Navigating holiday travel with cancer

shutterstock_62592733

In June, we wrote a blog post about traveling while undergoing cancer treatment. That post covered many of the logistical considerations someone with cancer may need to consider, such as proximity of your destination to a treatment center, paperwork you may need to breeze through screenings, any needed vaccinations and the importance of planning ahead.

With the busy holiday season right around the corner, many people, including those dealing with cancer treatments, are making plans to travel to spend time with family members both near and far. Take a few minutes to read through the earlier post, but also remember that the holidays bring additional considerations for those cancer patients traveling to visit friends and family.

Consider the weather. If you’re traveling to a destination with a climate that is either much warmer or much colder than you’re used to, remember to bring appropriate clothing. Various forms of cancer treatments may affect your body temperature, so plan ahead with clothing well suited to the climate you’re visiting. Plan to bring clothing you can layer, so you can add or remove as needed.

Holiday hustle and bustle. For many, the holidays are a time to catch up with family members you haven’t seen for a year – including children of all ages. Let your host know that you may need an area where you can have some downtime, to relax, rest, nap or simply take a break from the flurry of activity.

Remember holiday closures. Don’t forget that many drugstores or other medical supply stores have limited hours and closures during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Plan ahead and make sure you have all your prescriptions or other supplies you will need to get you through your trip.

Avoid over-indulgence. All of us are guilty of a little over indulgence during the holiday season. Those undergoing cancer treatments are no different, but be certain to take extra precaution not to mix prescriptions with food or drinks that will cause adverse affects or make you feel even worse. If you’re allowed to have alcohol, be careful not to drink too much. Try to maintain a diet similar to what you’re currently following for best results.

Avoid family drama. For some families, “lively” debates are as much a part of their holiday gatherings as the turkey. For someone undergoing cancer treatment, it might be a good time to utilize that quiet space if family tensions start to run a little high. Avoiding any unnecessary stress is always a good idea, so excuse yourself from the drama until it subsides.

Enjoy the holidays with your friends and family, but remember to take care of your emotional and medical needs during that time as well.

5 things your infusion center nurse wants you to know

 

baird-infusion-center

As a cancer patient, your physician may have prescribed infusion treatment, meaning a visit to the infusion center is in your near future. We spoke with Julia Lewis, RN, BSN, OCN, an infusion center nurse, about some tips that the nursing staff wants you to know. Here is her advice.

  1. Wear loose comfortable clothing, because you’re going to be at the infusion center for awhile. Wear either a V-neck or button down shirt, or a shirt you don’t mind the neck being stretched down a bit to access to the port. Turtlenecks are a big hassle for both the patient and the staff and you’ll usually have to undress, so even on the coldest days – leave the turtlenecks at home. In addition, men may want to consider shaving the chest hair around the port site to make tape removal less painful.
  2. On the day of your infusion center visit, don’t put heavy lotion on the area over the port site, it makes the nursing staff have to scrub harder and the opsite more difficult to stick to the skin.
  3. We have some folks who still experience a lot of pain each time their port is accessed, but those are rare. When the port is first placed, just know it’s still tender and swollen, but it will get better. If you’re afraid of the pain when the port is accessed, there is a cream called Emla that can be put over the port itself on the skin. Put a little dab on the port site and cover with plastic and wait about an hour. It is a prescription only, so you’ll have to ask your physician to write a prescription, and you should know that it’s expensive, but an option if pain is an issue for you. Another more cost effective option is to ask the infusion center if they have a product called Pain-Ease spray, which is a cold spray that the nurse uses to numb the site and then place the stick. If the infusion center has this, it will save patients a lot of cost.
  4. Depending on the treatment, give yourself 2-3 hours for your visit. Bring your favorite book, or electronic device. Some infusion centers have magazines and books; some have a television at each center, but not all. Most infusion centers will offer snacks and drinks, but not cafeteria service. However, you can feel free to bring your own snacks or food– just be mindful of particularly smelly foods that can affect those suffering already from nausea.
  5. While on the topic of medical etiquette, there are a few things your nursing staff would like you to know. We don’t always get to say this to the patients who visit our center, but here are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s OK to have your cell phone if you need to make a quick call or need to let someone know where you are, but don’t use your infusion center time to catch up with every family member or friend you have – while on speaker phone. Be quiet, discrete and considerate of others. Also strong perfumes – cancer patients are sensitive to strong smells, and sometimes the perfume affects the nurses as well. Leave the perfume and cologne behind on infusion center day.

Finally, we want you to know that we do care about you. We become attached to our patients, and I have several that are very close to my heart. We celebrate their improving health, and mourn like family when their health takes a turn for the worse. We are there for you through this journey, cheering you on each step of the way.