From Restroom Worries to Freedom: My Journey of Traveling with an Ostomy
Before I had my surgery, I wasn’t sure if travel would get any easier. With my full set of organs, I had issues with eating or staying hydrated because the symptoms of my Crohn’s disease were so severe. Now, while I still have to worry about my ostomy a little bit, things have gotten much better for me and I have been able to enjoy more time with my family and friends without my life revolving around the nearest restrooms.
I used to get compliments on my very low weight without recognition of the severity of my condition before my ostomy, and one of the things I really wanted to do was travel even though I always had to skip part of the fun to rest and live in hotel bathrooms. Now, I have freedom I used to only dream of. I used to fantasize about what I would do if I had a day where I didn't have to stay close to restrooms and where I would go if I had a magically healthy week.
When I was first recovering from surgery, my family took me to a zoo in a wheelchair because I was still too weak to walk around much. I loved the sun on my face and the absence of anxiety. I got dirty looks because I was able to stand in some spots, but I had a blast. I had to do my first public bag change that day in the public zoo bathroom, but that was still much better than the life I’d been living. I wasn’t sure what issues I’d face for future travels, just that there would be minor hiccups along the way.
Now I’ve been around the country for family trips, to see friends, and to go to national ostomy conferences. I use the TSA’s wheelchair service because I have heavy bags thanks to medical gear and health issues. I have short bowel syndrome after my Crohn’s disease aggressively attacked more and more of my intestine over time, and I have a hard time staying nourished and hydrated. It’s extremely helpful, especially if you have anxiety about traveling. I bring extra supplies in my carry-on bag, I pre-cut wafers if I need to, and bring the UOAA’s (ostomy.org) travel card you can hand to the TSA to explain your security needs.
I bring extra electrolytes and snacks with me in addition to spare Stealth Belts so I’m always prepared for what the day will bring. I’m a fan of hiking in national parks, exploring museums, and finding local restaurants. My travel time is so important to me and I feel so lucky that I got a second chance at life because of my ostomy.
By Alyssa Zeldenrust