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Tips For Travelling With Cancer - Support for cancer patients and families

Updated: Feb 29

Support for cancer patients and families

In September 2023 we started to talking to our Oncologist Tim whether there was a possibility for us to travel in our caravan to the Eastern Coast of Australia. Rod is having monthly chemotherapy treatment and we were hopeful that we could meet up with our daughter Kate and her family who had taken a year away to travel Australia. Kate was turning 40 in the December and we really wanted to spend that time with her and join them for Xmas.

Tim confirmed that even though it would take some organisation, it was going to be possible. With plans to have treatment in Port Pirie Hospital in South Australia on the way over and back and also with a treatment booked at St Vincent Hospital in Melbourne, we he headed off in November for our three month trip away with our caravan and two dogs.

Travelling over 4000km away from home, and needing to be somewhere for a specific date, meant that we had to be on the move often. At first this was ok, Rod was holding up well, his tiredness was not much of a problem. The first chemotherapy treatment in Port Pirie went smoothly as we arrived a few days early and could scope out where we needed to be and where to have the relevant blood tests done, and we were grateful to be able to have the treatment undertaken there, in a smaller town.

We then headed to NSW to meet up with Kate and her family and spent a fabulous month with them moving through to Victoria for Xmas and New Year. We were spending a few days at each stop initially which gave us the time to rest in between. But as the time wore on, we noticed both of us were getting very tired. Being away from home, we weren't sleeping all that well. The weather wasn't the most favourable for travelling in a caravan with unseasonal storms, rain and wind which meant some days being confined to our small home on wheels which we share with two dogs.

The treatment in Melbourne was a little harder for us as we were staying close to the city, where parking our larger car was difficult, so there was a lot more to consider in how to get to the hospital. Being in a major city meant that we had to wear masks again due to the risk of infection for Rod. Covid numbers in Melbourne were still high and we couldn't afford to take any risks. We had to be particularly vigilant of social distancing to keep Rod safe. In the end our Son in law Kev went with Rod into the city for treatment and we booked an Uber for them instead of taking public transport which would have made it harder to socially distance.

Unfortunately, Kev wasn't allowed into the chemotherapy suite.

One thing we have learnt from talking to others undergoing a similar journey, is that support for cancer patients and families while undergoing treatment is highly beneficial, so when Kev wasn't allowed in, meant that Rod had to face this new treatment centre on his own.

Support for Cancer patients and families
Grandpa and his girls

In Australia at that time of the year it was school holidays, and all the caravan parks were very busy and hard to get into. This was something we had forgotten to take into consideration when we decided to make the trip. Being so busy with Xmas and school holidays meant that we had to plan in advance our next move which meant researching different parks and areas to stay that wouldn't be so busy. When we reached South Australia on our way back, we encountered heatwave conditions, with some days being over 40 degrees celcius, which made life a bit more uncomfortable for Rod. He feels the heat more these days having the treatment.

Additionally travelling with a caravan, means that there is a fair amount of work to hitch up, pack up, drive to the next place, set up and then do it all again. This in itself can be exhausting when you are moving often, but when having cancer treatment at the same time, I noticed Rod was becoming extremely tired when we got to our next destination. We then made the decision that we would have to bypass some of the places we really wanted to visit and book caravan parks for longer periods of time to give Rod a good break in between.

My tips for travelling with cancer are:

  • Be prepared to change plans if you have to and be ready for any scenario.

  • Book your accomodation in advance and be aware of peak periods, public and school holidays.

  • It would be easier to stay at one or two places only, in between treatments, rather than try and cover as many areas as we did. This would also reduce the amount of driving time, packing and setting up time.

  • Sightsee earlier in the day, allowing rest time in the afternoon.

  • Plan to be closer to facilities if possible, where you can drive to, especially if you are experiencing neuropathy or hand/foot syndrome from your treatment.

  • Allow yourself a few days either side of treatment to scope out where you need to be and to rest after if nausea is a side effect.

  • Remember to take your medical history with you in case of emergency.

  • Give your Oncologist plenty of notice to organise treatment where you are wanting to be.

With all this in mind, we loved our time in the East even if the weather wasn't ideal for as much fishing as Rod would have liked. It had been our dream to travel for a few months with our caravan, even having treatment we finally got to experience this and feel very blessed to have been able to make these memories with Kate, Kev, Layla & Hannah.

We are also extremely grateful to the staff at Port Pirie & St Vincents Hospital for providing Rods treatment.

Much love ~ Christine


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