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Traveling and staying connected during cancer treatment

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Margaret with two sons in train stations posrt 2.JPGBy Margaret Rose

This is a continuation of yesterday's post on traveling to MD Anderson for pancreatic cancer treatment.

I'm fortunate to have a strong network of friends and family who've stuck with me since my initial diagnosis

When they heard I would be away from home for seven weeks for radiation therapy, they asked if I could handle being alone, away from my local support network.

In response, I arranged for family and friends to spend week-long shifts with me in Houston.

Even though I was never so sick that I couldn't take care of myself physically, I did need the emotional and mental support my family and friends provided.

I needed someone to help me process the information and emotional overload that I was experiencing, someone to encourage me to go out and take a walk or eat a healthy snack, someone to make a quick trip to the supermarket, or someone to say, "Why don't we rent a car and explore Austin or Galveston?"

Without one of my friends, children or siblings, I'm afraid I would've fallen victim to depression or general lethargy.

I'm lucky they sacrificed their own personal time and money to stay with me.

Planning my trip to Houston
The most obvious question when considering a seven-week stay in another city was where to stay.

I chose the Rotary House International hotel, located just a skywalk away from the hospital and radiation therapy clinic. Since I wouldn't have a car in Houston, this was more convenient than other housing options.

I also liked that Rotary House offers room options that meet the requirements for both a short stay (two beds) and a longer stay (a small suite  with a larger kitchenette).   

Keeping costs to a minimum
Since I was paying for lodging, the financial burden on my caregivers was limited to the expenses of airfare and meals.

We were generally frugal in our meal planning and used the hotel shuttle to make weekly trips to the local grocery store to buy food that we could prepare in our kitchenette.

We learned more about the art and science of preparing food in a microwave than we ever knew possible.

A virtual community
Throughout my stay in Houston, I communicated with my friends and family back home frequently.

I was attached to the Internet. Emails were my preferred method to stay in touch.

For me, phone calls that required the frequent repetition of my latest tests or side effects were mentally draining. So, I also set up a blog on Caring Bridge.

This way, I could write down everything and my friends can choose to receive the updates. And, they could write me back and offer words of comfort and support, creating a virtual community of encouragement and goodwill.

Reevaluating priorities

A diagnosis of cancer or any life-threatening disease can make you review your priorities.

The statistics for pancreatic cancer are gloomy, to say the least. 

All of a sudden, my dream of saving up for a luxury retirement home took a back seat to the needs of my treatment.

I figured I had only one shot at fighting this disease, and I'd better get it right.

"Doing all that I can"
All in all, my complete care plan has depended on all aspects -- medical, financial, logistical and social -- working together to help me stay strong and confident that I'm doing all I can to fight my cancer. 

That knowledge alone gives me strength and hope.

Related story
Pancreatic cancer patient: Traveling to MD Anderson for treatment

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