Creating a bucket list for travelTo maintain our forward-looking mindset, we focused on planning future vacations. To help narrow down our choices, Ira created a bucket list. COVID restrictions and our comfort levels put some of these destinations on a temporary hold. As a result, we initially focused on domestic travel since we knew that it would be easier to accomplish and booked international destinations for later dates. Our choices took us to different climates and offered the opportunity for Ira to engage in the sports that he loves.
While planning back-to-back trips is tempting, we decided to leave more time between our travels so that we could adequately recoup and be in town for Ira’s MRI brain scans and doctor appointments. We also book flights with ample layover times, conveniently located hotels, and flexible travel itineraries. Whenever possible, we prefer to travel independently or in smaller groups rather than being part of a large group. Cruise ship itineraries allow us to explore an assortment of destinations without the need to pack and unpack, drive long distances, or be concerned about where we are going to eat.
Preparing for adventuresShortly after making our reservations, I investigated our travel insurance options. Travel insurance for individual trips that include preexisting conditions usually needs to be booked within a certain time frame and the insured parties need to be well enough to travel on the date the policy is issued. It is also possible to purchase annual policies for trip-related issues as well as for medical concerns.
Two weeks before traveling, we take an inventory of our Optune supplies and order whatever we need. Before packing our suitcases, we pull the required number of items, along with a few extras. It is advisable to double-check everything so that you won’t be shortchanged upon arrival. Whatever doesn’t fit into the Pelican case provided by Novocure is placed in our other carry-on luggage. We don’t want to risk the possibility of a shortage of arrays if our checked baggage is accidentally lost in transit. While we have yet to contact nCompass® while we are traveling, we know that we can receive support from a representative if necessary.
Keep in mind that medical equipment is exempt from the rules for carry-on luggage. However, it can be cumbersome if you, like us, need to bring along two CPAP machines, computers, camera equipment, medicine, and the Optune supplies. While you may not take all these items, you may be surprised by the total volume and weight of the gear. Make sure you can manage.
Finding humor in public reactionAnyone who uses Optune or walks next to an Optune user knows that the headgear and battery pack may cause people to stare. Sometimes it could be a simple glance while other times people become fixated. To cope with the abundance of unwanted attention, we joke about these encounters. We would be very wealthy if we could sell tickets for the extra time that strangers spend staring at Ira’s Optune.
Our elevator pitch for curious bystandersCuriosity and boldness cause random individuals to approach us. This has occurred in the U.S. and when we are traveling in other countries. In Boulder, Colorado, we were greeted by a woman whose husband had worn the device. It was the first time she had seen anyone using Optune other than her husband.
Usually, people simply want to know why Ira is wearing the device and what it does. Our elevator pitch is short and sweet. We simply state that the device and arrays on Ira’s head are designed to help prevent the tumor from returning. Most are content with this simple explanation. However, we have engaged in prolonged conversations with people who ask a series of detailed questions. This usually happens when the person either knew someone who passed away from glioblastoma or has a friend or relative currently coping with the disease. We are happy to educate others about glioblastoma and Optune.
The joys of traveling with OptuneOur airport experiences are never the same. Sometimes, Ira goes through security checkpoints without any issues while other times those checkpoints are not as smooth. One time, Ira was escorted to an area that I could not see. After 20 minutes, I asked a TSA agent to find him so that we would not miss our flight. Apparently, Ira was waiting for a TSA agent to pat him down. Familiarity with Optune obviously speeds up the process. Since the time needed to go through security is unpredictable, we recommend arriving quite early and asking for a TSA supervisor. Another option is to fill out the form on the TSA Cares website so the TSA staff is given a heads-up before you arrive at the security area.
Before a scheduled cruise, we let the cruise ship company know that we are traveling with Optune. With advance notice, the cruise ship’s security team knows what to expect when we arrive at the port. Fortunately, we have yet to experience any issues with the security personnel at international ports of call.
On two separate international flights, Ira was asked by a flight attendant to provide proof that he was well enough to travel. Even though we didn’t have a doctor’s note, we were able to describe the purpose of the device and why Ira was healthy enough to travel. As a result, Ira’s neuro-oncologist has provided a letter in the event it is needed for future international travels.
Be prepared for the lack of electrical outlets in international hotels and aboard cruise ships. With a limited number of outlets, it may not be possible to simultaneously plug in cell phones, computers/tablets, CPAP machines, the Optune battery charger, and the electrical unit for sleeping.