Tips on travelling with someone who has cancer
Sounds pretty nice, right?
When you’re travelling with someone who has cancer, vacations aren’t exactly a walk on the beach.
There’s a lot of preparation and planning that goes into your vacation, even more so than when you’re travelling without cancer.
Travelling with cancer isn’t exactly ideal or easy, but it is possible.
Based on my experience this past summer, here are some tips on how to prepare and cope with cancer on your vacation:
1. First, your mom (or loved one) must consult with their doctor to see if they are eligible to travel
- Before planning or even thinking about your next vacation, your mom (or loved one) must get the go-ahead from their doctor. My mom was lucky enough to get approval, but not every cancer patient will be able to travel. It depends on the state of their condition and how they’re treating their cancer. Flying is especially a concern because the oxygen levels and air pressures at high altitudes can be dangerous, or in some cases, life-threatening. So, before you travel, make sure that your mom (or loved one) discusses the possibility with their doctor first.
2. Make sure your mom (or loved one) consults with their doctor about bringing their medication
- As I mentioned in a previous post, there are tons of cancer treatments and medication options. When my family and I travelled to the Caribbean this past summer, my mom was treating her cancer with a form of oral chemo. Unfortunately, her dosage was a little too high, so her symptoms (blisters on hands and feet, low energy, fever, nausea and vomiting) were worse than usual. If her dosage was lower, she probably would have felt a lot better. So, again, depending on their treatment, your mom (or loved one) should consult with their doctor about bringing their medication and determine what dosage would be best for travelling. It is also a good idea to pack their medication in a carry-on bag in case their luggage gets lost.
3. If possible, don’t book week-long trips
- As fun and relaxing as week-long vacations are, they might not be ideal for someone who has cancer. Again, depending on what their doctor says, consider taking your mom (or loved one) on a vacation that lasts a few days rather than a week. Or plan a weekend getaway to somewhere more local. The length of your vacation should depend on the state of your mom’s (or loved one’s) condition.
4. Pack extra Gravol, comfortable shoes, sweaters, pillows and blankets
- If your mom’s (or loved one’s) symptoms include nausea and vomiting, blisters on feet, and fevers, these items are crucial. Gravol helps treat nausea and vomiting in a quick and easy manner and wearing comfortable shoes (like running shoes) helps protect blisters, especially when walking on the beach. If bringing extra pillows and blankets aren’t an option, make sure you buy them on the plane. My mom had a high fever when travelling home, so we wrapped her in pillows, blankets and extra layers to make her feel more comfortable.
5. Be careful about your mom (or loved one) getting too much sun
- The sun can be pretty dangerous for cancer patients, so make sure they’re always using sun protection. Double check that they’re wearing lots of sunscreen, (the higher the SPF the better) a hat (especially if they lost their hair from cancer treatment) and staying in the shade.
6. Plan activities accordingly
- One of my mom’s biggest symptoms was low energy, so we had to plan our activities accordingly. If you’re planning to see a night show, then don’t do anything that requires too much energy throughout the day. If you’re planning on having a long day with fun-filled activities, then plan to relax during the night. Tell your mom (or loved one) to take naps when needed and make sure they don’t feel guilty doing so, especially if it’ll boost their energy for the day/night. Also give yourselves an extra 10 or 15 minutes for bathroom breaks before, during and in-between your scheduled activities.
7. Most importantly, enjoy every moment
- As I’ve mentioned, cancer is so unpredictable, and you never know what can happen. When you’re on vacation, you need to make the most of every moment because this may be your mom’s (or loved one’s) last vacation. You just never know what the future may bring, so treat every opportunity like it’s your last. Be sure to laugh, smile and take lots of embarrassing photos.