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International Travel After Breast Cancer Is Complicated

Traveling internationally has its challenges, but for those with prosthetics, it's a little more complicated.
PUBLISHED October 08, 2018
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.

Destinations of grandeur have always been at the top of my bucket list. For most of my life, I've dreamed of traveling to one of the most controversial and holy sites in all the world: Israel. Finally, after years and years of dreaming, my wish is finally coming true! In just a few short weeks, I'll be boarding a plane to the Holy Land.

When the opportunity for the trip was presented to me in January, there was no hesitation on my part. I'd waited more than 50 years for this chance and there was no way I was going to pass it up. Unlocking my safe deposit box, I pulled out my passport and found it had just expired earlier that year. Immediately, I printed an application for renewal and sent it off in the mail with the required fee. According to government guidelines, it was necessary to have it at least 60 days before entering another country.

As months passed, I began jotting down a list of items I'd need for the trip. As a long-range planner, I'd always found it was an easy way to make sure I didn't forget anything. Near the top of my list were my mastectomy bras and prostheses. Although I planned to wear them on the flight, it was important to make sure they were on the list, so I wouldn't forget them.

When August rolled around, I began paying closer attention to the number of days until the trip. Taking time to check the airline's web page, I found good information on packing limits and regulations. In the back of my mind, I was already getting nervous about the security screening I knew I'd face before boarding the plane.

If I wore my prostheses, chances were I'd be pulled off to the side for closer inspection at the security gate. If I didn't wear them, I'd be embarrassed at my flat-chestedness. What to do, what to do?

Jumping back on the airline's website, I did some digging and finally found a link to the Travel and Safety Administration's website. On their page, I found information for those with travel disabilities. While I didn't consider traveling with prostheses a disability, I did consider traveling with lymphedema a challenge and had added compression sleeves to my list of travel needs. The TSA provided a printable disability card on their site, so I downloaded it and made a copy to present to the security guards at the time of screening.

After making the copy of the disability card, I felt more confident. At least I would be able to alert the employee at the security gate of my health issues and hopefully avoid public humiliation. I could just imagine my silicone prostheses being man handled as guards squished and squashed them looking for contraband.

In just a little under three weeks, I'll be on my way to Israel. The excitement I feel is mounting but there is also a feeling of fear. Unsure of the screening procedures I'll face in each country I enter, I'm wondering if international travel with these cancer related issues is worth it.

It’s understandable countries have tightened up security especially with all the terroristic threats we've faced in recent years but from what I hear, Israel has a top-notch security force. I guess I might as well expect to be touched a good bit in the next few weeks even though I won't be able to feel a thing while the guards are examining my prostheses. My only hope is they'll be gentle with my girls. It wouldn't be pretty if they sprung a leak. I need them to be in tip top shape as I'm posing for photos at all the places I've dreamed of visiting. And, I hope the pre-printed disability card from the TSA will help me avoid some unnecessary fondling.


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