In late August and September of 2005, Breastcancer.org was witness to how the devastation of Hurricane Katrina affected people with breast cancer. We at Breastcancer.org feel it's important to help you prepare yourself for a storm or any natural disaster. Tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, droughts, blizzards, and floods can have a huge impact on anyone's daily life. If you're being treated for breast cancer, a natural disaster can make things even more complicated.
Here are some ways you can be prepared:
Things to have ready in case you have to evacuate your home
- the names, addresses, phone numbers, and fax numbers of all the doctors who are treating you
- pill bottles, so you'll have the exact names of the medicines you take; if you fill prescriptions at chain pharmacies (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens), you can take your bottles to any branch in the United States for a refill. You can also refill from online pharmacies if you can get to a computer with Internet access.
- medical records, including copies of your pathology reports, lab reports, and any other medical records secured in a waterproof freezer bag
- your treatment regimen. This may include:
- names and dosages of all your chemotherapy medications
- names and dosages of any anti-nausea or pain medications you are taking
- the name and dosage of your hormonal therapy medication
- the dosage and duration of radiation treatments you are receiving
- the names and dosages of any targeted therapies you are receiving (Herceptin [chemical name: trastuzumab], Tykerb [chemical name: lapatinib], or Avastin [chemical name: bevacizumab], for example)
When to seek immediate medical attention
If you know where you're going, have a list of hospitals/medical centers on the way to your destination in case you have to stop for a medical emergency (a high fever, redness/swelling/infection at a surgical incision, uncontrolled bleeding, uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea).
Once you have arrived in a safe place
- In the midst of a disaster, it's possible that you may not be able to get in contact with your doctor or hospital. If that happens, you can call 1-800-4CANCER to find treatment centers where you are.
- If you are able to reach your doctor, ask him or her for recommendations on how to continue receiving your treatment and how to get prescriptions filled. Your doctor or hospital should be able to recommend physicians or treatment centers in your area.
- Get the phone numbers and locations of local pharmacies that can fill your prescriptions.
What if I miss a treatment?
- Surgery: If you had an upcoming surgery scheduled, call your doctor to find out whether you need to reschedule surgery at a medical center where you are now. If you cannot locate your doctor, call 1-800-4CANCER to explain your situation and find a surgeon.
- Chemotherapy and radiation treatments: If having to evacuate your home means that you're going to miss some chemotherapy or radiation treatments, call your doctor or find another medical professional through 1-800-4CANCER and tell him or her how many treatments you've had so far. He or she will get you back on track.
- Hormonal therapy: If you have to skip your doses of hormonal therapy for a few weeks, don't get too worried. The medicine stays in your bloodstream for a while.
Having to evacuate your home can be scary for anyone. Having to evacuate your home when you're a breast cancer patient adds an extra layer of concern. Being ready with everything you need can reduce some of the anxiety that comes with suddenly being displaced from your normal life.