If you successfully recovered from a craniotomy and completed the six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy without lingering medical issues or significant fatigue, life does not necessarily need to come to a screeching halt. It may be possible to travel during the next phase of treatment or it may be necessary to wait until the chemotherapy or other treatments are completed. Before planning a trip, touch base with your medical providers to see if you are fit to travel.
Study after study point to the benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle filled with positivity. A consistent walking routine is recognized as one easy way to minimize a sedentary lifestyle. This simple activity will simultaneously prepare you for future travels.
In some instances, the deficits caused by a glioblastoma tumor and/or the Standard of Care treatments may significantly limit one’s ability to engage in pre-diagnosis day to day activities. Advice from one’s medical team will be necessary to determine how to move forward in these circumstances and whether travel should be put on hold until things improve.
Questions to Ask Your Medical Team
It is always wise to consult with your medical team to see if travel should be considered.
- Do your doctors feel that you are healthy and fit to travel by car, train, bus, cruise ship, or airplane? Each of these modes of transportation require different levels of stamina and mobility.
- Based on your situation, is there a preferred type of transportation or vacation option? Would you prefer a short road trip, fly to a destination, or possibly take a cruise?
- Is there a window of opportunity for travel?
- Does your medical condition create any additional risks that may possibly occur while traveling?
- Are there any extra precautions you should take prior to departing or while traveling? Do you need to have new prescriptions filled or do you need the name of a neuro oncologist located near your travels?
- Will your proposed travel plans place you at a higher risk for a seizure, blood clots, or other medical condition requiring medical intervention?
It is important to have your questions answered before you create a travel itinerary. If your medical team gives the green light for travel, start planning.
Assess Your Travel Comfort Level
The first step is to determine what is feasible for your situation by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you have the stamina to take a trip? If you can’t walk more than a few blocks or uphill, should you be contemplating a trip that requires a significant amount of walking or climbing up flights of stairs? Can you identify the type of trip that meets your needs?
- Is your care partner able to provide adequate assistance? Will you need to arrange for help on the way to your destination and/or at your accommodations? Do you need a room or ship cabin that accommodates someone in a wheelchair?
- Has your immune system and blood tests rebounded after the treatments? Is it advisable to avoid large numbers of people in airports/air planes, trains, buses, or cruise ships?
- Do your travel plans take you to destinations with a higher than normal risk for COVID or another medical issue like malaria?
- If you are using an Optune device and/or other medical equipment, will you and your care partner be able to carry the device and the supplies with ease?
- If you require medical attention, does the destination have a nearby medical facility that meets your specific needs?
After figuring out your comfort level, it is time to explore different types of trips. Taking a road trip to stay with relatives in a neighboring state is very different from taking a Caribbean cruise or a land trip to a foreign destination. Try to plan a sensible trip with sufficient time to take advantage of the positive aspects of the destination.
Planning Your Journey
Successful and memorable trips require careful planning of every aspect of the vacation.
- Make a list of your top travel choices, research, and then select your best option.
- Consider taking a shorter trip to a closer destination before embarking on a trip to a faraway destination.
- Choose a time period that fits conveniently into your follow up doctor appointments, family obligations, and weather conditions.
- If you are on a special diet, can the destination accommodate your dietary requests?
- Traveling can be stressful and can cause fatigue. Try to avoid planning too many activities for each day or excessively long travel days.
- Map out a strategy that addresses each point of your journey. Planning is the key.
- Be aware of the cancelation policies and early departure policies for the items on your itinerary.
- If the total cost of the trip is more than you would like to absorb and you want medical coverage while traveling, locate a travel insurance policy with pre-existing conditions. In most instances, insurance policies, including preexisting conditions, should be purchased within a week or two of the deposit. Preexisting conditions are not covered after the deadline.
- Double check travel insurance terms for medical and evacuation coverage.
Creating future travel plans is exciting and generates positive thoughts and feelings. When you look forward to vacations you are embracing life and not focusing on the diagnosis.
Be Prepared & Embrace the Travel Experience
Step by step planning does not end with the travel confirmation. Monitor your health and well being throughout the journey.
- Create a comprehensive packing list.
- Try to remain hydrated throughout your travels. Pack a reusable water bottle.
- Bring along nutrient-dense snacks and replenish along the way, if necessary.
- Pack all of your medications and supplements in your carry-on luggage.
- Print a copy of your travel insurance policy with 24 hour contact number.
- Wear compression socks and frequently stand up during long flights.
- Remain well rested by getting sufficient sleep, especially when traveling to different time zones.
- If fatigue sets in, take a nap.
- If you are wearing an Optune device, allow for extra time prior to the flight to accommodate inconsistent screenings by TSA agents.
- Take photographs for lasting memories of the vacation.
- Consider creating a post-trip photo album highlighting your best photos.
- Be grateful for the travel opportunity and the quality time with loved ones.
- Don’t hesitate to contact your medical providers if questions or concerns develop.
Visiting an unfamiliar or even a familiar destination can be a joyful and enriching experience when planned to accommodate one’s unique situation. Uplifting travel adventures are a wonderful distraction from the day to day concerns associated with a cancer diagnosis. After successfully accomplishing one trip, your apprehensions will subside. Planning the next one will be significantly easier.
Have you traveled with glioblastoma? Please share your experience. Can you add any useful tips?
When Sandy isn’t trekking or writing in the Colorado Rockies, she is traveling. She has visited more than 40 countries and lived as an international teacher in Bangalore, India. Sandy’s award-winning book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, is a resource for people contemplating an expat lifestyle and living outside their comfort zone.
Sandy shares her lifestyle and travel experiences with international and domestic online sites and print media. Her stories have appeared in Arvada Lifestyle, Hemispheres, Destinations Magazine, KUHL’s Born in the Mountain blog, Grand Magazine, Wandering Educators, Golden Living, One Travel, Miles Away, Canadian Jewish News, Getting On Travel, Far and Wide, Colorado Parent, Traveler Confidential, Family Circle- Momster, and others.