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How to Travel (the World!) After Breast Cancer

One woman’s travel tips and tricks will take you wherever you want to go

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A decade ago, the “bucket list” wasn’t even a thing. Somewhere along the way, it became an imperative and we all had to get one – most likely with “Travel” written in bold letters across the top.Travel after breast cancer might be daunting for some women, but we think you deserve a getaway, and we know you can handle it. Our friend Karen C. from the U.K., indulged her travel dream, going abroad for an extended adventure, and shared her best tips for traveling after breast cancer with us.

Health-First Travel Prep and Planning

After my breast cancer diagnosis and 18 months’ treatment including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Herceptin IV, I decided to take early retirement and travel the world. It’s a dream I had always wanted to fulfil, but because of my career the timing was never quite right.

After my cancer, though, my children were in their twenties and self-sufficient, so the opportunity to travel opened up.

My travel commenced about a year after treatment. I was nervous about becoming unwell whilst travelling, so I decided to visit countries with established health care systems. My adventures led me to travel extensively in Australia, New Zealand and the west coast of America. 

I ensured that I had full medical insurance in place. Although costly, the peace of mind outweighed the cost. I could travel with the assurance that I could seek medical assistance if I needed it.

Packing for Adventure

How to Travel After Breast CancerNo matter how long you’re traveling for, my recommendation is always to travel light. Really, whatever you need can be bought en route, in the airports or the cities you visit. I suggest a ‘capsule’ wardrobe; that is, a compact collection made up of 8-12 staple pieces in coordinating colours. You can then mix and match items of varying weight for different weather conditions. On my world tour I experienced the full range of weather conditions, from intense heat to freezing conditions, balmy sun and torrential rain. I needed to be prepared for anything and everything!

That tip about rolling up your clothes really does work; it saves a lot of space in your luggage. Roll them up tight! 

Looking for soft, comfortable tops with a bra built-in? Amoena Leisure wear is great for travel.

In-Flight Fancy: Lymphedema Prevention

Always dress for comfort when flying, especially long flights – legs, feet and arms always swell and if you’re at risk for lymphedema, wear your compression sleeves. I made sure to drink plenty of water – both in preceding days and during the flight – to avoid dehydration. I would also wear my flight socks, and on longer flights my arm stocking, to prevent any problems. I told myself I’d rather be cautious and act preventably than create a medical problem by not looking after myself.

Where to Stay

My accommodation for the trip was varied and multi-functional; different venues were appropriate for the countries I stayed in.

  • Australia included a mix of staying with relatives, friends, Airbnb, and camping in Australia's red centre, a magical experience sleeping in a swag (hammock) under the stars!
  • In New Zealand, I treated myself to two days of hotel luxury after the plane journey -- because breast cancer taught me that being kind to myself is okay! Refreshed, I picked up a camper van and spent five weeks touring. I stopped in freedom camps and established camp sites… there’s a travel tip: Always try to find established campsites. This ensures you’ll see a good balance of surroundings. Whilst in N.Z., I did lots walking, kayaking and sightseeing. The highlight of that trip? Flying over the Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers.
  • In America, I had signed up on a tour of the west coast starting in Los Angeles, and finishing in San Francisco, via Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Death Valley and Yosemite. It’s a lot of sites to see! Again, different accommodation styles were available: motels, hotels and inns. I made sure to factor in time for rest

Travel’s Best-Kept Secret

During my epic world travels, I met some lovely people from all over the world who remain friends now. I advise others to not be shy: connect with fellow travellers on the road. Whilst in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, I met someone from Sydney who then gave me a ‘VIP’ introduction to the city when I got there. In New Zealand on a rainy day, I exchanged stories with fellow travellers from Canada, the U.K., Australia, N.Z. and even South Korea. What an enriching experience! I learned a lot in our discussions on all sorts of topics.

If you’ve been writing your bucket list, and planning to travel after breast cancer treatment, there’s no time like the present! 

Ready? Get more tips about the airport security check: Travelling with your silicone breast form.