Take Charge

Bucket List: iPad, Video Conferencing and the Open Road

June 20, 2018

Mount-Rushmore.jpg

By Sara Bondell

Snapping a selfie in front of Mount Rushmore.

Watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon.

Sporting a suit at the Kentucky Derby.

David Palmer’s latest photos show a man on the trip of a lifetime.

And few are enjoying his travel photos more than the Moffitt Cancer Center teams caring for Palmer as he lives with a diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer.

Palmer’s 2016 diagnosis came as a shock. The former triathlete has never smoked and was in the process of making retirement plans when doctors told him his back pain was stage 4 cancer.

While being treated with radiation and chemotherapy, he spent a few months resting and watching RV shows on television. As his condition improved, the idea hit him: Time for a cross-country road trip.

Palmer and his wife, Julie, bought an RV and hit the road with their dog, Poppy. They’ve been traveling for the most part ever since.

“If I had stayed in that apartment staring at those four walls, I don’t know if I would still be here,” Palmer said. “Traveling gives me more of a purpose. It keeps me busy, it keeps my mind off of cancer.”

While on the road, Palmer takes the oral anticancer treatment provided by his oncologist. For symptom support he uses telemedicine to connect on a monthly video conference with Dr. Diane Portman, chair of Moffitt’s Department of Supportive Care Medicine.

“Telemedicine has permitted him to travel and fulfill his bucket list by sparing clinic visits and still providing a means of assessment and interventions to help his symptoms,” said Portman. “Supportive care also helps patients with a potential life-limiting illness to engage in life review and meaningful activities and to create powerful memories with their loved ones.”

Palmer is also sharing those memories with his care team. He often turns his iPad around to show them the beautiful landscapes he sees on his journeys. Witnessing Palmer’s joy has encouraged and inspired Moffitt staff, Portman said.

Palmer and his wife have traveled the winding roads of the West Coast and sipped wine in Napa. They’ve taken in the spectacular vistas of Glacier National Park, Mount Rushmore and Grand Canyon, tried their luck in Vegas and witnessed a total solar eclipse over Wyoming. They’ve cheered on Alabama football, bet on a horse at the Kentucky Derby and watched the pros at the Masters tournament.

Best of all, Palmer has been able to connect with friends and family across the country, who have all been inspired by his journey.

“I probably would have never done this trip if I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer,” said Palmer. “It’s changed me and how I feel. I feel blessed to have this time to go out and see people and have these experiences.”

Palmer now looks at each day as an opportunity to see something new and shares this advice with other cancer patients: “Just get out. Whatever they can do to where they still feel they have purpose.”

And if that inspires you to travel, here are a few of Palmer’s recommendations:

Favorite Sight: Total solar eclipse in Jackson, Wyoming
Favorite Sunset: Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
Favorite Drive: Along the Hood River in Oregon
Favorite Restaurant: French Laundry in Yountville, California and Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, California
Favorite Road Snack: Orange Tootsie Roll Pops
Favorite Motorcycle Ride: Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina
Favorite Donuts: Rise and Roll in Nappanee, Indiana