When I was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2015, it was suggested that if there was anything I ever really wanted to do, I should make a point to do it while I still could. I don’t really have a bucket list and there isn’t much I have felt I have missed out on. I also am not an avid traveler; in fact, if anything, I am an avid homebody.
However, there is one thing that I had always wanted to do: see my all-time favorite band, Hoodoo Gurus, live. A rather obscure and quirky rock band from Australia, the Gurus had some success on American college radio when I was a teen, but living in a small rural town, my only opportunity to enjoy their music was by playing their albums.
Shortly after beginning college, I had to opportunity to see them play live—but learned about it 2 days after the event. Despite the many years that have passed, and the extensive number of concerts I had attended, missing them was something I always regretted. Last year, I began looking into whether or not they were still playing anywhere and found that they play often in Australia, but not elsewhere. However, unbelievably, they were invited to play a special event at a small resort in the Maldives, and there were limited tickets. This meant multiple shows and a very small group of guests. This was an once-in-a-lifetime; even if it involved a lot of travel and a tropic island, which as a redhead is not usually my first thought for vacations, I knew I had to do it.
It was a grueling trip—about 30 hours to, then back, but fantastic. I got to spend seven days in one of the most beautiful places on the planet with my sister, where there was really nothing to do but relax. We got to see not just one, but two Hoodoo Gurus’ shows, standing right in front of the stage. Even better than that, we got to meet the band and some of their biggest fans—some of the nicest people I have ever met! The band members even made a point to come talk to us when they saw us around the resort because they knew how far we had traveled. It was really amazing!
While the trip was well-worth it, it did take some preparations before I left because of my cancer. My older sister has been my closest friend for most of my life, and she was the best choice for my traveling companion. On a practical basis, I knew that when I was tired or not feeling well, I could count on her to help me get where I was going to help me with anything I might need from a health standpoint.
I also spoke with my doctors about the possibility of traveling, and what I needed to do to stay as healthy as possible and reduce chances that the trip would take a toll on my health. Most of the preparations were small things—wearing compression socks, having face masks I could wear if someone near me was coughing or sneezing, making sure I had all the medication I needed.
I was also lucky that there was a doctor on-site at the resort, which made me feel much more comfortable with traveling so far. I also called the airlines beforehand to discuss seating and connections to make sure that there were no problems with those things. I also did a lot of research to find travel insurance that would cover me with this diagnosis.
For anyone else considering planning an extensive trip, I would suggest a few tips to make sure you are prepared to travel with lung cancer: try to think of both best case and worst case scenarios, and be prepared for each. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it—it can prevent a bad situation from getting worse.
Also, make sure to take extra steps to take care of yourself! I got dehydrated at the resort due to difficulties getting drinking water and access to other beverages. There were some things I really wanted to do on this trip that I skipped to ensure that I had the energy and stamina for other things.
Most of all, if it’s something you really want to do, go for it! Lung cancer doesn’t have to put an end to the joys and purpose of life. In fact, it can be the reason we stumble upon once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like seeing your favorite band in a tropical island like me.
Looking for more tips on traveling with lung cancer? Check out LUNGevity's blog Tips for Preparing to Travel with Lung Cancer.
Kerry Beldin is an associate professor of social work at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, a licensed mental health practitioner and a life-long music enthusiast. She was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in December 2015 at the age of 42. Kerry has been teaching and training future social workers for 15 years, with a special focus on mental health treatment and violence intervention. Motivated by her own diagnosis, her public speaking, teaching, and research activities now often focus on: raising community awareness of the challenges of those facing life-limiting illness, improving communication between health care practitioners and their patients around these illnesses, and facilitating discussions about living life with intention and meaning regardless of health status. In her free time, she can be found making playlists of her favorite songs, spending time with her friends and family, or relaxing with her one-eyed pug mix, Kia.