Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Long Haul Travel After Mastectomy

I've arrived back in Singapore, three weeks and four days after my mastectomy.  It was a very long, 25+ hours of travel, but I'm pleased to say that it wasn't too bad on my body (as of writing this).  My biggest fear of all, (yes, here's where you get to see how my irrational thoughts get the best of me) was that my implants would somehow be affected by the altitude.  I don't know if I actually thought they would self-implode or cause me pain from some sort of abnormal swelling, but I had the worst of the worst thoughts going through my mind.  At any rate, I have a few pointers if you are about to make a long haul journey for your reconstruction surgery that I thought you'd like to know.

1.  Get a medical release for flying and fill out the airline's medical form.  We flew Emirates, and I was alerted to the fact that they have an online medical form that I could download and fill out, along with my doctor's instructions and signature.  This is important for two reasons.  A)  If you show up to the flight looking unfit for air travel/requesting special accommodation/explaining a surgery, they will question you and demand a doctor release before letting you fly.  B)  They are often really good at trying to accommodate you throughout your travels, whether it be a class upgrade to fully recline, wheelchair service or general extra care throughout your flight.  I was given an upgrade to Business Class, however, it was more important for me to be with my husband and family, so I stayed in Economy.  This flight was 100% full, so they couldn't give me a couple extra economy seats to stretch out either.  But it all worked out fine.

2.  Wear a good bra.  Now isn't the time to try a cute bra for the first time.  You want to make sure you are wearing a supportive bra during the journey, one that makes you feel secure and well supported.  I packed my surgical compression bra in my carry on, just in case I needed it, but I initially went with wearing one of the Genie bras I had purchased and already tried sleeping in a few night previous.  I'm glad I had that support while walking through the airports and for sitting upright for extended hours.  I never needed the compression bra.

This is the Genie Zip.

3.  Make sure you have compression socks.  I wanted to take every precaution I could to make sure nothing went wrong on this flight, after all I had been through.  I purchased compression socks at the airport (there was NO WAY I was getting the hospital ones back on).  If people get clots without having just had surgery, I figured I was at a slightly higher risk and so I sexied myself up with some sexy, long, black...compression socks.

4.  The window seat was my friend for the first time.  I never sit in the window seat because then I'm wedged in and have to bother strangers to get up and down.  I'm and aisle girl.  However, the window was my friend on this trip (plus, the other passengers next to me were my kids.)  You have that extra bit of room to lean.  I took a blanket and pillow and formed a cozy padded area against the window which allowed me support and zero disturbance (nor the chance of me nodding off on someone's shoulder.)  I tried the aisle seat, and it just didn't work as it didn't give me any allowance for leaning and getting comfortable.

5.  Take your medications and get clearance!  Take your meds on the flight!  I took 1/2 a Xanax and 1/2 a muscle relaxer and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I slept for hours on end.  I'd wake up, walk, eat and go back to sleep.  When it was time, I'd reload on the medication.  I never had any pain during the flights.  NOTE: The one thing I did notice was that the outer sides of my breasts were very tender by the time we arrived home, like the muscles had been stretched from trying to rest in various positions.  Listen to your body and support it as much as possible with extra pillows and blankets.  As for clearance,  I live in a country where the importation of illegal drugs can mean a death sentence.  Make sure you have what you need from your country to bring your medications back in.  I had to get a license which meant applying for it well in advance of the trip. 

6.  Take lots of walks.  You might have compression socks on, but make sure you get up and walk as well.  Make an excuse to go to the bathroom or grab a cup of water (stay hydrated!), or just be the person who gets up and takes a stroll around the cabin, but just do it!  

7.  Stay hydrated.  I can't wait for the flight crew to come and fill my measly single serving cup over an over again.  Luckily, I had an awesome attendant who saw my nearly empty full size water bottle, and filled it up for me.  Keep yourself well hydrated.  You've just had surgery, you're flying and you're taking medications.  You've got three whammies telling you to stay hydrated.  So do it.

8.  Don't lift too much!  I'm still at 'nothing over 10 lbs' weight limit on what I can carry.  You'd be surprised at how quickly your carry on can become 10 lbs.  Make sure you're not going to stress yourself out with an over packed bag, or else make sure you have someone to help you.

I hope these tips will help you.  I'm sure some of you have more tips to contribute as well!  Each person will be different, and each type of surgery will require different things.  I would imagine someone who had a DIEP surgery will have other accommodations to make for their tummy area.  At any rate, make sure you're OK to fly on a long haul, give yourself enough time.  And no, my implants did not self-implode or spontaneously combust.  

UPDATE: As it has now been nine hours since our flight, I have noticed increased swelling in my legs and my breasts are very tender and sore.  I imagine my body is going through some fluid changes after the long flights.  Keep aware of your body after your long haul and note changes.  Alert your doctor if anything seems abnormal.

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