Getting Through TSA as a Cancer Survivor
As many of you know, recently hubby and I escaped the cold February temps and headed south for a week. We really needed to get away for a lot of reasons. Last year we drove to the same destination. This year we decided to travel by air thanks to “flying stand-by perks” we received via son number one who recently started working part-time at an airport.
“When you fly stand-by, you must be very flexible,” son number one instructed us right off the bat.
This really means direct flights are rare, you must be patient, you must be prepared to get kicked off a flight even after you’ve sat down in your seat and you must remember to be extra polite to the ticketing agents at all times. You get the idea.
Stand-by is just that, stand-by. You stand by hoping and waiting for a seat. We were hoping and waiting for two.
But this post isn’t about flying stand-by; it’s about going through TSA (Transportation Security Administration) as a cancer survivor.
While traveling I started wondering if I had some “look” to me that said suspicious, watch this one. Also, there seemed to be a lot of inconsistencies at different airports. I guess there must be a lot left up to the individual judgment of TSA workers.
Is this OK?
Maybe, maybe not.
Here are a few examples of my recent experiences going through TSA. Perhaps sharing them will be helpful to someone.
At one airport, I was told I absolutely must remove my hoodie sweatshirt I was wearing, but thankfully not before they made sure I was wearing something underneath. I was. At the other airports, no need, although I did remove it anyway just to simplify things, or so I thought.
When I went through the line at the next stop with hoodie removed (thinking I was saving time), once again, I was pulled aside and told this time I needed a chest pat down. Seriously?
Why? I have no idea.
No problem. I’m pretty used to all kinds of chest pat downs at this point.
Moving on to the head gear… two times I was told I simply must remove my baseball cap. Two times I was told no need. On one occasion when I was required to remove it, I must have looked worn down because the female TSA worker looked at me sympathetically and asked, “Do you think you feel up to removing your cap for me?”
I guess I must have looked more haggard than I thought!
“Yes,” I answered and handed it over, though reluctantly I must admit, as I am still quite self-conscious about going capless in public.
These were my “clothing experiences.”
But wait, there’s more.
Before going through one of the scanners, I realized I might have trouble raising both arms up in the air and over my head as high as the diagram inside the scanner indicated I must, but I managed after telling the guy “I’m not sure if I can do this.”
“Would you rather go into a different room and have a pat down?” the guy asked.
“Uh, no thanks,” I answered as I managed to get both arms raised high enough I guess, since he let me through.
At the final airport I attempted to walk through the scanner area again, hoodie and cap removed, thinking I’ve really got this process down now.
The TSA agent took one look at me, noticed my lymphedema sleeve and immediately pulled me aside once again.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“A lymphedema sleeve,” I answered.
“What’s it for?”
“I need to wear it for medical reasons,” I explained.
Then she scurried off to seek another opinion from a fellow worker. Had she never seen a lymphedema sleeve before? This was not a small airport I might add.
“She’s wearing a bandage,” she told her fellow worker while covering her mouth so I wouldn’t hear, but of course I heard and so did everyone around me.
“No, it’s a lymphedema sleeve,” I explained once again.
“Can I touch it?” she asked next.
“Yes,” I responded wondering what would happen if I said no.
After she gingerly touched my sleeve (I must admit I felt like screaming out, pretending I was in pain from her touch), I was pulled aside once more to get my palms “read.”
I imagine this was because who knows what I could have had up my sleeve?
The thing is though, they fit so darn tight there isn’t room for much of anything up a lymphedema sleeve.
Happily, on one connecting flight, we didn’t need to go through TSA at all due to the location of the gates. Loved that.
And of course, hubby went through each and every time with no questions asked.
Granted, I haven’t flown in a while and this was my first time flying wearing my sleeve.
But still, it seems like there should be more consistency in what’s allowed and what isn’t. It seems like TSA workers should be better trained to recognize such things as lymphedema sleeves. It seems as if a little more sensitivity should be part of their job training.
I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have felt one year ago traveling bald and being told I must remove my cap.
I realize this is all very trivial and my inconveniences were very minor. I understand about the necessity for safety and taking every precaution necessary.
Flying can be stressful these days for anyone.
Flying stand-by can be really stressful.
Flying stand-by as a cancer survivor can be really really stressful.
Maybe next year we’ll drive again.
Have you ever flown stand-by?
Do you have a TSA experience (good or bad) to share?
How do you feel about body scanners?