Have you dreamed about an amazing tropical trip while you have been hooked up to a chemo IV or recovering from surgery? I have. Vacation scrolling via Pinterest and Instagram were sometimes the best thing that got me through a long day stuck in bed. My dreams are always semi-tropical, just warm enough to keep my neuropathic toes and hands toasty in the sand. They always involve no chemo fog as I will be easily able to concentrate on a book. My kids either stay home or are being quietly entertained by a nanny (this is a dream right?). Most importantly, there are no 8-hour travel days, lost luggage, long layovers or poor back support!
Why then is the actual reality of a perfectly planned trip most always exhausting? Not the kind of tired that includes washing a weeks load of laundry and catching up on all the mail while being having just the right amount of sun-kissed skin kind of tired. The complete depletion of energy that often comes upon return of a vacation while being a cancer thriver. The leave the suitcase at the door, the dog at the pet sitter and crawl into bed for an entire day kind of exhaustion. It isn’t fair. You survived cancer treatment only to be left with side effects that have you dreaming about a nice afternoon back in your bed. One you worked so desperately for so long to get OUT of!
I recently went on a girl’s trip to Charleston and a trip to Florida with my husband. We’ve traveled a ton with the kids the last couple of years as well. So, today, I’m here to give you a few tips on how to survive your dream trip without falling asleep at the wheel. Trust me, I’ve come close to that.
Most importantly, as best said by the amazing podcast “Best Friend Energy” with JoAnna Teplin and Clea Shearer, set a “low bar lifestyle” http://thehomeedit.com. If your cancer treatment dream was to take your kids to Disney World to celebrate everything your family has been through (I DON’T recommend as your first vacation) set a VERY low bar. Do not plan on pulling a 14 hour Disney day, do not plan on seeing every park or even every ride. Plan a pool day and a recovery day on top of that. More than likely, your kids will end up remember the pool just as much as they do Mickey.
Ideally, plan your first trip with your significant other, your best girlfriend or your mom that was there every day during chemo. Think late mornings, coffee, ice cream and long strolls. Morning and afternoon naps are a plus. Plan somewhere that is an easy drive or a short flight without a connection. Make sure there isn’t a change in time zone or altitude.
If all of the above sounds too lazy or grandmotherly then please, please at least read over the tips below:
- If you are working, take an additional day after returning from your vacation to “recover from your vacation.” You won’t be frazzled about laundry, groceries and the overwhelming desire to crawl into your bed for the next 12 hours.
- Be honest with your travel mates. My besties and my husband now know that they can’t wake me up before 8am, that I need an afternoon nap and to tuck me in at 9. Those first few vacations after cancer treatment involved me trying to do ALL the things. Day 3 involved a hard crash and burn every single time and I’d end up missing out on the rest of the fun. Now, my friends know that a well-rested Becky is much happier and to not feel guilty leaving me behind for a nap while they conquer the next tourist attraction. Seeing less but enjoying more is the key. Otherwise, fatigue, brain fog and actual pain (back to uncomfortable car and plane rides) lead to a miserable time.
- I wouldn’t usually recommend it, but for your first couple of trips (especially if you went against my advice and are traveling a long distance) take out the extra pressure of a perfect trip and spend the extra money on the flights that can be rescheduled or the hotels that can be refunded. Weird things happen and while it won’t likely happen to you, it is ideal to give yourself that extra bubble of grace while your body and spirit is still healing.
- If you are recently off treatment or don’t know how treatment will affect your first post cancer plans … pack the Colace, Immodium and stick to a diet that has worked for you in the past. Likely, you have some new and unloved digestive issues after chemo. Your GI system is probably still trying to figure out what does and doesn’t’ work for the new you. Stick to things you know, pack snacks that work for you and under no circumstances try out a “new” exotic food that you post treatment stomach hasn’t previously deemed digestable.
- Most importantly, set appropriate expectations with yourself (this trip should not be your first ever mountain climb.) Have a conversation with your travel partner regarding potential limitations you may have and that you are happy for them to go do their own thing if you need a rest. This takes any potential guilt off your travel partner. Finally, if your plan involves bringing your kids, make sure you have another adult traveling with you or at your destination to keep up with the chaos
Trips between chemo treatments and after completing cancer treatments can be fabulous. Remember to practice extra patience and to be kind to yourself. Find your own version of a “low bar lifestyle” and then conquer it. Vacations never go perfect, even when you are feeling 100 percent. Give yourself grace, extra time for naps, light exercise, good food and all your travel dreaming will be just as your imagined!