No Doctor’s Note, No Flight? Read These Five Tips to Travel Like a Pro During Cancer

Traveling with cancer can be tricky, and airlines often have convoluted policies and misinformed employees that can complicate your travel ventures.

This was especially true for cancer fighter Elizabeth Sedway who was kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight because she was told by an airline representative that she could not fly without a doctor’s note. Alaska Airlines later apologized to Sedway, refunded her family’s tickets and covered the cost of the family’s overnight accommodations, but cases such as these are not uncommon for people fighting cancer to experience.

Fortunately, there are ways for you to prepare for a trip while fighting cancer that minimizes the likelihood for airline complications. Read on and become a savvy cancer-fighting traveler!


  1. Know when not to travel: Unfortunately, cancer has a way of shaping your life in ways you probably don’t like. There are appointments and treatment plans to work around. The wide array of side effects bring their own complications. If you’ve had any surgery recently, have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 to 12 months, have low platelets, or get breathless after light exercise, you’re probably not in the best condition to fly at the moment. While putting your travel plans on hold can be a drag, your health and safety does need to come first! Make sure to consult your medical team to determine if you’re fit to travel.
  2. Get a Doctor’s Note: Once your doctor has said it’s okay for you to travel, ask them to write a note detailing your medical instructions and treatment plan. Make sure it’s clear that the doctor believes you are fit to fly. This, along with your emergency contacts, should travel with you in your carry-on wherever you go. You can even consider getting a medical alert bracelet.
  3. Pack Prescriptions in Carry-on Bags: Even if you don’t need your medications on the flight itself, make sure you pack all your prescriptions in your carry-on in their original containers. You don’t want to be in a situation where your luggage gets lost and you need your medication. If you can, bring more than you will need for the duration of your trip, just in case you get delayed. Make sure you have copies of your prescriptions in the event you need to get something refilled at your destination.
  4. Plan in Advance: Even if you were once a flexible traveler that hated plans, traveling while fighting cancer means you’ll be bringing a major variable, your health, along with you. Save yourself possible future frustrations by notifying airlines, hotels, and travel groups about your situation and any special considerations you many need. With enough advance warning, many companies are happy to accommodate you. Similarly, make sure that you research where they closest medical facilities are, just so you’re prepared in case you should need emergency treatment.
  5. Take Precautions: Certain cancers and treatments, such as hormonal therapy for breast cancer, may increase the risk for blood clots. Wear loose clothing and compression socks, do leg exercises, and walk around the cabin occasionally to prevent them from forming. Make sure you stay hydrated. If you have anemia, ask your doctor if you will need additional oxygen, and contact the airline to ensure your needs are met.

Everyone deserves a vacation, especially those fighting cancer. Make sure to consult your doctor to make sure you’re fit to fly. Once you’re cleared for takeoff, follow these tips to ensure your travels are stress free and enjoyable.

Do you have other tips you’d like to share with fellow cancer fighters? Let us know in the comments!

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