You're all packed and ready to hit the road for vacation. You've
sorted your toiletries and zipped them into plastic bags, just
like airport security requires. You've packed a swimsuit -- and a
sweater, for those chilly summer nights. You even remembered
the camera this time.
Eleven Tips for Traveling with Cancer
Heather Kornick doesn't let her cancer stop her from traveling.
To help you plan your next trip, we've compiled a
list of resources
But if you or a loved one has cancer, you should consider adding
a few items to your travel checklist. We talked with experts at the
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center -- health-care
professionals and patients alike -- to get their tips for traveling after
a cancer diagnosis. Here's what they had to say.
1Talk to your doctor before you plan your trip.
If you're going through treatment, your doctor can help you determine whether you'll be in good enough shape for the trip you have
in mind, said Thecla Jackson, a Cancer Center nurse. If you're a snowbird who's planning to be away for an extended period,
tell your doctor's office how to reach you.
2Pack your medical records.
Heather Kornick, a 23-year-old camp counselor who has adrenal cancer, said she carries a binder with photocopies of her medical records when she
travels. She also tells friends traveling with her about the binder so they know to bring it to the hospital if an emergency arises.
3Check your health insurance.
Find out what coverage you have in case you need to visit a doctor while you are away.
Be sure to bring your proof of insurance, too.
4Do you need shots?
Certain countries require special
vaccines before traveling there. Ask your doctor whether they
are appropriate for you.
5Get a doctor's note.
Tighter airline security may require you
to carry a letter from your doctor if you have metal in your body
as a result of surgery or if you need to take certain medical supplies,
such as syringes, on board. Call your clinic well in advance
to get a letter from your doctor.
6Don't put medications in checked bags.
Be sure to keep
medications with you at all times. If your luggage gets lost, you
don't want to lose your medicine, too. Security regulations allow
prescription and over-the-counter medications to exceed the
3.4 ounce limit required for other liquids, gels and aerosols in
7Request an airport wheelchair.
Airports are big, exhausting
places. Save your energy for your destination. Kornick says
she always requests a wheelchair. Even though she can walk, it
can be draining to stand in lines or make long treks to gates --
particularly considering that gates often change.
8Practice good airplane health.
Stay hydrated by drinking
plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Get up and
stretch during long flights to prevent blood clots. If you have
had surgery that affected lymph nodes, consider a compression
garment to reduce the risk of lymphedema, chronic swelling
that can occur as a result of damage to lymph nodes.
9Find a local health-care provider.
If you're planning to be
away for several weeks, find a local doctor who can help coordinate
your care. That way, if there's a problem, your U-M doctors can
communicate with the local physician and possibly resolve issues
more easily. Otherwise, Jackson said, your U-M doctor will probably
advise you to go to the closest emergency room or urgent
care center. Find out where it is when you get to town, just in case.
10Save adventure travel for another time.
If your immune
system is weakened by treatment, be a little more cautious than
you normally would during your trip. Skip roadside food carts
for better established restaurants. Drink bottled water. Carry
hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently.
11Take your time getting there.
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Kornick travels frequently
from her home in Elk Grove, Ill., to Ann Arbor for treatment for
adrenal cancer. She and her family have learned to schedule
plenty of extra time for the five-hour drive so they can take
breaks and trade off driving. If Kornick is traveling by air, she
also allows extra time to keep stress levels low. "I know I need
more time to do things now than other people," she says.