TRY EVERYTHING is an ongoing series about ostomates who want to, well, try everything!
I used to travel a lot before getting diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2009. Each year my husband and I would visit Belgium from October through February to live, work, and cycle. When the symptoms worsened in 2011, it put an end to traveling for me. I did manage to take a trip to France in 2015 but that excursion resulted in another flare-up, so when Remicade stopped working I was on the path to becoming an ostomate.
Getting an ileostomy in 2016 changed everything. Prior to my surgery, I did a lot of research to learn all I could about living with an ostomy. Doing that online exploration was great but the actual learning came from firsthand experiences. I realized that an active life was still possible when I started cycling just two months after surgery. After four months of recovery time, I was feeling so good that I decided to spontaneously buy a plane ticket to surprise my husband Marc in Belgium for his birthday. This would be my first time traveling on a plane with an ostomy.
My flight from Montreal to Brussels was 7-hours overnight. I was a bit nervous, but again, I did some research and learned all I could from others who've done this before. I carried my extra supplies with me on the plane. I planned a meal several hours prior to arriving at the airport, that way I knew I would empty and have nothing in the pouch before I boarded the plane. I brought my own food and an extra liter of water for the flight. I successfully emptied my pouch three times during the flight and managed to get about four hours of sleep. I even told the airline attendants about my ostomy as soon as I boarded and their response was overwhelmingly positive. The flight really wasn’t an issue and using the bathroom on the plane was surprisingly no different than using a small restroom elsewhere. By planning my meals and drinking lots of fluids, I didn’t run into any problems with my stoma.
Success! I landed in Brussels feeling great. Being back in Belgium was like a dream come true. I really missed the country, the people, our friends, and Marc. It was such a treat to be back in familiar surroundings. I rode my bike the day I arrived and every single day I was there. I hadn’t raced in Belgium since 2011! The past four months have been eye-opening for me. So many firsts with an ostomy; my first race in Ottawa; first plane trip to Brussels; first bike ride in Belgium.
I visited my surgeon last week and I thanked him. I told him that having my stoma "Reset" has truly improved my quality of life. I’m happy to be back living again and looking forward to more memories and experiences.