What’s that saying?
Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it?
When my dad was first diagnosed with Lung Cancer, the doctors told us we had “days to weeks” left together. Thankfully, God had a better plan.
Our cancer journey lasted 21 months, and we fought a battle together that would make an army proud.
Spend our time worrying about the things we can’t change…
Go out and enjoy life now, today… because we have no idea what might happen tomorrow.
We chose option two.
That journey was one of the most heart-wrenching times of my life. It was also one of the most incredible times of my life, absolutely.
We had incredible adventures, spent meaningful time together, and talked about everything under the sun. It’s a great way for the whole family to have things to look forward to.
And your family can easily do the exact same thing, and it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money.
Get Started by Making a List
A bucket list, if you will. It doesn’t need to be jumping off cliffs or running with the bulls. It should be things that matter to you. Things you want to spend your time doing.
Just jot down a few things you want to…
Here were a few of my dad’s adventures:
- NC to see Michael and Annie (his grand children)
- 911 Museum
- Akwesasne Casino
- Dinner at the Culinary Institute of America
- Broadway play
- Dinner at Carmines (fun fact- they delivered to our room in NYC when we stayed overnight for appointments at Memorial Sloan Kettering so this one got checked off a lot!)
Everyone needs things to look forward to. Things to be excited about, think about, and plan for. Especially when everything sucks.
Getting up every day to endless appointments, horrible side effects, and debilitating symptoms sucks. You can’t keep going if that’s all you have to look forward to each day.
The more reasons you have to keep fighting this thing, the better.
Bucket lists are NOT about dying. Bucket lists are about living.
They are about taking advantage of every single good day and focusing on the things that make you happy and give you strength.
Without things to get excited about and look forward to, what are you fighting for?
Here’s a few great ideas for fun family activities that everyone will love.
Cheap Activities for the Entire Family
You can plan things like…
- Local Museums (look for free admission or discount days)
- Botanical Gardens
- Broadway Shows (The pandemic has changed everything, check Groupon or here for cheap tickets to shows)
- Comedy Shows (Groupon has cheap tickets for shows in your area)
- Concerts (Grab cheap tickets here under the things to do tab)
- Boat Tours/Whale Watches (Groupon)
- Casino (if anyone has free rooms available)
- Movie Night (which you watch at the local theaters or rent for $5 a few months after they come out and have popcorn and snacks right in your living room)
- Zoo (look for free or discount days)
- Drive-in Movies (low cost)
- Live Music
- Free Concert (or other free events)
- State Parks (we have a few family traditions that take place in our favorite state park)
- Interactive Exhibits
- Nature Center
- Picnics at a nearby park (cheap things)
- Family Game Night (free things)
- Ice Cream Sundaes or S’mores (or other fun snacks you can grab at local grocery stores)
- Live Entertainment (check out local places for upcoming events)
- Potluck Dinner
- Drive-thru Holiday Decorations
- Watch the Sunset (or other outdoor activities)
- Card Game Night (learn Golf, it’s addicting)
- Bonfires (or other free activities)
- Have a BBQ
- Apple picking
- Bake Pies
- Make Soup
- Write letters to the people you love.
- Try a new restaurant
- Last Minute Cruises (they’re super cheap and often additional people are free. To see our full review of everything you need to know about cruising with cancer click here…)
Heads up! Do you need a step-by-step easy to follow system to get all of this information organized?
No hassle, no stress, and minimum energy spent searching for the medical information you need (when you need it).
Make Traveling With Cancer a Success
Talk to Your Doctor
They can help you consider any dangers or complications you might encounter so you can plan ahead. They have great ideas to help you feel strong and energized and they can help with symptoms and side effects to watch for (and what to do about them) during your adventures.
Your doctor also may be able to make medication adjustments that can give you an extra boost (and less exhaustion) so you can feel better during your excursions.
Keeping your doctor in the loop has a ton of benefits for safe travel. And their help is indispensable when it comes to fun, higher energy levels, and less exhaustion.
You definitely want them on your side when it comes to your adventures.
Pack a Bag
Whether it’s a day trip, or you’re taking off for a week you want to make sure you have everything you need for a safe, successful trip. And you want to have the necessities all together in a bag you can easily grab and find what you’re looking for.
We use backpacks, which you can throw in the back of your car or strap onto your back for easy carrying all day long.
Our “supplies” include things like…
- Medication (including as-needed medication for things like nausea or pain in case you need them)
- Snacks (trail mix, crackers, Kind bars)
- Hand sanitizer
- Extra clothing
- Portable power bank (for charging cellphones)
- Charger cord
- Throw or blanket
- Baby wipes
- North Shore Supreme Briefs
These were the things we never left home without because when we needed something, we usually needed it quick.
Make a list of things you think you’ll need and then take some time to go through it. You don’t want to pack the whole house to head out for the day but there are some things you definitely want to have with you!
And it SUCKS to have misjudged a situation and end up desperately needing pain meds you don’t have. Or to suddenly be struggling with nausea while you’re stuck in rush hour traffic on the way home.
You want the day to be full of family fun and excitement, not overshadowed by a catastrophe.
Drive If You Can
We tried a few different methods of travel to see what was easier, and for us, the car was the winner.
It gives you the ability to stop any time you need to, and you have a lot more control when you’re driving. You are not at the whim of someone else’s schedule.
You can take your time, and you don’t need to rush ( like you would if you were catching a bus, train, or plane). If you need a few extra minutes, you can just take it.
You can stop also in the middle of the trip or whenever you need a break, and start again when you’re ready.
Driving gives you options that other methods of travel don’t really give you.
Tips When Driving
When driving for long periods of time, it’s best to stay on roads that have rest areas (which usually means handicapped accessible bathrooms). They will have equipment like…
- Raised toilets: that are easier to stand up from because they’re higher off the ground (rather than down on the floor).
- Handrails: to give you additional support, making it easier and safer to stand up.
- Larger stalls: Giving you more room for navigating walkers, canes, or wheelchairs.
If you can’t stay on roads with rest areas, stick to roads that have a lot of places to stop. Places like McDonald’s and Burger King almost always have handicapped accessible bathrooms, whereas local gas stations and mom-and-pop stores may not.
If you’re taking a new route, try to map things out ahead of time so you know what to expect, where you can stop, and how long it will be until you get there.
Don’t Try to Push It
Keep the car gassed up, use the rest room as many times as you have to…
If you need to stop, STOP. All it takes is one minor accident to back up traffic and have you sitting for an hour waiting to move.
You can also keep a few things accessible prevent accidents…
Male Urinal- Keep this in the car (under the seat) for times when you need to pee and you can’t wait.
You use this urinal under a blanket for privacy while traveling (but also while stopped in traffic) and it has saved our trip a few times. You can empty it at the next rest area, rinse it out and put it back under the seat.
Female Urinal- This one is a little bit harder to use in the car as it’s meant to be used standing up.
However, if you’re able to pull over, this is a God-sent. Basically, you just pee in the “cup” part of the urinal and the funnel empties the urine. But again, if you need it, it’s good to have it available.
Northshore Supreme Briefs- I HIGHLY recommend these if you need some extra protection while traveling. Here’s my very best advice along with a ton of experience on the matter…
Depends are great for urine. They are not great for diarrhea, bowel movements or two-hour-long car rides with no rest stops.
As you get further into this journey, things change. When it’s time to go, there is no “hold on a second”. You might have to go right this minute and waiting is not an option.
We found that being prepared was the best way to handle this.
These briefs are amazing. They are comfortable, absorbent (they can hold a lot) and NOTHING is getting through these suckers. Seriously, nothing.
These briefs are solid.
They’re also a bit pricey compared to Depends, but we used these throughout our entire journey and they were absolutely worth every penny for the stress, embarrassment, and aggravation they saved.
And to cut down on costs, we only used these when we really needed them. Sick days, long car rides, all-day-long doctor appointments…
Chux Underpads- These are great for everything… car seats, beds, couches, recliners… They protect from bathroom accidents, spills, and messes of all kinds.
Anti-Diarrheal Medicine: Loperamide (you probably know it by the brand name, Imodium A-D) is the recommended medicine for diarrhea. According to Web MD, “it works by slowing down the movement of the gut, making stools less watery and happen less frequently.”
If you eat something on the road that doesn’t agree with you or some difficult side effects pop up and you still have a long way to go, this will help you get through.
Passenger Comfort When Driving
- Add a few extra pillows, blankets, and other comfort items which will make the seats more comfortable for extended travel.
- Wear soft comfortable clothing for travel like sweatpants, yoga pants, or even pajamas. Take your shoes off and kick back and relax.
- Download movies on your phone or watch them on a DVD player (they sell portable players, that slide onto the headrest if your car is not equipped).
- Listen to Audible books (audiobooks) on your phone. The car is a great place to get lost in a story.
- Gatorade or water with electrolytes will help you stay hydrated even if you don’t want to drink a lot while traveling.
- Stop often. The Oncologist told us every two hours is the best practice as it gives you a chance to stand up, stretch your legs, move around a bit, use the bathroom, etc.
Places to Stay
It gives you the best options so you can get what you need. You need a comfortable bed, an accessible bathroom and having a kitchen or kitchenette available will save money on eating out.
As a family, we tend to travel in large groups with several family members. And we try to stick together rather than at different locations. What we found worked best for us was…
- Staying at a family member’s house (which we did most often).
- Staying at an Airbnb (with multiple bathrooms) where we all stayed together.
- Staying in a hotel room (in separate or adjoining rooms).
Staying together, meant we had a lot of extra time together and my dad could have fun with his grandchildren (little kids are a great distraction), relax and sleep when he needed to, and still enjoy family dinners, outings, and board games.
The perfect place would give him immediate access to a bed (which you can make super comfortable with thick inexpensive egg crates and some fluffy pillows which we kept on hand and brought from home) and a bathroom.
These may seem like small details now, but little things like that make a huge difference as you get further along in this journey.
We are family dinner type people, so we do a lot of family-style meals. With a pre-planned menu, a quick shopping trip, and a ton of extra hands, we could create AMAZING meals in less time than it took to set the table.
Ask About Stairs Ahead of Time
This is important.
If you’re staying somewhere you’ve never been, ask about the stairs. Specifically, you need to know if there are a lot of stairs to navigate or if there are no stairs options (like rooms on the first floor).
Airbnb’s we’ve stayed in have had all sleeping areas up a flight of stairs and we once accidentally booked a motel with no elevators and then found out we had a 3rd floor room. In the 3rd floor scenario, we actually had to change motels that night after a 4-hour drive.
Stairs can be tough and are really draining especially when you’re trying to salvage your energy for fun activities.
Now we call ahead of time to find out what we’re dealing with, so we can make other arrangements if we need to. It saves us a lot of headaches later.
Equipment To Make Life Easier
We often used a wheelchair to get around during our adventures, so my dad could save his energy for the things he really wanted to do.
It could also be used as a “walker” to provide additional support and stability while he was standing and walking around.
The wheelchair allowed him to have a place to sit whenever he needed it and of course, he could grab a cat nap when he needed to.
Making the wheelchair successful…
Watch for potholes
DON’T try to speed up and “blast” through them. It really does look like you can…But it doesn’t work.
Our very first time using the wheelchair, we were crossing the street and I hit a pretty big pothole in the middle of the road, I swear it looked like I could just drive right over it.
The wheelchair jolted and then stopped completely, and my father flew forward (not out of the chair, but close). At the same time, a taxi came flying around the corner…
I promise I am really good now! But that day… was not good at all.
Needless to say, it was a horrible experience and obviously, my dad’s stress level skyrocketed after that. ☹ (P.S. Once I got the hang of it, we were virtually event free).
Don’t underestimate tight spaces
It looks like you have plenty of room, but when you don’t… It can be a disaster.
You have to get used to the size and the space issues that come with pushing a wheelchair.
The foot rest extends out (longer than you think) so corners, elevators, and people walking in front of you can be problematic until you get the hang of it.
Just leave plenty of space and you’ll be fine.
Trying to go over large bumps or onto a curb?
Turn the chair around and go backward. I NEVER would have figured that out on my own and it is BRILLANT! The larger wheels in the back make it easy to get over those bumps.
Down the inclines… Go downhill backwards, it gives you way more control and the ability to stop the wheelchair with your body.
Can make the wheelchair difficult to push. If you are in a house for example where the floors are covered in fluffy rugs, you’re going to have some difficulty.
Even flat rugs can be problematic and take more energy to navigate.
Newer is better
My grandmother had an old wheelchair in her garage that we thought would be perfect…It was HORRIBLE. The wheelchair was ancient, rickety, and hard to push.
In fact, it took an UNBELIEVABLE amount of effort just to make that thing move. And the brakes (which barely worked) were terrifying.
The newer wheelchairs are so much easier to use. They glide effortlessly, they turn on a dime and they are much lighter, making it SO MUCH easier to maneuver. Plus, the doctor can give you a script so you can get one through the insurance company.
From The Rider’s Perspective
This came straight from my dad when I asked him what people should know about using a wheelchair to get around…
“The wheelchair is GREAT for long distances, especially when you have a lot going on health-wise. It gives me the ability to save my strength for when I really need it, so I can actually enjoy the things I want to do, rather than wasting all my energy getting there.”
“The key is a strong “driver”. Make sure they are good at judging distances and are listening to your concerns. It can be really scary to be the passenger because you have no control. Crossing streets, entering crowded areas, or navigating tight spaces are the worst.”
Power Mobility Scooter
Eventually, though, we graduated to a power mobility scooter.
We had rented one on the cruise and it did so much more than just get him around.
It gave him back the independence that he hadn’t had for quite a while.
Suddenly, he was able to go places without me, and do things on his own. You could see how excited he was about being able to do things on his own again.
And it still let him reserve his energy for the things that really mattered to him.
The power scooter gave him the ability to enjoy whatever we were doing for much longer than if he were walking or I was pushing him.
And, not that I would ever complain, but it gave me a break from pushing the wheelchair (which depending on the situation is harder than it looks.)
As a bonus, the power scooter is cool! I mean really cool. It was quick and easy for him to navigate (not me, I crashed when I tried to drive it!) And easy to take down for transport and put back together.
Can We Afford a Power Scooter?
When we first looked into getting a power scooter the prices were insane (like $7000) and not even possible for us.
Then I stumbled into a scooter store on one of our vacations and found a Pride Scooter for a fraction of the price.
It wasn’t cheap but at about $1,300, brand new, we figured out a way to swing it.
And it was a game-changer.
We ordered one because when you’re dealing with cancer, it’s rare to get back something cancer has taken from you (like your independence).
(Note) These can be approved through Medicare if a doctor determines they are medically necessary. Be aware that we were told that it’s hard to get approved and the process from what we have heard takes about 6 months.
Finding cheap family activities is well worth the effort when someone you love has cancer. It gives everyone something to look forward to and creates opportunities to spend quality time together. You won’t regret the decision to choose option two!
P.S. If you’re overwhelmed by all this cancer business, we can relate! The Cancer Binder Pack will walk you through the quick and easy system we used for organizing medical information.
Step-by-step instructions, printable forms, and monthly calendar pages so you can ALWAYS find what you need when you need it. And, the best part it’s FREE…
This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. We only recommend products that we use and LOVE. You can see our full disclosure here for further information.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.