This month our series of posts around a particular topic is going to be focused on travel. We're starting today by looking at some of the practical aspects of planning and taking a trip.
For many people, travel is an important part of life. It’s a way to see new places, visit friends and family, enjoy activities or just relax. If you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you may want to take the opportunity to visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, mark the end of treatment or to get away for a break.
As many members of the Forum show by posting their holiday photos, it is still possible to enjoy travel after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Some extra planning and steps can help your trip go smoothly.
In this post we’ll look at some of the practical aspects of travelling. We’ll mostly refer to airports in this post, but the same points will often also be relevant if you’re travelling by train, car or ferry/ship. Travel insurance, medication and suncare will be covered in upcoming posts.
Cancer and its treatment can impact on your ability to travel. Before you book anything, get advice from your team to make sure it’s safe for you to go. For example, if you’ve recently had surgery or you have low red blood cells (anaemia) you may not be fit to fly, or if your immune system is affected there may be some vaccinations that you can’t have for a few months.
It’s also useful to get a letter from your doctor explaining your condition and any medication or equipment you’re travelling with to show to officials when you’re going through security and customs. The Civil Aviation Authority’s advice for passengers on fitness to fly is at caa.co.uk/Passengers/Before....
Cancer and its treatment can increase your risk of a blood clot (sometimes called a deep vein thrombosis or DVT). Your team will be able to advise you on your own individual risk and what you should do to reduce it. Sitting still for long periods, such as when travelling, also increases the risk, so if you’re travelling a long way it’s important to think about what steps to you can take to minimise your risk. Long flights are a particularly high risk.
You can wear compression stockings to support your circulation. You should be measured to make sure that you’re wearing the right size. Getting up and walking around at regular intervals during the journey is helpful, and you can do exercises in your seat. Many airlines include instructions on this in their in-flight information.
If you’re travelling by car, you can take breaks to stretch your legs. It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and wear loose-fitting clothing. You can find more information at cancerresearchuk.org/about-... .
If you have trouble walking long distances because of neuropathy or fatigue, it might be helpful to book assistance with getting around the airports and onto and off the plane. If you have any bladder or bowel issues, you can request an aisle seat near the toilet. It’s helpful to make any requests, such as seating or medical dietary requirements, well in advance to give the travel company time to arrange them. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has information on its website about booking holidays to meet your needs, including a checklist that you can complete and give to your travel agent or tour operator, at abta.com/tips-and-advice/ac....
If you’re bringing medical equipment with you such as mobility aids or stoma or incontinence supplies, it’s important to plan for this. You can take two mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walking frames free of charge, and they don’t count towards your hand luggage allowance. You can take any stoma or incontinence supplies in your hand luggage so that you have access to them on the journey.
If you have a stoma, you can get a travel certificate signed by your doctor explaining your condition that you can show to airport security and any other officials who need information. You can get this, as well as information and advice, from your stoma nurse, the Ileostomy and Internal Pouch Association (iasupport.org/about/publica...), The Colostomy Association (colostomyuk.org/information...) and The Urostomy Association (urostomyassociation.org.uk/...), including certificates in different languages. It’s a good idea to tell security staff that you have a stoma when you enter the security area, so that they’re already aware of it before you go through the security check.
Wearing a wig won’t usually cause any problems with airport security and it’s unlikely that you’ll be asked to remove it. If security staff want to scan your wig, you can ask them to use the hand scanner and, if they do ask you to remove it, you can ask to do this in private.
If you have any tips on travel that other members might find helpful, please share them in the comments below.
Here are some useful websites if you would like to read more about this:
If you have any questions about travel, please do get in touch with us or contact Macmillan on 0808 808 00 00.
Julia (Support Services Officer)