I am so excited today to have a dear friend of mine guest blogging. My friend was diagnosed a few years ago with MS, which is in the delightful family of “autoimmune diseases” that us folks with diabetes are very familiar with. While diabetes and MS are very different in a lot of ways, there are many parallels between all chronic disease management (as the author puts it, “we’re neighbors in the same harbor” – love that quote!). My friend and I have had endless conversations about our struggles with our respective medical issues, and she’s a person I draw inspiration and strength from. And, she’s just made some dramatic changes in her life that have reminded me that there’s nothing we can’t do with diabetes, we just have to plan ahead. Because my comrade wishes to remain anonymous, please email me directly if you have any questions and I will pass them along to her!
About a year ago, my husband I decided to change our lives. Filled with wanderlust and wanting to be somewhat closer to our Midwestern families, we made the decision to leave the left coast (California), for the right one (anywhere East we could find jobs but live near the ocean). Since we had to quit our jobs and pack up our lives to do this, we asked ourselves, “Should we take some extra time off and travel through Europe and Morocco until we can’t afford it anymore?”
The answer was yes. We had savings, no kids, no mortgage, no jobs…YES.
For any couple, this would be a big, game changing move. But that BIG was compounded for us by the fact that I have Multiple Sclerosis. “What if I have a flare up in the Czech Republic?” crossed my mind, but since my MS is (thankfully) very much in check, I was very concerned about my injectable meds. Could I get it overseas? If not, would insurance allow me to get a 6 month supply of $3700/month meds all at once? What about customs? Would insurance cover me while I traveled? And so on…
I had to do a lot of research. In addition to the fun things you get to plan for an adventure like this, I spent hours and hours on the phone with the insurance company, pharmacy, doctors’ offices, and Bayer to get this figured out. It was a tremendous pain in the ass.
But guess what? The incessant phone calls, clueless customer service reps and hold music were the worst of it.
All of those hours of research paid off. I was able to get a 6 month supply of meds at once, sans co-pay. Travel insurance covered me in case of an MS attack outside of the country, and would even cover me if a thug stole my drugs. I got letters from my doctors to help me in case of customs hassles. Our trip was smooth as butter. Can you believe the only time I got questioned at the airport was at the very end of the trip, when I had a 2 week supply with me? One of my blister packs escaped from the box and raised suspicion.
I was honored when Alexis asked me to write a guest post about traveling with a chronic illness, but a little stumped too. MS and traveling was pretty much a non-issue; what would I write about? But, I realized that’s the point exactly. Having a disease you have to manage every day trains you to ask questions, be prepared, and take care of yourself. As simplistic as it sounds, that’s the foundation of what made this trip happen for me – OK, and the money I saved up helped too.
There was a time when I thought, “I can’t travel for several months because I have MS”; maybe you’ve thought the same thing as a diabetic. The fact is that you CAN, and you should. It’s a matter of knowing what your body needs and knowing how to get it – which is something you probably already deal with every single day. Don’t let the threat of “what if” stop you from making a dream come true. As cheesy as it may be, the old saying, “Where there is a will, there’s a way” is exactly right. The possibility of something going wrong was scary and stressful at times, but I’m so glad that I stuck it out and found a way to make it happen.
We traveled through 7 countries in Europe over 90 days, then spent 20 days in Morocco, and then spent about 5 weeks exploring the eastern US to find our new hometown. It was AWESOME!!!!
I realize we MSers and diabetics aren’t in exactly the same boat, but we’re neighbors in the harbor at the very least. I’m happy to answer any questions you have if I can be helpful in any way. Bon voyage!