When Ira began wearing his Optune device more than two years ago, he made the conscious decision to maximize his usage by wearing the device on travel days. While many seasoned users recommend taking a break or simply not wearing it while walking through airport security, Ira felt that the time spent wearing the device outweighed anything that made our journey more complicated.
Ira’s desire to “keep moving without regrets” led to our planning an extensive list of domestic and international travel plans. Please feel free to read about what we accomplished after completing the 6 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.
Here is a link to my NATJA award winning story, “The Benefits of Traveling While Coping with Glioblastoma, an Incurable Brain Cancer”, Wander Magazine https://issuu.com/wander-mag/docs/wander_early_summer_2022 on Page 100.
Check out our 2022 travel adventures– https://sandrabornstein.com/the-traveling-bornsteins-motto-for-2022-keep-moving-no-regrets/.
After taking a few trips, we learned that TSA agents did not have a set protocol for Optune users.
Sometimes we breezed through security while other times Ira was treated more like a terrorist than someone who had terminal brain cancer. On a regular basis, TSA agents groped Ira’s genitals. On one occasion, Ira was taken to an adjacent area where he was asked to wait for more than 20 minutes. I asked a supervisor when my husband would be allowed to rejoin me. Had I not done so, we may have missed our flight.
Few TSA agents exhibited much compassion for our situation. A sizable number of TSA agents claimed that they could potentially lose their jobs if they didn’t thoroughly scrutinize the device and the passenger. Some Optune users advocate using TSA Cares or to ask for a TSA supervisor. Neither option was helpful for us. Having both the CLEAR and TSA Pre designations did not streamline the process.
After Novocure learned about our travel challenges, Novocure’s Federal Government Team offered to help. In February, Novocure arranged a Zoom meeting with two TSA administrators. Ira and I gladly shared our frustrations with these individuals. They listened intently to our experiences and then asked a series of significant questions. These individuals developed a good understanding of the Optune device and the equipment that Optune users are required to carry.
At the conclusion of the call, we were advised that they would educate their TSA agents about Optune and would create a protocol for Optune wearers.
Recently, we received an email from Novocure that included a copy of the TSA protocols and were honored to see that Ira’s image was at the top of the page. Here is a copy of that document.
We have yet to travel since this information was distributed to more than 450 US airports. By educating TSA personnel, all Optune users will hopefully be treated appropriately. Ira and I are cautiously optimistic that our travel days will be less stressful when we go through TSA security. We are happy that our efforts will help other Optune users feel more comfortable wearing their devices in US airports.
Ira and I appreciate the efforts made by Novocure’s Federal Government Team to inform TSA of our concerns.
Are you a glioblastoma patient or care partner? Check out my For Glio page on this website
Do you have an Optune TSA Security experience that you would like to share?
Sandy is an award-winning author and lifestyle and travel journalist. She is the author of 100 Things to Do in Boulder Before You Die, a guidebook offering an easy way to pinpoint your best options in this sunny, high altitude college town. Sandy’s second book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. As a licensed Colorado teacher, she taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad. Sandy also taught college-level courses at Front Range Community College and the University of Colorado-Boulder.
To follow Sandra and Ira’s travel adventures, visit TheTravelingBornsteins website.