Many cancer patients travel or take a vacation while undergoing chemotherapy, especially during their “off” weeks. But is it safe? Where are the best places for cancer patients to travel? What, if any, precautions should cancer patients take when traveling? The key to safe traveling during chemo is to think ahead and prepare for any special travel needs. Here are some tips from guest blogger & freelance travel writer Laura Webster on planning a get-away during chemo…
1. Talk to your doctor
Consult with your doctor before planning any trip. Your doctor can determine whether it is safe for you to travel and if so, what specific precautions you need to take.
Also ask your doctor for any recommendations on doctors or treatment centers at the place where you traveling to. If they don’t know of any, do some research before leaving. This way should an emergency arise, you will know exactly where to go and what to do.
2. Choose a suitable destination
There are only a limited amount of countries that are safe to travel to if you are undergoing chemo. Many patients can not take ‘live’ vaccines, which are a requirement when visiting parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Western Pacific Islands as well as some parts of Eastern Europe. Locations within the US, Canada, Australia and the rest of Europe are viable destinations.
3. Stay out of the sun
Some chemotherapy drugs can make your skin burn more easily in sunlight so you might want to pick a country with a cooler climate. England is one option because ‘recovery retreats’ specifically aimed at people who are receiving treatment for serious, life threatening illnesses have become increasingly popular there in recent years. Some of these retreats even offer onsite doctors and therapists. They are centred around relaxation as opposed to cramming your vacation with as much activity as possible, which makes them ideal for chemo patients.
If you do decide to go to a hot country, be sure to use plenty of suntan lotion. Other ways of protecting yourself include wearing a wide-brimmed hat to prevent your neck and face from getting burnt and sitting in the shade during the hottest parts of the day.
4. Check with your insurance company about coverage
Before traveling, call your health insurance company to see if you are covered in other states or countries. Find out if there are any restrictions like going to a certain hospital or doctor. If you are traveling overseas, you may want to consider traveler’s insurance.
5. Bring more medication than you’ll need
Travel with extra meds is in case some get lost or your trip gets delayed. Keep the meds with you, not in a suitcase. Another suggestion- have copies of prescriptions in case you do lose your medication. It will make it much easier for a pharmacy or hospital to verify the prescription.
If you are traveling to another country, make sure that your specific meds are legal in the country you are traveling to. You may need a doctor’s note explaining what the drug is and why you need it.
6. Take It Easy
Traveling can be exhausting so schedule regular periods of rest during your trip to try and stave off fatigue. Avoid pushing yourself to take part in activities that you think might prove to be too much for you. After all, you want your vacation to be a pleasurable experience and not something that is going to make you feel worse.
7. Stay hydrated… and avoid chlorine.
One side effect of cancer treatment is dehydration. So remember to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is also essential when fighting fatigue. Chemo drugs may also make your skin sensitive to chlorine so it might be a good idea to avoid swimming pools that have been treated with this chemical.
9. Arrange for assistance at the airport.
Walking to different terminals and gates can be physically exhausting for someone who doesn’t have cancer, let a lone a person that does. When checking your baggage, let the airline know that you need assistance to the gate. Don’t risk not being able to get on your flight because you didn’t think you would need help, or were too proud to ask.
10. Above all, enjoy yourself.
Once you have got everything in place ready for your trip, remember the main purpose of your vacation, which is to relax and enjoy yourself. Be careful not to over-exert yourself and only do as much as you are comfortable with doing. Try to keep your break as stress-free as possible and hopefully you will return home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.