Dear readers, you will now experience a break in our normal broadcast day as the Big Breast Adventure heads to Canada and San Francisco for a much needed change of scene. I’m really excited about getting out of Dodge for a couple of weeks and that’s a good thing because, now that I’ve been treated for breast cancer, there are so many things ones needs to take into account when planning long haul travel.
Take travel insurance for instance. Did you know that hardly any insurers cover cancer as a condition when travelling? When I arranged insurance for this trip through a dear friend who works at Cover More (yes, that would be you SJ) I was told they are one of the only companies that cover breast cancer patients for travel – but only if you’re two years past your diagnosis, which I am not. Cover More have nevertheless provided the regular travel coverage for me with a breast cancer exclusion, and full coverage for my two children, on this trip. As a relapse of my cancer is highly unlikely while I am overseas, it’s a pretty safe bet. So on we go.
Another pesky little consideration is a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clotting due to the chemo and the tamoxifen that I now have to take for the forseeable future. Originally my Oncologist suggested only being in an aircraft for 10 hours, which would mean we’d need to stop somewhere en route like Hawaii. That suggestion quickly became problematic with regard to timing (this Easter break is only two weeks for my school and Uni kids who are coming with me) and the cost of the flights. Because both of my children take after their father’s side of the family with legs that go all the way down to the ground, we need to fly premium economy or risk a full-on whinge-fest for the long haul sector. Also, I need to be able to move around regularly and not sit for hours on end in a pressurised cabin, as I am wont to do when I have on-demand movies at my fingertips and someone brings me food on a regular basis.
So here’s the trade off – I’ve been cleared to fly for 13.5 hours to Los Angeles in premium economy and a further three hours to Calgary in cattle class, provided I:
- Take 100mgs of aspirin a few days before, during and after the flight.
- Drink my own body weight in water and, yes alright, only one glass of red wine throughout the flight
- Move around every hour or so in the cabin, which shouldn’t be a problem – visits to the bathroom will be frequent thanks to the aforementioned fluid consumption
- Wear those charming compression stocking/socks to avoid the risk of a clot forming in my calf muscles.
I also have to wear my hand puppet (elasticised sleeve and glove) for the duration of the flight and after to avoid the increased risk of lymphodoema or swelling in my left arm as the result of aircraft cabin pressure. This is because all the lymph nodes in that armpit are gone courtesy of the spreadable type of cancer I was diagnosed with. While it’s good riddance to cancer-compromised nodes, I will for ever more (not just when I travel) have to try to avoid any injury, sunburn, infection or swelling in that arm because the fluid has nowhere to go. The elastic sleeve really helps with this and I now possess a fetching black hand puppet for formal wear and travel. Another dear friend recently offered to sew some sequins on it for me (thanks, C). Such a kind offer and normally I would jump at the chance to do this. However, the hand puppets come in handy for mopping my frequently sodden brow when experiencing hot flashes that resemble shuttle launches. So bling-less it is for now, I’m afraid.
And speaking of hot flashes that are brought on or made worse with chemo and tamoxifen, there’s another good reason for going to Canada right there. I’m reliably informed by AccuWeather.com that the temperature in Calgary when we arrive will be 6 degrees Celsius, dropping to -3 overnight. The dear friend we are staying with there has told me when she has a perfectly-normal-normal-for-her-age hot flash, she just steps outside for a mo and it’s all over red rover. I gotta get me some of that!
With all of this additional health stuff to worry about when travelling overseas, I asked my Oncologist straight up whether or not this trip was a good idea. He replied with an overwhelming yes, believing as he does that having something to plan for, look forward to and get excited about far outweighs the risks attached to actually doing it. My Oncologists likes to see people who have come through cancer treatment get back into life as opposed to retreating from it and waiting for the other shoe to drop – and I sincerely dig this about him. Thanks for the leave pass, Dr MC.
And here’s another little fun fact about getting on a plane to North America – we depart today Thursday 2 April at 5.40pm local time and we’re scheduled to arrive in Calgary at 6.30pm on the same day. Far out, brussell sprout. Outta sight, Vegemite. I hope to blog from the land of Mounties, mooses (what’s the plural?) and maple syrup, technology snafus notwithstanding.
All the breast for the Easter break!