Vacationing with Cancer

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

Kristina Burke is going on vacation, so she asked her oncologist to change her chemotherapy schedule.

If a person has an early stage cancer and is getting chemotherapy to prevent a recurrence, oncologists usually follow established treatment protocols closely because there’s clear data to support those protocols.

But Kristina doesn’t have an early stage cancer. She has Stage IV or metastatic breast cancer which isn’t curable, but is treatable. She’ll be on chemotherapy for the rest of her life. Sometimes her life schedule and her chemo schedule will be in conflict. Accommodations in the treatment schedule are sometimes possible and appropriate.

As Kristina says, “What’s the sense of going through treatment if I’m not going to live my life?”

I applaud her. When you have Stage IV cancer, you should live as much as you can. Chemotherapy should not be the focus of your life. Instead, chemotherapy should be seen as a tool – medicine – to help you live as long and as well as possible.

Her oncologist was able to move her chemotherapy up a week to allow her to make the trip.

I suspect some people will ask how she’s going on vacation while in the midst of cancer treatment. It can be arranged. Certain precautions need to be taken, especially to prevent infections. Connections are often made with oncologists in the vacation destination to provide care in case of an emergency.

I encourage patients with more advanced cancers to follow Kristina’s example and talk with their oncologists about what they want in the months and years ahead. The goal of treatment is to
make your life better.

Taking a family vacation when a parent has cancer is a special event. A good oncologist recognizes its importance and can help make it happen.

Kudos to Kristina for living life to its fullest.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here for all of Bob’s columns

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