Traveling with Relapsing MS By Katy, Wife, Writer, and Yoga Instructor • July 19, 2018
When you’re visiting an exotic locale or even taking a weekend getaway hiking near your hometown, the last thing you want to worry about is managing your relapsing multiple sclerosis. But relapsing MS is the ever-present companion for all of us, and sometimes paying our disease the respect it demands is the best way to travel together in peace.
• Plan wisely. Whether you’re taking a long car trip or flights that cross continents and oceans, determine a schedule that works best for your body. If you’re taking a flight that leaves at 6 am, get to bed as early as you can the night before. I know that for me, jet lag feels so much more intense when I’m sleep deprived. If you’re planning a drive that is hours long, share time behind the wheel with other adults traveling with you. If you’re driving solo, make pit stops when you need to. Stretch, use the bathroom, and grab something to eat or drink.
• Stay cool. During the summer, heat is the most feared foe by many of us with relapsing MS, promising to sap our energy, throw us off balance and inspire tingling in the hands, the feet—anywhere in the body, really. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay in an air-conditioned space at all times. If you’re near water, by all means, get in!
If you’re spending time at the pool with friends and family, stand where the cool water is waist-high and enjoy your piña colada from there. Or maybe you’re planning a day or two on the trails. Take care to conserve your energy by bringing cool packs to drape over your shoulders or wrap around your neck. You can also bring along a water bottle, or one of those small backpacks that you can fill up with water to drink.
• Take breaks. It sounds crazy, but there is such a thing as too much fun. If you notice your foot starting to drag or the MS hug—where your rib muscles start to painfully spasm and mercilessly squeeze your torso—as you walk around a balmy seaside town, take a break. Find a shady spot to sit down and do some people-watching. This also may be a terrific time to sample that world-famous gelato. Or, if you’re feeling up to it, take a detour to browse the shops.
• Keep calm and remember you’re not alone. Most of us have been there before. After traveling for several days, putting yourself in the middle of a new culture, some new and exciting relapsing MS symptom may suddenly appear. You know yourself best. If something really feels wrong, you should seek medical care.
Unfortunately, we can’t leave relapsing MS at home when we go on vacation. During a trip 10 years ago, MS left me with temporary vision problems in my left eye. But I was far from home with the man who has been my steadfast partner throughout most of my journey with relapsing MS. So I called my doctor, explained the situation and we talked about what our next steps should be. I planned to see him as soon as I got home, but I enjoyed the rest of my trip, knowing I had an appointment set up as soon as I left. And the breathtaking images of my trip are still filed away in my memory. I heard exquisite music, enjoyed tantalizing food and still had a spectacular time.
• Do what’s right for you. Only you know the boundaries that you are comfortable pushing. If you think you might be having a relapse, or you are really struggling with your symptoms, see a healthcare provider wherever you are, or even postpone a trip if you have to. Your health is what’s most important.
But trust yourself as you make decisions about when, where, and how you want to enjoy time away. Commit to enjoying those plans as completely as possible and give yourself flexibility to go with the flow. The world is vast and beautiful, begging to be explored.
Do you have any tips for managing RMS while traveling?
- LIVING WITH RELAPSING MS
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