A woman holding a travel bag and looking with anxiety at a hospital door

Tips for Out-of-Town Appointment Anxiety

Recently I headed to Mayo for a yearly visit that was postponed due to the pandemic. It had been two years since I had seen my blood cancer specialist, and it was time to check in. I requested the appointment and was looking forward to getting some questions answered.

I anticipated back pain from the long drive and increased food and hotel expenses. What I didn’t see coming was the anxiety from being in the place where I had experienced so much illness and pain.

Getting closer, feeling anxious

A friend took time off from work to drive me, but I began to feel uneasy and anxious as we got closer. I thought maybe I was just tired from the 6-hour car ride or missing my dog. But as we settled into the hotel room, it was clear it was more than that.

This town was where I had my stem cell transplant nearly 4 years ago, where I lost my hair and over 20 pounds. It was where I was nauseous 24/7 for a month, where the days seemed like endless suffering. This was where I learned that myeloma was incurable and that I would likely be a cancer patient for the rest of my life.

Being here was a reminder of how much my life has changed. It was a reminder that I would be here again and again and of how much I wish I didn’t have to.

Good food and people relieve anxiety

Fortunately, my friend understood since he was my caregiver during my transplant. He let me relax in the hotel room while he picked up food from Olive Garden and a bottle of wine. Between the companionship, delicious meal, and a cool glass of Pinot Grigio, I already felt much better.

Very early the next morning, the lab nurse and I laughed as she told me about her six dogs who wake her up at 4 am every day! After a nap, we went back for my appointment. I got to ask my questions and feel reassured that I was doing well myeloma-wise, despite all the fatiguing side effects.

Time to relax after the appointment

After another nap, we swam in the hotel’s saltwater pool before grabbing dinner from another favorite restaurant. No wine this time. And I went for a long walk afterward to process the day before going to bed.

We swam one last time in the morning and had an uplifting poolside conversation with a couple who were also visiting Mayo. Then we stopped at our favorite cafe for iced coffees before the long drive home.

Tips for travel anxiety

Traveling for out-of-town appointments can be stressful and bring back tough memories and reminders of blood cancer. But there are things we can do to make it easier and relieve some of the anxious feelings.

  • If driving is stressful, have someone else do it to get extra rest and sleep.
  • Stay an extra night if possible. It helps ease the strain of long car rides and makes it easier to nap and rest.
  • Make good memories. Treat yourself to food and experiences you don’t usually get at home.
  • Chat with strangers. A sense of togetherness helps lessen the loneliness and anxiety of having a serious disease.
  • Exercise while you’re away, even if it’s just a relaxing walk or swim.

And remind yourself of the good things – the care you get, the people you met, and the fact that you’re still here to enjoy life. Even if it means more out-of-town appointments.

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