This entry was written by regular blog-writer, Linda Oken:
As summer begins, many of you are thinking about going on vacation. For years my husband and I worked hard and saved money. We planned that after our children left home and we retired, we could travel, which we love to do. Wouldn’t you know that just when we started phasing into retirement I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s hard to get away when surgery, radiation and chemotherapy interfere!
But travel we did. That first round, 10 years ago, we went to France for 10 days between month 5 and month 6 of chemotherapy. Sure, I had less energy and rested more. But I have a lovely memory of sitting on a bench in a park reading my book and feeling thrilled to be there instead of in a hospital.
Of course, I checked with my doctors before buying the ticket. They reviewed some precautions about flying. One concern, for example, is a chance of lymphedema on a flight. A friend of mine, who travels a lot, bought a special sleeve after her mastectomy. I have found that raising my arm up in the air frequently during flight has worked fine for me.
Then, 5 years later, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer – a completely new one. That time we had plane tickets that had to be returned. Nonetheless, I managed to squeeze in a few days in New York City between recovering from the radical hysterectomy and starting 6 weeks of daily radiation. On the last day of radiation, my husband received bad news from his biopsy and pathology report. Oh no!
After a thorough review, he asked his surgeon if it would be OK to postpone his surgery so that we could go to Paris before his major surgery and long recovery. The surgeon told us a short delay should not make a difference, as this appeared to be a slow growth. Moreover, the surgeon predicted a better recovery if we managed to have some pleasure and enjoyment before he went under the knife! So we applied the credit from the cancelled trip a few months earlier to a short stay in Paris. My husband was able to enjoy his delicious meals before having his belly sliced up. It would be several months before he could enjoy eating again.
After his recovery, back to our travels. Until a couple of years later when I was diagnosed with a new cancer in the other breast. Gimme a break! I decided to have a double mastectomy and hoped to be done with mammograms and biopsies. This round, however, brought 3 months of hard core chemotherapy, followed by a year of IV Herceptin. Hmm, how to travel with that schedule?
But travel we did. At the end of each of round of the heavy duty chemo, I went away for one or 2 nights someplace nice but not far. One was a lovely getaway to Rehoboth Beach. Then I would come back renewed, restored, and get hit again with the hard stuff.
That last round was 3 years ago and we have traveled several times since, near and far. As I mentioned above, I check with my doctors about travel precautions. Recently I returned from a lovely stay in Paris where we rented an apartment and became Parisians for a while. Maybe for you it’s the Shore or the Poconos.
As you get ready for your vacation, make sure you have enough of any medications you need, take them with you instead of putting them into checked baggage if you fly, and remember to take them on schedule! But leave your cancer home (if only we could). At least, leave behind the thoughts, fears, and worries about your treatment or recurrence. When you pack your bags, write yourself a note that says, “I’m going on vacation. I’ll think about ‘IT’ after I get home.” Then GO! Enjoy! Have a wonderful time!
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