Tips For Traveling For Cancer Care

by Jane Ashley

Many of us will have to travel for all or part of our cancer care. We might live in a rural area, or we might have a rare cancer and need specialized expertise. It takes planning, money, and support from others to travel for cancer care. 

Bone Marrow Transplant

Planning and Logistics

There are many practical decisions that must be made when you travel for a second opinion or specialized treatment.

Method of transportation. The distance will probably be the determining factor. Perhaps, your travel distance is 3-5 hours away to go to a National Cancer Institute facility. You can drive. Be sure to ask about parking fees so that you are financially prepared. But some cancer patients need a level of expertise that is only available at a few centers in the U.S. Flying is usually the only option, and it will probably be expensive. But there are options. A number of private organizations offer free flights for medical care – Angel Flight, Angel Flights for Cancer Patients, Cancer Hawk and Corporate Angel Network are a few of the organizations who help cancer patients with urgent transportation needs.
Lodgings short-term. The cost of lodging is another big financial hurdle, but fortunately, there is a lot of help for lodgings too. The American Cancer Society provides more than 30 Hope Lodges for patients and their travel companion. Many other hospitals have accommodations for out-of-town patients – ask to speak to the social worker because they will be able to help you find free or discounted accommodations. Financial assistance is available from a variety of sources. Fisher Houses are available for military personnel, including veterans, who receive treatment at a military medical center. Be sure to ask for the “medical rate” at hotels near major hospitals. There are also grants for travel available through organizations like CancerCare. Some private insurance provides benefits for travel.
Medical records. You’ll need to sign a release to have your medical records sent to your second opinion facility or where you are going to receive new, specialty treatment. Our medical records are protected by HIPAA. But to be on the safe side, carry a copy along with you – summary of treatment to date and your latest scans on CD disks.
Home away from home. The length of time that you’ll be away depends on the purpose of your cancer care travel. If it’s for a second opinion, you’ll only be away for a short period of time. But if you’re going to have a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant, most facilities require that you live near the facility. You may be away from home for up to three or four months, even six months. In these situations, you’ll have to secure temporary housing for that period. The treatment facility’s transplant team has someone who will assist you in making these arrangements.
Financial considerations. For short trips, call your credit card company and let them know that you’ll be traveling so that they don’t decline charges. BeTheMatch.org provides valuable information to help patients and their caregivers plan for the financial aspects of a bone or stem cell transplant – including fundraising. There is no reason for you to be embarrassed about your need for financial help for lengthy and complex medical procedures.

Corporate Angel Network

Simple Tips for Auto Travel

There are many simple tips to make any travel for cancer care less stressful. It’s easy to get stressed and forget to take care of these simple things.
Automobile. Have your car serviced. Consider purchasing a AAA membership so that you don’t get stranded on the side of the road or your car won’t start in the hospital parking garage. Be sure that your spare tire is fully inflated. NOTE: Some new cars don’t have spare tires – if you don’t have a spare tire, consider purchasing one.
GPS. Make sure your GPS map is up-to-date. If you don’t have a GPS, consider purchasing one so that you don’t get lost on the way to the appointment. If you don’t have a GPS, be sure you have an up-to-date map.
Fill up your tank. Again, do the simple things like filling up your gas tank the day before you hit the road.
Automobile documents and more. Make sure that your driver’s license if current and the tag on your car is current. Be sure your auto insurance is up-to-date and that your automobile registration is in the car. Should you be pulled over for any reason, having your documents will prevent a potential disaster.
Comfortable clothing. Wear comfortable clothing and dress in layers, even in the summer. Hospitals and cancer treatment centers may be chilly – be sure to have a jacket or sweater.
Use cash or a credit card. It’s best not to use your debit card on a road trip. Your debit card is tied to your bank account, and scammers know how to drain your bank account if you use your debit card at a gas station or restaurant. Be sure to take some cash for tolls and/or parking fees. Use a credit card for gas and food purchases.
Store valuables. Don’t leave your tablet, camera or smartphone in plain sight in your car or motel room.

Upate Your Gps

The Bottom line …

Many of us have never even considered what we would do if our cancer care required us to travel. But for many cancer patients, traveling is a necessary part of treatment.

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