So far I have focused on the “big picture.” Lets switch gears and allow me to pass-along some specific travel tips that readers have shared with me over the years.
A year or so ago I wrote a column for the Myeloma Beacon titled, Pat’s Place: Flying The “Formerly Friendly Skies” With Multiple Myeloma. Here are a few excerpts and updates:
Air travel can be challenging with any ongoing health condition. Multiple myeloma survivors are no exception.
Busy airports, long security lines and packed planes don’t help. Here are a few extra things multiple myeloma patients can do to prepare for the inconveniences of flying:
Keep a checklist at home, reminding you to pack things like your cell phone charger and travel size alarm clock. An alarm clock? I know my phone has an alarm feature. I’ve just never bothered to figure-out how to use it. So I still use one of those two and a half inch by two and a half inch battery operated clocks in a black case. Old habits die hard, I guess!
*Pack an electronic reader like a Nook, Kindel or Ipad. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. An advantage is the size–and you can read them in the dark. The disadvantage is you can’t use them during take-off or landing. And I notice the definition of “landing” has been changing over the years. They make you turn your reader off 20 minutes or even longer before you touch-down.
*Don’t forget your address book. It is important to have all of your medical contact info with you when you travel–doctor’s phone numbers and insurance information come to mind. You might consider creating a smaller, condensed satellite version for when you travel.
*Bring lots of hand sanitizer! Caregiver and blogger, Lori Puenti, recommends carrying antiseptic wipes to wipe down your tray table and the pocket on the seat in front of you. Those pockets were recently found to hold more germs than anywhere else on the plane–and that includes the safety card, Sky Mall and airline trade magazines located inside!
* Try and keep as much of your regular daily routine as possible. Writing even the most basic things down as a reminder is a great idea. Haven’t we all forgotten to take our meds as scheduled when we are away from home?
*And don’t forget the mask! If your ANC (neutrophil) white blood count is 1.5 or lower, wearing a mask while you are on an airplane can save you weeks of discomfort.
I’m going to pause here and continue my list of reader suggestions tomorrow. But I do want to add a bit more about the mask thing.
Four or five months after my transplant, I was traveling to speak to a support group and forgot to bring one of my “duck masks” along. BIG MISTAKE! Especially since it was winter, in the middle of cold and flu season. I developed the worst cold of my life shortly thereafter. It lasted more than a week. I won’t make that mistake again!
As a matter of fact, I just wore a mask to and from Spokane, Washington, to speak to a group up there. I cheated and wore one of the flatter, simple masks that strap around your ears. Not as effective, but for this time of year they seem to do the trick. I haven’t been sick following any of my flights this summer.
Ask your oncology nurse for a few next time you get checked-out or go in for an infusion.
And FYI: I get surprisingly few strange looks or awkward questions while wearing a mask. If anything, I get the feeling others ponder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But it must not have an impact, because I haven’t seen a another person wearing a mask on any flight I’ve taken this summer.
More tomorrow. Feel good and keep smiling! Pat