Travelling for work can be exciting and enriching. Seeing new cities, meeting new people, and sampling local fare all on the company dollar, sounds great, no? But business travel can also be stressful, exhausting, and even expensive, when you throw in multiple sclerosis. Yes, we MSers have added challenge and costs, both physical and monetarily. If only we could claim them on our expense reports! You may have read all about the recommended travel tips for people with MS, but when it comes to business travel, there are so many other weird and wonky MS logistics that need to be figured out.
Are You In or Out?
One of the biggest factors that comes into play is whether or not you have disclosed your MS. If you are travelling with a coworker, you will be spending a lot of time together, especially in transit. How do you fly with someone, clear customs, work and get around, while keeping your MS hidden and also at bay?
So let’s say I didn’t disclose my illness. First there’s security at the airport and the meds and medical notes in my wallet for clearance. I could jump out and switch out of customs lines, so my medications/equipment won’t be seen by my coworker. There are ways to be discreet. Then there’s the flight. I suffer from urinary hesitancy, which can make a 30 second pee turn into a 20 minute Andrew Lloyd Weber production. How do I explain THAT to the person waiting in queue for the aircraft WC?
These are issues I can at least take on, and not need to expense in a literal way. But they deduct from my experience, as I have to spend extra energy thinking about how to handle these awkward moments and not look anti-social or strange as I jump lines to avoid going through customs together.
Fatigue Costs Money
The other non-monetary expense is the physical toll that travel can take on an MSers body. Fatigue is such a huge part of multiple sclerosis. The numbers suggest that almost 80% of us suffer from crushing MS fatigue. That fatigue seems to be the cause of all my other travel expense issues.
I have to be careful where I spend my energy. If I don’t, it affects my body in a bad way. Circumventing that fatigue can sometimes mean expensing some things that perhaps my employer or colleague could question. Extra cabs, more meals with room service, extra tipping, or even the trolley at the airport to push my luggage. The simple act of surviving in airport shouldn’t take up all my energy.
The Social Expense
Sightseeing and even late night company dinners also don’t seem to work well for me. It’s nearly impossible to fake a normal walk when your right leg is dragging, or follow late night jokes when you are half asleep. Perhaps I can feign having to do work and tell the group I will catch up later?
My colleagues are often out, long after I am asleep. My greatest chance of a successful tomorrow is how well I sleep. Room service helps me rest, but tends to quickly increase my room bill, and then there’s the expense of looking unsocial, and maybe even lazy.
I used to worry and feel bad. But as I have gotten older, I realized that I am worth the extra expense, and the extra expense on me at this time in my life is still worth it. I am just doing what is necessary to help myself stay healthy, and do my job well. Someday I may feel differently. But for today, the added expenses are worth the bonus of how I feel after I get home. Like a small check in the victory column – MS: 0, Jamie: 1!!!!