Traveling With Cancer
CR Magazine: Collaberation – Results

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Survivor at Sea

Like many cancer survivors, Diane Selkirk is being monitored for recurrence and is taking appropriate precautions. Unlike many others, she is doing it while sailing around the globe.

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By Jen A. Miller

Traveling With Cancer

By Jen A. Miller

Diane Selkirk and Evan Gatehouse sailing in the Sea of CortezWhether you’re traveling while in treatment, while in remission or as a cancer survivor, be sure to prepare medically before you go.

Kathy Rogala-Scherer, a registered nurse who is the director of case management at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in Buffalo, N.Y., offers these travel tips. Her daughter, Carly, who is now a junior in college, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) when she was 2 years old, and the family traveled all over the country while Carly was being treated.

QUIZ YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE YOU GO. “Ask, ‘Am I well enough to travel?’ ” says Rogala-Scherer. In her daughter’s case, it wasn’t until six months after Carly’s second bone marrow transplant that the doctor thought her blood counts had recovered sufficiently enough for her to be in large crowds, she says.

PREP FOR THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO. Ask your doctor to recommend where to go for medical help while you’re traveling, and bring your notes on the trip. Take along a brief history of your illness and your doctor’s contact information. If you’re carrying needles and syringes, have the doctor write a note, letter or prescription detailing why you need to carry that kind of medical equipment.

GRILL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY. Ask these questions before you go: Does my policy cover routine lab work and non-emergency care? If it does, will the care be considered out-of-network and will I have a higher co-pay? Will I need to go to a specific hospital for insurance to cover all emergency care? “Always carry your insurance card and associated telephone numbers,” says Rogala-Scherer.

DON'T LET CANCER HOLD YOU BACK. “Once [you’re] out of the immediate treatment stage and into the recovery stage, [that] is the best time to travel. It’s a reward for getting through the toughest time of your life,” says Rogala-Scherer. “Your life changes forever once you have had cancer. Nothing is to be taken for granted ever again. You can fully appreciate the wonderful world we live in and savor the years ahead.”


(photo: Courtesy of Diane Selkirk and Evan Gatehouse)