10 Helpful Tips to Enjoy Travelling With A Chronic Illness

Friday, 17 August 2018
Living with a chronic illness can be quite challenging. Day-to-day functioning can often be extremely challenging. With daily life skills often being unachievable, one may question: will I ever be able to travel abroad? The mind starts to race with a million questions. What happens if you're overseas and you get a flare-up? Am I able to get all the recommended travel vaccinations? 

The short answer, yes you absolutely can travel with a chronic illness! It's may not be as stress-free as someone who doesn't have a chronic illness. But, with the proper planning, consultation, and personal drive international travel is possible! 

When I was first diagnosed, my concern was never the inability to travel but what would happen if I was abroad and got sick. I've been fortunate that with enough planning and sheer dumb luck to stay relatively healthy during my travels. However, there have been a few trips where I've fallen ill. It didn't make the journey any less incredible because I was prepared!

Here are my tips for slaying your next holiday even if you have a chronic illness:

1. Consult with your doctor
Before your holiday, it is imperative that you consult with your doctor. Tell them where you're going. Ask them what vaccines you will need. Ask if any of those vaccines are contraindicated with your condition. And also consult on best practices to keep you healthy whilst overseas. 

My doctor and I were able to develop a comprehensive health plan to help me stay as healthy as possible on my upcoming travels. I'll be travelling immunocompromised so being able to prep my body for the stressors of travel, contact with foreign viruses and bugs, and unfamiliar foods is incredibly important to me. 

2. Get a Letter From Your Doctor
It can be incredibly helpful to have a letter from your doctor while travelling. If there are specific accommodations you may need, the letter may help you gain access to these services. You will also need a letter if you are on medications that are illegal in the country you're visiting. 

Sometimes it can be helpful to have your doctor give you a comprehensive report of your condition and most recent bloodwork and test results. That way anything goes wrong while abroad, the doctors have an idea of your past medical record. 

3. Meds, Meds, and More Meds
Do you take daily meds? What about meds you use as PRN's? Whatever medication you use or may use, pack it! It's better to be over prepared than under prepared. A few extra tips: 

- Always check the medication laws in the country you'll be visiting. When travelling to Australia, I had to travel with a doctor's note for one of my medications because it was not legal in Australia. 

- Refill any medication that is running low or bring extra scripts with you. This way you'll ensure you'll have enough during your holiday. 

- ALWAYS keep your medications with you. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT pack them in your checked luggage. All medication MUST go in your carry on or purse. Why even risk the opportunity of lost luggage. 

4. Travel Health Insurance
Hopefully, you won't ever need it but if you have a chronic illness it is imperative you always have travellers insurance. You do not want to get sick overseas and end up with a massive hospital bill. Who wants to go in debt on holiday? I always go for the top tier coverage. Yes it can be expensive, but it's worth it. 

5. Know Where the Local GP or Hospital Is
Nothing is worse than falling ill and not knowing where to go. Your focus should be on getting better not scrambling to find a doctor. Do your research before your trip or on arrival. This way you'll know exactly where you need to go (and which doctors will accept your travel insurance). 

6. Listen to Your Body
This is probably the most important tip of them all. I cannot stress this enough. YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! If you're tired, take a rest day. If you have energy, do whatever the heck you want. But do not push yourself. It's not worth pushing and being stuck in bed the rest of your holiday. 

7. Plan Ahead
Look into some of the activities available to you during your travels. If there is an absolute must see on the trip, plan to do that on the first few days. Leaving it to later in the trip increases the likelihood you'll miss out. 

I tend to make three lists when I'm travelling. One is my ideal completely healthy list. The second is my must-sees, and doable symptoms flare list. And the third is comprised of activities I can do when I'm feeling really poorly. This way, depending on my health, I can pluck from the lists as needed. 

8. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! 
I literally cannot stress this point enough! You should be drinking at least 3L of water per day. This includes the days leading up to your trip. If you're well hydrated, you're less likely to catch anything from the flight. 

Not only will staying hydrated help to prevent illness but it will also give you a bit more energy. Throw a dissolvable vitamin into your water for an extra immunity boost. Staying hydrated helps ensure I'm able to get out and explore when I'm travelling. 

Bonus hydration: If you're adequately hydrated and you happen to fall ill, it's less likely that you'll end up in hospital. Not staying on top of your water intake is almost a sure fire way to land your booty in hospital. And no one wants to be in hospital in a foreign country (especially if you're travelling solo). But if you do, please refer to point #5. 

9. Be Aware of What You Eat
This can sometimes be tricky, especially if you do not speak the local language. If certain foods trigger your condition, you may want to do some research on local cuisine to find foods you can eat. 

When in transit, you often do not get much of say in the meal the airline provides. I always phone the airline ahead of time to notify them of my allergies and food restrictions. Often, they can only cater to one of the other. When this is the case, I pack a few extra snacks that I know I can eat. It's come in handy more times than I can count. 

10. You Do You
If you sit your booty in a lawn chair, sippin' Mai Tai's, and reading smutty novels your entire holiday. Do it! If you want to scale Mt. Everest and run a marathon while on holiday, DO IT! How you choose to travel is entirely up to you. NEVER let someone make you feel bad because you need to take a couple days to rest. Listen to your body and do you baby girl!  

Travelling doesn't need to be impossible! If you want to travel, do not let your health stop you! Plan ahead, consult with your doctor, and then get your booty out there and enjoy your life! 

To all my spoonies out there, how do you prepare for a holiday? What tips do you have to help inspire other spoonies to travel?

And until next time...
Stay curious!

3 Simple Steps to Avoiding Jet Lag

Friday, 10 August 2018
Travelling to a new country is exciting. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend the first few days of their trip struggling to adjust to their new time zone. Long haul travel can be especially hard to quickly adapt. Seats are small and uncomfortable. The person in 28A wants to get out and use the bathroom every 2 hours when you’re trying to get some sleep. If you’re like me, finances do not allow for a luxury first class seat on transoceanic flights (unless by God's graces I’ve managed to get an upgrade).

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After a lot of trial and error, so much error, I have finally found the solution to jet lag. I now have it down to a routine science. In the past, I would go a few days without sleeping, down a couple sleeping pills, and pray for the best. This NEVER worked for me. Relaxing in an economy seat when you’re 5’10” is not the easiest task. Over years of travelling, I've slowly started to find ways to make the trip less miserable.

11 Things You Should Know About Migraine Sufferers

Friday, 3 August 2018
In my house, migraines were a norm. I have them, my father had them, my grandmother had them. From an early age I learned when there was pain, you tried the best you could to pretend things were normal. It wasn't until the 'stroke' symptoms appeared that you should rest. While 14% of the world's population will experience migraines, an even small percentage of these migraine sufferer's experience hemiplegic migraine. There are two types of hemiplegic migraines: sporadic and familial. 

My family has the type of migraines that affect 0.01% of migraine suffers, familial hemiplegic migraines. Familial hemiplegic migraines (FMH) are a genetic, migraine disorder which gives your offspring a 50% chance of receiving the genetic mutation. Symptoms of this specific type of a migraine include: 

  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Excruciating pain on one side of your head. My numbness and pain both affect the right side of the body. I feel the pain in my head while experiencing numbness in my face, neck, and arm. 
  • Pins-and-needles feeling. While my right leg and side do not go numb, I do experience pins-and-needles sensations that make it incredibly difficult to move. 
  • Aura or blurred vision.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme sensitivity to light, smell, and sound
  • Processing delays
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty remembering words or forming sentences
  • Did I mention pain? Lots of pain?

Ever wonder what you can do to help your friend or loved one suffering from migraines? Here are some tips to help be a supportive person in their life:

1. Do Not Downplay Their Pain
Most individuals tend to hear the word migraine and respond with 'Oh I get headaches too". First, Susan, a migraine is to a headache as Godzilla is to a lizard. They are not even remotely equivalent. Even while I'm writing this post, every time I write the word migraine, Grammarly tries to correct it to 'headache'. They are not the same bloody thing. Trying to downplay it only makes treating it more difficult!

If a loved one shares with you, they're experiencing a migraine, do not downplay that pain. Telling them "headaches are awful" only make them feel isolated and stigmatised. 

2. Try to Understand Their Triggers
Certain smells or food, alcohol, stress, sensory stimuli and changes in weather can trigger migraines. Understanding what triggers can exacerbate migraines in your loved ones can help make them a little more comfortable. If its strong perfumes, avoid wearing them for a few days. Avoid offering trigger foods to them when they're unwell. These simple acts really show you care. 

3. Ask If There Is Anything You Can Do To Help
Sometimes a migraine can be so severe a person cannot see. This makes it difficult to seek medical attention. Offer to drive them to doctors appointments or to pick up any medication they may need. Cooking can also be an impossible task so offering to make a meal is always appreciated. 

4. Try to Keep the Noise Down and Turn Off the Lights
Keeping the noise down and turning off the lights is the simplest way to help out a loved one with a migraine. Sensitivities to light and sound can sometimes be challenging hurdles to overcome to get mild relief. For some, the sound of their own breath can be excruciating, causing not only pain but nausea and vomiting. Making sure they're in a quiet, dark place can help aid in the recovery. 

5. If They Need to Cancel Plans, Just Say "No Worries"
It absolutely sucks having to cancel plans last minute. It sucks, even more, when friends aren't understanding and try to pressure you to still go out, underplaying your pain. Don't be that friend or family member. If your loved one needs to cancel, just tell them no worries, and you'll reschedule for when they're feeling better. Throw in a bit of #3 too. 

6. Cover for Them
One of the most supportive things you could do is help cover for them. This may mean helping decrease their workload for a few days, swapping shifts so they can rest, or helping them find coverage for their shift. You may even want to call in on their behalf. Sometimes migraines can be so painful the individual is unable to talk. 

7. Support Their Dietary Constraints 
This does not mean avoiding foods you love while you're around the individual. This could mean not pressuring them to "try a bite" or "just have one drink". Certain foods and drinks, even in small quantities can mean days of pain. If they're unwell, find out what food smells trigger them and suggest ordering something they can stomach. 

8. Tidy Up
Household chores become last priority when one has a migraine. Sometimes the stress of knowing the house is a mess is enough to trigger the next. Help straighten up around the house. Offer to do a load of laundry or wash the dishes. You don't need to do a full moveout clean to show you care. 

9. Do Not Offer Advice
If I had a nickel every time, someone said "my (insert rando person) tried (insert rando info they googled), and it worked really well. Have you tried it?" I may be as rich as the Royal Family. I know the advice comes from a good place, but unless you have knowledge on brand new groundbreaking research, chances are I've tried what you're about to suggest. Just like when Ann was preggo on Parks & Rec, and Chris was overbearing, all you need to say is "that sucks" or "how can I help"?

10. Keep in Touch
We may fall out of touch for a bit. This doesn't mean we love you any less or that we don't want to see you. Migraine brain and the migraine hangover can often make it incredibly difficult to remember much of anything. Just send a quick text. This helps us feel a little less isolated and not so bad for having to bail on stuff. 

11. Research Migraine Art
There are so many VR simulators and migraine artwork that help depict what an individual with migraines might be experiencing. I highly suggest checking these out. It can help give you a person first account of the impact of migraines. 

Migraines can leave one feeling incredibly isolated. But with a strong, understanding support network, you don't have to feel so alone. If you suffer from migraines, what would you like your support network to understand? If you've never suffered from migraines, what would you want to understand better? Join the discussion in the comments below. 

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

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ACMI Alice in Wonderland Exhibition: Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Friday, 27 July 2018
There is always something to do in Melbourne. Whether its exploring hidden laneway gems, taking in the sights or taking in a bit of culture, Melbourne doesn't disappoint. In case you were unaware, Alice in Wonderland is a story that is near and dear to my heart. For those who did not know, the title of this blog was inspired by my mild Alice obsession. When I found out an Alice in Wonderland exhibition was coming to Melbourne, you bet your bottom dollar my booty was going. 

Start your journey down the rabbit hole in this immersive and theatrical exhibit. As you wander down the stairs, you're greeted by a staff member who will give you the 'Lost Map'. This map gives you a specific Alice character and allows for a more immersive experience (I was the Mad Hatter), it's your job to find out how to enter the exhibition. There are a few different ways to enter. In true Alice fashion, I crawled my booty way in through the smallest door. 

Follow me down the rabbit hole. 

Each room unlocks more and more to Alice. Once you've made your way through the tiny door, you get to explore a bunch of rooms that share background information about Lewis Carroll and little Alice. My personal favourite? Getting to see one of the original copies of Alice's Adventures Underground. Did you know that was the original title of Alice in Wonderland?

The interactive adventure continues giving you a glimpse of the Alice in Wonderland ballet costumes, the cinematic evolution from the first B&W picture to modern Disney favourites, the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, painting the roses red, and finally a look at Tim Burton's take on Alice. 

While waiting for your tea party, in true Alice fashion, you're faced with a riddle to solve. Being the masterminds my friend and me are, we're 99% we solved the riddle. The only downside, none of the staff members had been told the answer to the riddle. We had no idea if we had solved the entire puzzle or if we needed to do a bit more digging. 

After exiting the tea party, head over to the 'Queen's Croquet Ground' and let your inner child loose to help paint the roses red. Create your own character with the stickers provided, scan it, and watch your creation come to life. It's fun for both kiddos and adults. 

It was incredible to see the evolution and the many interpretations of Lewis Carroll's beloved story. The exhibition concluded with costumes from the Tim Burton films and an 18 screen tribute to Alice. 

The Wonderland exhibit is a wonderful time for adults and children. The little ones can engage in the interactive activities while the adults take the time to read about Alice's evolution. You will absolutely be swept away by this curious exhibition.

Wonderland Exhibit

WHERE: ACMI, Federation Square, Melbourne
WHEN: 5 April –  7 Oct 2018
Open daily 10am–5pm
HOW MUCH: Full $25 Family $65 Concession $21 Child $16 Member $20

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

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