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air travel - my experience . . . . . . any tips from others?

Posts: 87
Joined: Feb 2011

Two weekends ago my husband and I went to New York for an extra long weekend (arrived Friday and left late on Monday) - it was just fabulous!! It was a first for both of us and I am already planning a trip back in the spring, so much to do and see. We found everybody so friendly, the city so clean - and of course, being Christmas, all of the decorations and store windows were magnificent. The trip was everything we could have wanted . . . . . until our way home.

In my carry on I had all of my drugs (all in bottles with my name on them) and all of the supplements I felt I could carry - in their original containers. I checked with the airline before we went and it was okay to take drugs, snacks and some Boost for medical reasons. All was great going - no problems when I explained that I had cancer, they even ran around looking for an extra chair so I wouldn't have to stand (not that I needed one!) and they started asking my husband if there was anything else they could do. On the way home, I spread everything out in the bins - and got stopped there. What were the drugs for? What was the Boost for? What were all of the other containers for? I explained that I had cancer and that all of the drugs were mine, the other containers were supplements and the Boost was a nutritional replacement that the airline had already given me the okay on. (I actually only use it when I am out for a whole day or travelling.) Then . . . . the guy actually asked me if I could prove that I had cancer. I stood stuttering, stammering and had tears welling up in my eyes. My husband had ended up in another line so was unable to be with me so there I stood, being questioned with my face red, tears in my eyes and no answer for the guy. How do you 'prove' you have cancer? I pointed to my head - no luck there. He then proceeded to do a chemical check on every single item and then left me to put everything back in bags and pack it all away. I was so humiliated.

Good thing I had packed some anti-anxiety meds - just in case.

Anybody have any tips for air travel?

yoga jo

tanstaafl's picture
Posts: 1303
Joined: Oct 2010

Call your congress critters, and complain that a Gestapo agent (named?) was busy intimidating you, looking for cheap thrills (your scar is about the only attached "proof"), while capriciously handling and contaminating your meds when you already have a compromised immune system.

Tips? Moving to a nicer 3rd world country where they've already had their revolution more recently?

Ahem, I guess "your papers" (no please) now includes the PET/CT report with a pathology report and current prescriptions. Having 1-2 pocket devices on "Record" might be useful with plenty of polite questions.

ddpekks's picture
Posts: 162
Joined: Sep 2011

But I just had to share the first thought that popped in my head. Had that guy aked my dear hubby to prove he had cancer, he would have done it, right there, in front of God and everybody. He would have shown him his ostomy.............Thank goodness he hates flying and I won't have to witness that!

You might get a letter from your Onc before you travel next time. In todays "Homeland Security Mantality", you never know what you are going to have to face.

Hope your next travels are easier.

lisa42's picture
Posts: 3661
Joined: Jul 2008

Wow- I'm sorry you had to go through that. I guess now in this world, you do need proof of why you need to "violate" their "no liquid" rule (with the Boost). I've never had any problems with my medications in traveling through airports before. But maybe now that I've heard your story, I'll bring along a report of one of my scans or something like that for their "proof". I pictured the whole scene as I was reading what you wrote- I would have been flustered and teary eyed if I had gone through that too.

Hugs to you,

P.S. I'm glad you and your hubby had such a nice time in New York. :)

Buckwirth's picture
Posts: 1271
Joined: Jun 2010

and prior to the port had it down to a science. Now, with the port, the ostomy and the new x-ray scanners, I often get the full physical. I find most TSA employees to be deferential, and sometimes even embarrassed (full disclosure, I have a friend and former neighbor who is a TSA agent at my local airport).

In the past, I never checked a bag, now I always do. I pack enough meds and supplies to last me 24 hours in my small carry-on, and put everything else in the checked bag (the few times my bag has been lost, it has always been found and delivered back to me in less than 24 hours).

I carry two cards, one that came with the PowerPort, and one from the USC Norris Cancer Center. Though I have never needed to show either one to a TSA agent, I have found the USC card useful to quietly ask permission to pre-board.

Here is the TSA page that references the policy regarding those with medical needs:

TSA Liquid exceptions for those with medical needs

and here is their official "card" to quietly inform TSA agents of any particular disability:

TSA Disability Card

Cautionary note here: I have found that if I tell them about the ostomy in advance, I am more likely to get a full patdown, and even once had to go into a private room so they could get a "visual". I do not carry this card.

I'll leave you with this: Expect to get extra screening, but also expect to be treated with a modicum of dignity. When an agent does something particularly stupid you can get the name and report them, just don't do it at the airport (local TSA can get a pack mentality and the supervisors may take the attitude that the flyer is the enemy, defending his pack right or wrong).

Good luck on your next flight!

abrub's picture
Posts: 2178
Joined: Mar 2010

Always ask for a pen to write down the name of the agent doing your check/pat down. Insist that they show you their ID so that YOU can write it down. They can't refuse you this information - write it on your boarding pass. Then if you have a problem, you have a name. However, they also may be more circumspect if they know you have their name.

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

I once had a TSA gal be so thorough with 'examining' my breasts that I felt like asking her to write down any lumps she found so I could inform my oncologist!!!!

I very much like the idea of pencil and paper...get their names...NOT appropriate behavior to ask a question like 'prove you have cancer'...IDIOT!!!

I travel quite often, both domestic and internationally, and I have not had many troubles...I approach with a smile...but I don't take my meds out of my carry on unless asked to....I don't know about the boost...I do not take any liquids on board...are you sure you can't do without for the hours of flying time?

I have adopted the same attitude with flying that I do with the IRS....until they ask, I don't tell....and I don't do anything that would raise flags...I think your Boost is what got you in trouble...

Hugs, Kathi

Posts: 1428
Joined: Feb 2011

No expierence with the air travel, but I have wondered about it....last summer when we went to New York we drove, it's a beautiful drive!!! Have you ever gone to the Finger Lakes area, you can drive through that area on the way to New York City, just beautiful.

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