Vacationing with lupus: to cheat or not to cheat

As mentioned on Monday, I recently returned from a short family vacation with Johnny and the girls. We had a super time, and I’m pleased to say I was able to keep lupus at bay while traveling. No swollen digits, no joint pain, no rashes from the sun – so I must have done something right.

In fact, when I sit back and think about the choices I made over the course of the trip, choices regarding my health, that is, I realize I try extra hard not to break my healthy habits while I’m away. On vacation, it’s always tempting to break the rules– fitting in a little extra shopping time instead of a nap, or skipping the umbrella so that you can get a better spot at the beach…but in my experience, it never pays.

Want to know what I hold fast to, and what I let slide while I’m traveling? Here’s my “to cheat or not to cheat” list:

Nap: No way do I cheat! My nap seems to be my saving grace, particularly when traveling. Whether it’s the extra effort required for the actual travel days, the evenings when I stay up a little later than normal, or the extra activity I fit in during the day, that nap is my chance to recoup and return to 100%.

Sun: Nope – not worth it. Staying covered up is relatively easy for me. Having 10 years of lupus under my belt, my entire wardrobe has pretty much been converted to limited sun exposure outfits. I will do tank tops, if I know I’m going to have some decent coverage, but almost always opt for pants over shorts. I always bring a nice selection of hats, and I never head down to the beach or poolside without a cover-up on. And finding a table under an umbrella usually isn’t a problem…if it is, most of my vacationing cohorts know I’d prefer to eat indoors. It’s not worth the better view if it’s going to make me sick in bed for the rest of the trip!

Medicine: Never in a million years. My meds are like my safety net – I know they work, I know they keep me relatively healthy – why mess? The LAST place I want to flare is on vacation…not only because I want to enjoy my travels, but primarily because my best resources (my doctor, my bed, my pharmacy, etc.) are too many miles away to nip the disease activity in the bud. Stuck in a hotel room with debilitating pain isn’t my idea of a get-away. (Not that immobilizing pain at home is a real treat either, but you know what I mean!)

Help: I try not to cheat on this one either, and Johnny will tell you I did a particularly good job letting him help during this last trip (probably because I was spent by the time he came back to the hotel room every afternoon!) Truth is, vacations are meant to be enjoyed – and if that means my parents or in-laws want to help with the girls because they want a little grandparent time, I let them. I usually try to strategically plan out how things are going to work on vacation before we go – figuring out how I’m going to get in my rest first, and then working our schedules around it. In fact, before kids, Johnny and I traveled with Darwin and Henry quite often. And we’d decide in advance who was going to do the morning shift, night shift, and how we’d work it out around my naps. Planning is key – trying to manage a flare because you’re doing everything yourself is not.

Sleep (at night): Okay, this is where I let things go a little. I still stick to my “no less than 8 hours” rule, but if I stay up to visit a little longer than usual, or if we watch a movie for an extra ½ an hour, I fare okay (primarily because I know that nap is around the corner.) It’s just like anything else…you have to choose wisely. If I stay up late one night, my nap the next day has to be a little longer (or earlier in the day) than usual.

Food: I don’t mind letting things slide in the nutrition area, either. I’m a bit of a foodie – so I love trying new restaurants, especially if they have a separate dessert menu (always a good sign!) I’ll have plenty of time to get back on track to the fruits and veggies once I’m back home – so I indulge a bit. I do find that finding a good smoothie for breakfast or opting for a salad with grilled chicken at least a night or two while I’m on vacation helps to balance things out.

Exercise: We try and do a lot of walking on vacation, so usually this one works itself out on its own. But do I stick to my three-days-a-week treadmill routine? Nope, not really. I almost always take my running shoes…and if I can get in a mile and a half here and there, great. But I’d much rather relax a little bit, and enjoy that time walking around, exploring our vacation spot with the girls rather than chaining myself to the hotel workout room. Once I’m home, there will be plenty of opportunity to restart my routine. (That said, I remember when I was working long hours in an office, I loved the opportunity to workout while on vacation. I wasn’t finding time to fit it in at home, so it was actually a treat while traveling. Glad I reversed that!)


Ann Utterback said…
Great advice , Sara! I follow most of these rules when traveling, but flying still wipes me out. I wish there were a way to arrive without being exhausted. Anybody have any suggestions?
Alyssa said…
Hi Sara, Great post!
Hi Ann, I find flying difficult too. The long days, the transfers, the luggage, THE WALKING. So I started requesting a wheel chair at the airport and it really does make a difference.
HealingWell said…
Great post Sara. Your post inspired me to blog about my recent travel experience! I linked to your post.
Sara Gorman said…
Ann - Thanks for stopping by! I wish flying was easier, but it does seem to be a bit of a drain, doesn't it? I definitely agree with Alyssa about the wheelchair...totally helps, and I used one on many a flight. My approach has just been to be as preemptive and as reactive as possible. That is, I try to build up on sleep the day(s) before I travel, packing 1 or 2 days before hand so that I'm not stressed or running around immediately before flying, and then after I travel, I schedule time to double up on my nap. I'm usually a little tired after I fly, but I'm REALLY tired the day AFTER I fly. Thus, I don't plan to do much the day after I travel...except rest and relax. Hope that helps!
Sara Gorman said…
Thanks, HealingWell! I'll be sure to check out your post. Take care!
First summer since diagnosis. Main problem ,what to wear.See sandals OK,wear to find pants and dresses covering my entire body ,without suffocating under NYC heat
First summer since diagnosis. Main problem ,what to wear.See sandals OK,wear to find pants and dresses covering my entire body ,without suffocating under NYC heat
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