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Old Oct 28, 12, 4:01 pm   #1
 
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Travel while undergoing chemo treatment

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I am going to do a trip to Asia at the half way point of my chemo therapy treatment. My doctor has given the okay and while not ideal it is a reward for me to see my only grandchild age two for the Christmas holiday. Does anyone have any experience and any tips/things that were helpful?
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Old Oct 28, 12, 5:41 pm   #2
 
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I traveled with my mom when she was having her chemo and this is what we did: (This was almost 8 years ago now so just off the top of my head what I can remember)

1) Try to book flights that aren't as full - this may be problematic as you're traveling during the holidays

2) Bring a face mask - so that you don't get sick from someone else. Your immune system is already compromised so you want to reduce your exposure

3) Bring diaper wipes and hand sanitizer - clean everything from the arm rests, to the seat belt including straps and buckles, the tray table, the vent and light buttons, etc.

4) Bring light, easy to digest snacks. Saltine crackers are always a plus.

5) If you need O2 for the flight - this must be booked in advance; each airline has their own rules so check into yours.

6) Have a list of back up flights and schedules - in case of delays or cancellations

7) If possible, have someone travel with you - to help carry your bags, assist you.
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Old Oct 28, 12, 6:32 pm   #3
 
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Thanks for the very thoughtful response. I will have two family members with me as a family reunion is the purpose of the visit. Your suggestions make a great deal of sense.
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Old Oct 28, 12, 11:26 pm   #4
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I believe that the Disability Travel Forum might be of value. Please follow this discussion there.
Good luck, Audie Nothing more wonderful than a 2 year old grandchild
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Old Oct 29, 12, 2:03 pm   #5
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Originally Posted by Audie View Post
Please move this if it is not the correct forum.

I am going to do a trip to Asia at the half way point of my chemo therapy treatment. My doctor has given the okay and while not ideal it is a reward for me to see my only grandchild age two for the Christmas holiday. Does anyone have any experience and any tips/things that were helpful?
Been there, done that, not fun.

My suggestions would be:

1. talk to your doctor about possible side effects and complications of your treatment and what medications might be necessary/helpful to treat the problems. get prescriptions for every possible thing that the doctor can think of that you might need, including written instructions on how/when/why you should use them

2. are you getting cell booster injections? Neupogen, anything like that? If so, look at your treatment calendar now and work with the treatment center to time those injections to get your immune system as close to peak functioning as possible before the trip

3. contact the airlines' disability desk and ask for wheelchair/cart transfers in airports and whatever seating might best suit your medical issues. I developed tremendous sensitivity in my spine and hips while on chemo and had to have a seat where the armrest could be raised to make sure there was nothing touching my hips from the side. get the wheelchair to conserve your energy because chemo is one of the most exhausting processes in the world - learn to expend as little energy as possible over the next few months.

4. at the TSA check point: put all your medications in Ziplocks - I had 1 full gallon ziplock and a second partial one. Insist on a supervisor and ask that the medications be hand checked in your presence. I learned that after one rank and file TSA staffer tried to tell me that nobody was allowed to have that many pills and that I shouldn't have certain drugs in my possession (pain pills, of course) and he threatened to confiscate them.

5. carry lots of snacks with high nutritional value and nibble throughout the trip. drink as much water as your doctor suggests, but make sure of the source of it.

6. don't be shy about asking for help! and be persistent if a reasonable request is denied. I needed water to take timed pills on one flight and the FA initially refused to give me some as it wasn't time for the beverage service but when I explained I needed to take pills for my cancer I got it immediately.

PM me if you have specific questions that I might be able to help with.
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Old Oct 29, 12, 2:23 pm   #6
 
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In addition to the previous suggestions:

Remember that travel to Asia is hard and exhausting on anyone. So even if you feel good at the beginning of your trip, take any and all shortcuts or assistance you can, it will all pile up at the end of the trip and taking help before you need it will make things much more pleasant all around.

Seeing your family and all the love and joy and positiveness of the experience is an important part of cancer treatment when it is possible. So try talking to your doctor honestly about what you want to be able to do and how they can help you. As important as it is to have all of your treatments on time, sometimes an opportunity like this is even more important. They may be able to rearrange your schedule to give you a little extra strength for this trip.

As for the TSA, I've had things go either way with them. I've learned not to call any attention to my medication or devices until they question them. Most of the time, I go through without a glitch. If and when there is a problem, then be insistent and don't let them keep you from taking any of it on the plane. If it's medically necessary, it's allowed.

Foods that are good to travel with include things that are just add hot water things, oatmeal, soup, etc. Ask a flight attendant for hot water, you can explain that you have a medical condition if necessary. That way you can eat comfort foods, while still having a hot meal on the plane.
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Old Oct 30, 12, 1:49 am   #7
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Foods that are good to travel with include things that are just add hot water things, oatmeal, soup, etc. Ask a flight attendant for hot water, you can explain that you have a medical condition if necessary. That way you can eat comfort foods, while still having a hot meal on the plane.
I would not suggest that a person with a compromised immune system consume water heated in airplane water systems. Too many studies show both the storage tanks and vessels are colonized with a variety of bacteria and don't heat the water to a high enough temperature to kill anything.

You might do better taking an empty thermos through security and getting it filled with hot water from a coffee shop in the sterile area.
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Old Oct 30, 12, 9:26 am   #8
 
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I would not suggest that a person with a compromised immune system consume water heated in airplane water systems. Too many studies show both the storage tanks and vessels are colonized with a variety of bacteria and don't heat the water to a high enough temperature to kill anything.

You might do better taking an empty thermos through security and getting it filled with hot water from a coffee shop in the sterile area.
Interesting. I know that the water is not heated to boiling, but had previously considered these two situations to be of equal risk. Do you have any links to these studies, for my own information?
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Old Oct 30, 12, 11:09 am   #9
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Interesting. I know that the water is not heated to boiling, but had previously considered these two situations to be of equal risk. Do you have any links to these studies, for my own information?
Which two situations are you comparing? A thermos from home and a plane's water tanks?

Do a search on FT for info on water safety on planes, there was a actually a research project on the subject done by the son of a FT member that has been posted/referenced many times on FT.
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Old Oct 30, 12, 6:02 pm   #10
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Which two situations are you comparing? A thermos from home and a plane's water tanks?

Do a search on FT for info on water safety on planes, there was a actually a research project on the subject done by the son of a FT member that has been posted/referenced many times on FT.
I suspect the two situations were a) water from the plane and b) water from a coffee shop in the sterile area (and here "sterile" doesn't refer to the water!).
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Old Nov 13, 12, 7:21 am   #11
 
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You can do it!

I flew when on chemo on a shorter trip than to Asia, just domestic, but let me tell you, it was exhausting. Please, please do your trip, just make sure to plan extra time for everything and take a rest when needed.

The TSA may or may not be your biggest hassle. Be calm, but be prepared. All meds in one location, documentation from your oncologists office. On the way out I had no problems, on the way back an agent questioned the amount of meds. I simply took off my hat and let my pale, green, bald, eyebrowless, skeletal appearance tell the story. He decided no need for a supervisor.

Also, let people be nice and help you. Sounds silly, but I was so used to being an independent traveler it was hard for me to rely on my less experienced travel companions.

Best of luck on your trip!
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Old Nov 13, 12, 8:18 am   #12
 
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I too continue to travel during chemo from SLC to Maui (7 hours) and to DCA (5 hours). Dealing with pain and fatigue is a "hidden disability" that would not alert fellow travels to my terminal illness. I have been tempted to use a wheelchair for those long terminal walks, but haven't done so yet. I do bring bottled water with me, and snacks. But I always pack my meds in my checked luggage so there is never a hassle at TSA. They do require me to remove my hat which is embarrassing, and I hate going through the X ray machines that emit radiation. I have tried to protest when there is a different type of machine available, but it always results in a "no" and an offer for a "pat down" instead.

I manage my FF miles to attempt as many FC flights as possible just for the peace and quiet of FC. My fear of germs is bad, like obsessive, and I like to imagine that I can clean my little space where I sit with my husband and feel safe on the flight. Now if I could only do something about that recycled air that I imagine carries many germs!
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Old Nov 13, 12, 2:14 pm   #13
 
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I have both been through chemotherapy and traveled a lot, but didn't do both at the same time -- didn't actually travel while on chemo.

I agree with most of the information above, but having had incidents of lost luggage 3 (three) different times, even on non-stop flights, I would never recommend putting any important medication in checked luggage. Always carry it on! I have never had any problem with bringing a significant amount of medication in my carry-on, though mine has always been pills, no liquids. I usually bring enough for every day of my trip, plus at least an extra week. And, yes, pull the "cancer" card if necessary, and escalate to a supervisor if you are given any problems about medication. But carry it on in hand luggage!

Don't hesitate to use a wheelchair. Fatigue & weakness might be an issue by 1/2 way through chemotherapy. And be vigilant about germs, as others have posted.
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Old Nov 21, 12, 9:21 pm   #14
 
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Thanks to all for the positive comments on my trip. I am wondering about NRT /Tokyo security and their attitude on meds. I will have about 5 shots that I need to have with me and I wondered about putting them in checked luggage knowing that is not the best choice. They do have to be kept cold.
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Old Nov 21, 12, 11:11 pm   #15
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Thanks to all for the positive comments on my trip. I am wondering about NRT /Tokyo security and their attitude on meds. I will have about 5 shots that I need to have with me and I wondered about putting them in checked luggage knowing that is not the best choice. They do have to be kept cold.
No medication in checked luggage!

If you count on having these medications, then do not let them out of your possession! There is too great a risk of either the luggage being lost or delayed or anything that looks like drugs being stolen from the bag.

Plan carefully, and have a great trip.
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