Have scleroderma – will travel – Barbara’s Asian and European adventure
Armed with trepidation and a 3-litre click-clack of medication I went through customs.
“Put your things on the conveyor belt, shoes off, belt off, jacket off, wait, get scanned, then proceed.” Then, plonk your butt onto a seat and put them all back on. Through the first check point – there were to be many more. I took a lot of medication for the 5-week trip. I took an extra week’s worth because you just never know.
Travelling on Air New Zealand I thought the seats were very hard. I sat on the little neck-pillow they provide, which helped, but I still had sore hips when I arrived at Ho Chi Minh City. I didn’t mind the travelling, other than being boring. I also wore compression socks to reduce swelling in my feet and ankles but it took me 15-minutes to get them on. Another negative from Air New Zealand was that I had ordered a ‘special’ meal suitable for my dietary needs, but never got it.
If scleroderma makes your joints ache, I recommend the kind of climate we met in Vietnam: around 32 ̊ with 80%+ humidity. I was almost pain free. I paced myself there, doing only what I could manage and it paid off. Food can be a problem with me, but I was lucky. My daughter lives in Vietnam and a local friend wrote in Vietnamese that I couldn’t eat onions. My daughter photographed it and texted it to me.
In restaurants I showed it to waitresses to sort out a meal I could safely eat.
Through the customs strip-tease again and from the heat of Asia to the wintery cold of Europe was a big shock. Sitting on an open-topped, double decker bus in Paris in -2 ̊ with a wind chill factor of probably -8 ̊ while taking photos was difficult.
Having Reynaud’s would give you quite a bit of trouble. Your gloves would be off and on the whole time and fingers and toes would be white and numb. Lucky me, that’s one I don’t suffer from but my hands still froze.
Thermals, boots, gloves and hat were essential as we moved east for Christmas in the Czech Republic. Prague is a beautiful city in which everyone is rugged up. It takes so long to get all your clothes on, but you truly need them. As we walked round the Christmas markets in the old town square, drinking mulled wine, it was a world away from Christmas in NZ.
After Prague we went by train to Vienna. It was good transport, warm, with good seating and a view of the countryside. Vienna was just as cold as Prague. Thermals needed again along with gloves, scarf and hat. If we went out at night I got a cab and met the others there. I was too slow to walk and that was a lot easier than being exhausted by the time I got to the restaurant. During the day we did our own thing so I paced myself, without problems. The shops sold plenty of warm clothing, so if you forgot something then there was plenty to choose from.
From Vienna we flew to the slightly warmer climes of Cannes. No thermals needed here but still gloves and scarf.
Temperatures were above zero, only just, but the chill was not the same as before. The streets were on an incline going down towards the Mediterranean Sea. An effort coming up, and using another set of muscles.
But slowly slowly gets you there and back again. I spent a week there and went for a day trip to Monaco. This is a lovely place, densely populated and wealth exuded everywhere you looked. I enjoyed looking at the super yachts all 3 stories of them, expensive cars and all the well-known brand shops. Oh how the other half live.
I was sad to leave Europe, but went back to Vietnam for a week with our daughter’s family in Da Nang, where she lives. Da Nang is not as hot as Ho Chi Minh, but still warm at about 25 ̊, again with high humidity. My bones could thaw out and I ditched the warm clothes and got back into t-shirts once more. That was so good. The holiday wasn’t without its problems.
I had sore joints from all the walking, and the problems that go with eating a different diet, but nothing that caused me deep concern. I was never questioned about all the medicine I carried, customs’ sniffer dogs bypassed me, but I did carry copies of the prescriptions just in case. Also I had had an infusion of Rituximab about 3-months previously so that kicked in at the perfect time. I was as good as I could have been. Don’t think you can’t do it?. Try it, go for it and the worst that can happen is you come home sooner.