Practical issues

Share experiences and advice on practical issues when living with cancer, such as money, work, benefits, transport, food and drink, organising support at home, or getting specialist equipment.

Travelling abroad with terminal cancer

Kimbles
Posted by
Just wondered if anyone has travelled with a loved one whilst they have or had terminal cancer. My husband is in this position and has probably a few months left. He has no family apart from wife and children here, all are in the USA. He wants to go and see them for the last time and obviously I will have to travel with him. Has anyone experienced this, and what can I expect, and any tips for a relatively easy journey?
The insurance is astronomical, understandably for the USA, but still not sure if the airline will allow him to travel etc.
Can anyone help?

thanks
Kimbles
4U Mum
Posted by

Hi Kimbles

I am sorry you find yourself here, but I am sure you will get loads of advice from the lovely people on here.

My Mum has terminal ovarian cancer. We were told in Oct. last year that it was "months".She is still battling on thank God. She has always wanted to go to Rome, so we arranged a trip for the whole family. Insurance was so expensive even though we were only going for 4 days. As it is EU, we thought we would take the risk as we could have emergency cover under EIC card scheme. We did have a problem when we first arrived. She passed out on our way to the hotel and she ended up in hospital overnight. But it seems it was that the shakey journey through Rome's streets had caused her blood pressure to drop.

She was discharged from hospital the next day. We had to play catch up and make sure she could see all the things she wanted to see.

Would I do it again? Absolutely, just to see her face light up as it did in St Peter's Square. It was scary when we had a problem, but i don't think i could deny her the chance to fulfill a life long wish. The airline staff were fabulous. We were allowed to board first. they had a special lift to take her in a wheelchair onto the plane, and we were treated like VIP's going through passport control.

My only advice is speak to the consultant team at the hospital, they advised us to go if we felt upto it, and arranged for her to have her treatment just before we went to make her the most comfortable when she travelled. We took a file with all the diagnosis notes in which made it easier for medical staff,especially as we did ot speak italian.( hopefully you won't need them, but it's better to be prepared).

It's a hard decision to make, but I am glad we did. I know there is the added pressure of cost as it is the US, but if you can pull it off, it will give you some great opportunites to create lasting memories.

I wish you all the luck in the world and hope you can pull this of and make it a big and memorable adventure .


Take care
Steve

MamaSG
Posted by

Steve, my heart soared as I read your story. We so wanted to take my sis (also with Ovarian Cancer) to Ravello in Italy for her birthday this year. We booked it and prayed she would be well enough to go. A week before we were due to go she decided to cancel. She had been dreaming of this trip for years and years, cutting out articles in newspapers and storing them away. It broke my heart to cancel as her health deteriorated. I have to say BA were amazing and gave us a full refund less a small amount for admin, We ended up celebrating the birthday night in a rather fancy London hotel where I got tipsy on one glass of Baileys. The important thing I think is to create memories. She had the best birthday ever; the hotel treated her like a VIP (I had forwarned them) and upgraded her room. I am so thrilled you got your Mum her holiday.

Kimbles, this 'journey' is unpredictable; let everyone know who you are travelling with that you will require support. If help is offered, take it. Each day is precious and if you feel that the journey is do-able go for it! Gentle hugs, Linda xxx

Candice
Posted by
Hi Kimbles,

Definitely possible - we have done it twice with my father, who received a terminal prognosis in Feb. 2007.

Biggest barrier is the insurance. We managed to get very reasonable rates for within Europe from (if I remember correctly) Medicover (we were up-front and honest about Dad's health). However, I gather the U.S.A. presents more of a problem, because the higher cost of care, should anything happen, and the lack of any reciprocal arrangements with the NHS, means the premiums have to be a lot higher.

We did not have any problems at all with the airlines, although I did give them a ring first, so they would be aware there was someone seriously ill on the plane. I reasoned it would be better to inform them in advance, so that if we did suddenly have a problem, and need preferential treatment (such as letting Dad jump the queue), they would know we were genuine. The only slight problem we did have is they do not really recognize anything in-between able-bodied and wheelchair-bound. If you tell them someone is too ill to stand queueing, they call straight away for a wheelchair - which, if they are proud like my dad, can be humiliating - he refused to go in it! All he really needed was to be fast-tracked through, as he was capable of moving under his own steam, just NOT of standing around for ages. On the way home, however, he was a lot more tired, and grateful for the wheelchair (not only that, but Gatwick customs & immigration is the longest walk I've ever seen at any airport!), so it might be a good idea to ask the airline to have a wheelchair on standby - then you can use it IF required, but don't have to.

IF you have the means to consider it, I strongly recommend travelling Club Class, as we have tried both Economy and Club Class, and found the latter a lot less stressful for someone who is ill. Not an option that is open to everyone - I realise we were fortunate to be able to do it. However, if you can, it's well worth it for the reduced aggro and more comfortable seating (important if the person has pain or mobility problems).

We had no problems at all with customs - we were waved through, even though we were conspicuously carrying what seemed like gallons of controlled drugs (liquid morphine!). We did have proof with us that it was medically necessary, and legitimately prescribed, but nobody ever asked to see it. I suppose they thought anyone who walks through blatantly brandishing a big bottle of morphine can't be up to no good. I guess we didn't really fit the bill for terrorists: an old couple, and their middle-aged children.


Hope this helps,

Candice

Kimbles
Posted by

Thank you for all your lovely replies!

Your suggestions and tips are very much appreciated. I know both my husband and I will find them very helpful.

The trip is still not definite, as hubby agrees with me that he has to be at least 90% sure he feels up to it. As it is so far away he is going to give it a few weeks to see how he feels. Personally I don’t think he is up to it, but his Consultant has said he will sign the insurance and airline forms for him to go. I do think he has been a bit hasty in doing this, as my husband has been in and out of hospital for the last 6 months.

Steve – did you just ask the hospital for copies of the diagnosis –and how much notice do you think I will need to get them?

The insurance quote is £1000 but he is willing to pay it just to see his sister and extended family for the last time. And I agree, what is money at a time like this. It does annoy me somewhat though that the insurance companies are so greedy.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me, it really does help to know others are out there sharing the same ups and downs, heartache and pain – THANK YOU ALL!

Kimbles x

4U Mum
Posted by

Hi Kimbles,

My Mum has a file which she was given by the hospital when she was first diagnosed. It was for her to keep a record of her appointments and medication. I would suggest speaking to your husband's support nurse at the hospital. I am sure if nothing else they could copy some notes from his file. As far as making her comfortable for the trip, I informed her support nurse that i was about to book the trip with a plan to travel in 2 weeks time. They were great and pullled out all the stops to get her in as a day patient the week before we travelled.

I really hope you can both pull this off and have the trip of a lifetime

Take care

Steve

jennyw
Posted by
Hi I took my husband to Venice Florence & Pisa in a wheelchair just 8 weeks before he died. No insurance just the new E11,

Our consultant gave us the ok and provided full documentaion of what was going on GBM grade 4 and copies of all the scans. BA did not ask for anything and helped all the way.. Glad to say we think Terry enjoyed it and we did not nead to use any of the info. My best advice would be go asap, we left if a bit late for Terry, just hoping he would get a bit better.. Memories are made and will never fade.

Jenny W
Kimbles
Posted by
Hi Jenny W

Thanks for that, glad to hear your trip went well and your husband enjoyed it. We are still debating whether to go, my husband is not 100% sure himself at the moment. He feels so weak and tired, not sure if he could cope with all the travelling and then all the fuss when he gets there.

However, I really appreciate you sharing your stories with me.
I know his family are looking forward to him coming so hopefully he will muster up the strength and be able to go.

He really does need something to cheer him up right now.

Kimx
ameliaann
Posted by

Hi Kimbles, I am taking my husband to the Isle Wight on Saturday for a week. He gets very tired and has memory problems too so I could not face a trip abroad. We went for a weekend earlier in the year and are going back to the same hotel. Even if we don't get far it will be a change of air. We will take advantage of the round the island tours so we can both relax. Holidays are not the same when you have to do all the planning etc on your own, even down to packing, so I am having to take the easy option. He won't remember the holiday so I will have to take lots of photos. I think the change of air will do us both good.



Ammeliannxx

Abla Hanan
Posted by

How nice of you to give such an informative and caring response to Kimbles.  Super of you.

Geoffred1
Posted by

Hiya I have just had great quote from Boots travel insurance only. £60 for a two week trip to portugal... the best quote I had prior to that was £400.  I have bowell cancer that has spread and can on be controlled not cured plus DVT. I wanted to put on Macmillan notice board but unable to do it. Really want to get this info to as many people as possible can you help many thanks. 

Abla Hanan
Posted by

Thanks for the tip!!