The past eight years that I have spent managing Ostomysecrets have brought some amazing opportunities my way, traveling is an opportunity I have particularly embraced and enjoy.
My days are spent talking to fellow ostomates, sharing my story and assisting them along their ostomy journey. I can share that traveling is a concern for ostomates new and seasoned, because traveling brings a whole set of concerns and variables that we just do not experience in our day to day lives.
In a few weeks, I will travel to Colorado for Girls With Guts’ annual retreat, I am so lucky that this will be my third time attending a retreat. My third time getting to experience the love, joy and compassion that only a group of other people with shared experience can bring.
In my 15 years as a person living with an ostomy, I can say, that without a doubt, the most helpful thing for anyone facing ostomy surgery, then adjusting to life as an ostomate is talking to others that have walked this road. The power of that deep understanding of all that it brings is paramount to the healing process.
I found that in my early years as an ostomate attending and becoming involved in my local support group, and nationally, through the UOAA. Fast forward to 2019 and you can find all sorts of online support, Facebook groups and message boards. These online forums are fantastic and can connect people from all walks of life to create vibrant communities. However, face to face support cannot be replaced and holds a very important space in one’s healing process.
The excitement that I am feeling, could be experienced as anxiety by a first-time attendee. The experiences that someone who is dealing with chronic illness may find just too daunting. My advice to you if you are feeling that way, is just take the leap and go for it.
All my travel has helped me understand the process, and I have become a comfortable, confident and adventurous traveler. I would love to share some of what I have learned with you, so that when an opportunity presents itself to you, you will reach out and grab it!
When I am packing for a trip, I always bring double the supplies I think I may need, I do not want to run out and focus on sourcing supplies instead of enjoying my trip. For short trips, I put everything inside my Starter Kit and pop it into my carry-on, nothing has ever happened where I needed to do a pouch change in-flight, but just in case, I have what I need if I did. Luggage does get lost, clothing is easy to replace, my ostomy supplies and accessories, not so much. For a longer trip, I do put extra supplies in my checked bag as well.
Air travel and TSA checkpoints can be nerve-wracking, just stay calm, and be prepared for this part of the journey. You can download our Me+ travel card here, I always carry mine with me.
When going through a metal detector, your ostomy will not show up, but 9/10 times on the body scanner it will. Usually I let the agent know I have an ostomy, they ask me to rub my hands over it on the outside of my clothes, they will then swipe and scan my hands with a special wand that detects explosives. You have every right to ask for this to be done in private, the agents should give you that option, honestly, it is very quick and discreet and I have never taken them up on the offer.
Once through security, as an ostomate your next job is to HYDRATE, I always travel with a water bottle that I can fill. While I try to eat light on travel days, because as my Mom always said, “Input makes Output” I never skimp on hydrating, air travel will dehydrate you. I empty my pouch just before boarding, and I pop in a Diamonds Gelling sachet, so that way even if I do need to empty mid-flight, I don’t have to be concerned with odor.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, scope out the bathroom situation, and determine the best location for pouch changes, things may have to be a little different than they are at home, but with some adaptations it will be fine. I bring opaque trash bags with me to use for disposing of my old pouch and wafer and any of my wipes and things that I use, this keeps things discreet for housekeepers, roommates, hosts and travel companions.
Keep in mind, that you may need to adjust your pouch changing schedule. When traveling to a more humid climate, swimming and sweating more than usual, I may change more frequently, I am a better safe than sorry girl. This goes along with packing more supplies than you think you will need.
Whether you are attending an Ostomy event, visiting with family, planning a romantic getaway, or traveling with friends, I hope I have given you some helpful hints and tips to make it easier.
I know that my ostomy has truly given me my life back, and even though travel can bring some unique concerns, it does not stop me from having amazing experiences. I truly wish the same for you.