Traveling Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic As A Cancer Survivor

A skin and breast cancer survivor expresses her thoughts on travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected her family.

My daughter recently had a beautiful baby girl in Frankfurt, Germany. From Chicago, that’s about 4,300 miles, as the jet flies. I would love to jump on a plane and travel over there immediately to see my daughter, meet her new husband and hold my adorable new granddaughter.

Unfortunately, I cannot. Travel is severely limited to all European countries for Americans. Germany is not allowing in any Americans at the time I am writing this. COVID-19 still plagues the world and vaccinations are in progress, hopefully, for everyone. My heart is sad, and I pray daily that COVID-19 cases decrease as vaccinations go up.

What do I think of travel? Even as a breast cancer survivor of three years and a recent skin cancer survivor, I am not worried about travel – not much. I have had my two Moderna vaccine doses and have been informed that my blood pressure, weight and blood work are all good. I try to be positive. I sleep seven to nine hours a night. I walk three miles daily and watch my diet, more or less. Yoga, reading, walking, music and prayer keep me mentally and physically going. I fight depression and COVID-19 sadness daily, but I think I am on top of the battle.

I have close friends who won’t go for a walk, go to church, a museum or a restricted seating restaurant. I understand their anxiety. After seeing pictures of a cousin in Florida on a ventilator, I totally get their fear. Sometimes we can talk about their fears, but not always. It’s tough to admit being frightened of illness and dying.

There is almost an embarrassment about fear. Americans are supposed to be superheroes – traveling, going, doing, living – says the media and some people who did not always take the virus seriously and traveled throughout the worst of the pandemic. I was not happy with their lack of regard for humanity, but I held my tongue. They were close friends and I valued their friendship, but I didn’t agree with their choices. We are still friends and act like nothing happened. That is our way of coping and dodging the truth.

As a cancer survivor, and after going through chemo, radiation and the Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) patch, I am afraid of travel, but less afraid because of my cancer. Cancer makes us tough. We learned patience and how to maneuver our lives with a temporary handicap. We learned how to get out of bed at 4 a.m. because our body needed care. We learned how to wear scarves to cover our cold, bald heads. We accepted the twitching fingers and erratic heartbeats. We accepted our big, shiny, steroid moon faces. We learned coping mechanisms to hide our pain and personal fears.

Now, as the situation improves in this country, I still wear my mask, respect CDC and state guidelines, clean and disinfect and give people space. I will do that when and if I am allowed to travel overseas. Cancer makes us tougher, more resilient, more intelligent about correct choices for ourselves and gives us courage and strength.

I will travel as soon as I am able. I want to hold my grandbaby in my arms. Cancer survivors can do this. What’s 4,000 miles in the air after facing the struggle of life and death?

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