live in (-30 degrees Celsius with wind chill and the winter lasts about six months) where the sun seems to have lost its power in this true north city. I have no hesitation to be a “snowbird” from Canada.
A San Diego Christmas
My younger son started to pursue his Ph.D. degree in San Diego last year, and we chose to spend Christmas in San Diego with him.
When he was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I had a hard time in the first three years of my lung cancer journey, and couldn’t pay much attention to him. I think my cancer diagnosis had a big impact on my younger son as he is the youngest child, and communication with him was closed since that time.
While we were in San Diego, I felt that my boy changed a lot. It was the first time I went to a new city without any planning and relied on him. However, my son knew I want to go to museums and art galleries, and my husband likes to go to the zoo.
The trip to the San Diego zoo
The San Diego Zoo is quite famous. So we found a day to visit the zoo. I’m not an animal lover, and I had experienced numerous times in visiting zoos when I was a child in Beijing, China. But I was marvelled by the tropical plants in the zoo and was never tired of them.
Due to lung cancer metastasizing to my brain 7.5 years ago, the right side of my body has been weakened. So I walk with a pole and at a slower speed. I felt very bad to drag the family walking slowly. I apologized to my children and told them to go ahead. My daughter said to me very sincerely 'I can visit the zoo with my mom who has had lung cancer for 7.5 years, I can’t expect anything else in the world." I was stunned by her genuineness, and I didn’t expect such responses.
Up to now, whenever I think about it, I’m still speechless and tears in my eyes.
Food brings us together
So my son took one week off to show us the zoo, the museums and many beautiful sceneries. More importantly, my son took us to two well-known local Chinese restaurants. One serves all types of steamed buns (包子) and another serves the hot pot (火锅). These are the typical Chinese food we don’t normally eat at home due to the complexity of making.
Reconnecting with my son
Furthermore, although my son has a dormitory on campus, under my suggestion, he spent a couple of nights with us in the hotel. I finally had the chance to talk with him deeply on several occasions. I felt a reconnection with my son, and I enjoyed every minute.
At the end of the trip, I felt so comfortable, relaxed and for some reason, very grateful.
Travel is always a challenge for lung cancer patients. However, travel makes me feel alive. The more travel I do, the more beauty I see, and the more GRATEFUL I am. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to travel more.
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?