Take a Vacation from Cancer


The idea of taking a vacation during cancer treatment may seem like a big stretch. And, depending on your diagnosis and where you are in your treatment plan, it may be temporarily out of reach. But, with careful planning, a getaway may be good medicine, giving you and your family a much-needed break.

Plan Ahead with Your Doctor

Before booking a trip, talk with your doctor or nurse. Ask about what’s feasible and whether the timing is right. Your treatment schedule will determine when it’s okay for you to get away. During chemotherapy, for example, it’s often possible to plan a vacation between sessions, but you’ll also need to consider the best timing in terms of side effects.

If your doctor agrees that the schedule will work, the next step is to ask about health precautions while traveling. Make sure you have an adequate supply of your current medications. Because of increased risk of infection, ask about a prescription for antibiotics, just in case. Plan to wear a mask in public places and apply hand sanitizer often.

Be Prepared in the Air

Air travel requires extra precautions. Flying comes with the risk of blood clots and complications caused by changes in oxygen levels and air pressure. Your doctor may recommend you avoid air travel altogether or may approve it, along with guidance for managing the risks.

If you’re cleared for flying, get a note from your doctor for any liquid or injectable medications and any medical equipment, such as syringes or oxygen tanks, you need to bring onboard. Keep medications in your carry-on bag, not your checked luggage. If your treatment involves implanted radiation seeds, ask your doctor for a special card you can show to security regarding this.

Even if you’re comfortable standing in line with your bags, it doesn’t hurt to ask for help, such early boarding or the use of a wheelchair or cart. Air travel is taxing under the best of circumstances; now’s the time to ask for extra consideration.

Pack Accordingly

You’ll find that your packing list is a lot longer than it used to be. But it’s better to have what you need than to search for necessities once you’re in an unfamiliar place.

Tailor your list to your situation, keeping in mind the following:

  • Pack enough medications for your entire stay, plus a little extra in case your plans change. Store everything as directed to avoid heat and humidity when you’re in transit and after you arrive.

  • Carry any relevant medical records, including a brief treatment summary and a list of your medications and allergies in the event you need medical attention while you’re away. You may also want to identify someone in advance who could provide care at your destination.

  • Pull together a list of emergency contacts, including your oncologist or other members of your care team.

  • Bring your own water bottle, refill it regularly and stay hydrated.

  • Be sure to pack sunscreen, hats and lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your skin. Cancer treatment can make you especially susceptible to the sun.

With an ounce of prevention, your vacation may provide a pound of cure. If you have advice for other travelers from your own experience, feel free to share it in our comments section below.