Travelling with a stoma

Having a stoma does not stop me travelling for a holiday

Twice a year (May & September), I travel to Dorset for a week’s rest. Living by myself with no-one to account for, I work long hours six days a week, and so this time away is a much-needed chance to recharge my batteries. – May this year was cancelled due to the Pandemic, but September is (at the time of writing) still going ahead.

I've had my Stoma for 12 years now. It's not always been a bed of Roses, but I've been luckier than some. I've suffered leaks, embarrassing smells and funny, comical moments, but despite everything, I wouldn't be without it - literally!

However, it does mean that I need to plan ahead on trips. Obviously, my medical needs are tailored around me as we are all different, but from my ramblings below, hopefully may help you a little.

The most important thing is to always take spares with me wherever I go. For a week away, I always take a minimum of two weeks' worth of supplies ... of everything. Sometimes I take more. I figure I would rather take too much than not have enough, and any leftover will just come home with me. It's more important however to remember to take them with you.

Last September I was in such a rush to start my holiday, I got down to Dorset at mid-day on the Saturday. Quickly chucked all my stuff in the lodge, and went down to the pub next door armed with my iPad to have a few beers whilst watching the Grand Prix Qualifying. It was only after several pints that it dawned on me that I had not seem my stoma supplies ... and I had actually left them at home. Clearly, I couldn't drive as I had been drinking, so it was a night spent with fingers crossed praying I didn't get a leak.

I only live about 200 miles from the lodge, so the next morning I left early to return home and sheepishly collect my supplies - I won’t be doing that this year!

There is a country park near the lodge that I love to walk around. It has a tea shop, so I don’t need to worry about taking a drink with me, but I will always take at least one spare pouch with me. This particular place has a RADAR toilet, so I always include taking my key with me. It makes emptying or changing so much easier!

I think it’s natural that people who enjoy a pint or two tend to drink more whilst on holiday. However, it’s important to note that alcohol acts as a diuretic, so the more you drink, the more you could actually become dehydrated. This is especially noted for people like myself who have an ileostomy and so also lose a lot of moisture in our output. Moderate the intake of alcohol, and you’ll be fine (or keep topped up with water as well)

Swimming has never been a problem for me (although for some reason, I’m uncomfortable doing so on my own). I’ve never had a pouch “float away” whilst swimming, but I have had the pouch flanges unstick a little at the top … this could be a result of the chlorine in the water I suppose. However, you can buy/get on prescription flange expanders. These are “half-moon” shaped and so stick nicely around the top of the pouch itself. I’ve never had a problem with these other than getting them off … seems I’m a little allergic to the medical grade glue used!  However, you should be fine swimming for a good couple of hours. If you find the top unsticking slightly and you don’t wish to replace it, a hairdryer does a lovely job of sticking it back down! There are swimming trunks / swimsuits which hide the pouch, and are well worth investing in, although they do not come cheap.

Eating should not be a problem, but when I am at home, there are some foods that may cause me to have a watery output – being at home, this is not really a problem, but I would rather not risk eating those kind of foods whilst on holiday, so I am cautious what I eat.

Travelling around the area is never a problem, so long as I remember to always take spare pouches with me. Once or twice in the past I have taken a chance on not taking them, and twice I have leaked (once quite dramatically), so now always keep spares on the motorbike (or hire car as in this year).

When I has my stoma created, I developed a cracking hernia around the site … I was planning on having it taken care of, but the divorce moved my priorities somewhat and these days, well maybe later I’ll have it sorted. The result though is that my stoma is not flat as with other people, my stoma sits on top of a tennis ball!  It’s not that uncomfortable – I’ve learnt to live with it, but it does mean that I wear baggy clothing a lot to “hide it”. However, when on holiday, I don’t tend to care as much.

The point is, I want to relax, and be myself. I’ve worked hard for my break and so I try to enjoy all aspects of it. My lodge this year has a hot tub, but just slightly extravagant since it’s just me. However, I’m looking forward to spending some quality time in the tub … some cold beers nearby, just laying back with a book and chilling out. If people passing by (the hot tub is at the side) see my stoma pouch, then so what … it’s not like I’ll be seeing them again!

So, in conclusion, having a stoma does not stop me travelling for a holiday … it just needs a little adjustment to my daily tasks, and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.