January 25, 2024

Traveling With Cancer or Chronic Illness?


For some people, cancer has made them live larger. I’m not one of those people.  Whether I’m traveling for work, to see my out-of-state doc, visit family, or on vacation, cancer has made me a more neurotic traveler.

At first I fought the image of me not being the spontaneous, carefree, adventuresome woman I used to be.  But then I realized that’s all just an image.  Who cares? My life is best when I adapt to my challenges and can be myself.  (And frankly, jet setters and world travelers are some of the least interesting people I tend to meet!)

My first year and a half of traveling to New York for doctor appointments, I tried to make a gloomy reason for visiting New York more fun and productive. I jammed in media appearances, meetings with my agent and editor, dinners with friends, and museums and performances.  But I wised up this past December: I was in and out in for my doc appointment in less than 48 hours, with one short radio show and a lunch meeting.  The stress of waiting for big test results was much easier with a pared down schedule.  Does it stink to miss out on the fun of New York?  Yes, but boo-hoo, sometimes life with cancer isn’t sparkling fun.

Pat Galen Steer, who comments often on this blog, found a way to make her monthly medical trips easier.  She dedicated one backpack and lightweight rolling bag for her medical trips in which stored an all-seasons wardrobe.  Upon returning from her med-trip she’d do laundry, repack the bag, clean out and organize her medical notes, and replenish her toiletries, makeup, and ostomy supplies.  This system reduced her monthly travel to-do list and made the trek smoother and less worrisome.

The new traveler in me feels 67-years-old instead of 37.  Before cancer, I camped, traveled on $15/day, thrived on the adventure of winging it, and had a cool collection of pictures featuring me on tropical mountain tops. Now when I go on vacation I want a comfortable mattress, to eat in restaurants I know are super clean and safe, and on beach trips get some shelter from the sun (reducing my risk of skin cancer). So I vacation much less often but do it in a bit higher style - and with an extra supply of prescription drugs tucked away in my carry on.

Has travel changed since your illness?  Do finances/ medical debt. impact your traveling? What are some of your best and worst traveling with illness stories?  What tips do you have for making traveling with illness go more smoothly?

Read Everything Changes, to learn about discounted and free places to say for medical travel.

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