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The last few leaves are hanging on the maple tree, flurries of snowflakes tease throughout the day, and I know the end of the year is near. It's the time I typically reflect on the highlights and low times of the year, and reluctantly notice that life is moving forward, even when precious ones have left us earthly beings behind.
The other day I counted how many countries and states I have visited, which included all 50 states and 36 countries. A great deal of my travel has been done in the last 23 years, while living with a colostomy. I've been biking, swimming, dancing, kayaking, hiking and more. I can't think of anything I have not been able to do because of my ostomy. I have never sky dived or bungee jumped without one and I can pretty much tell you I won't be doing either with one. The same goes for the Mrs. America Pageant or the Boston Marathon.
Recently, though, I had the worst travel day ever, and it was in my own airport, just 12 minutes from my home. My first plane had mechanical difficulties, which kept us sitting on the tarmac for an hour before we got off and rerouted. I was relieved that they found me another flight since I had to speak the next morning in North Carolina. As I sat waiting for that plane, I noticed on the board that the scheduled time to leave was delayed an hour because of (you guessed it) mechanical difficulties again. I thought, "Do I have a black cloud over my head?"
That day I stood in lines for at least 4 hours waiting to get rescheduled and the best they could do for me was a morning flight. So I found another airline, called the client, and we came up with another connection which was only 90 minutes away from my final destination. Everything looked great until we landed in Atlanta and I realized that my next plane was boarding for Raleigh at the same time. I had to run, and it wasn't pretty. I made it just before they closed the door. Did I mention that I never have problems with my ostomy when I fly? Well, not that day. I had my first problem at the airport. Got it cleaned up before disaster struck. Problem number two happened when I had to retrieve my suitcase, go through security again, and almost run to my gate with a blowout case of diarrhea. And, of course, I had a window seat.
Instead, I went to the flight attendants with a look of terror explaining I was having a medical problem and needed to get in the bathroom immediately. "Not possible," I was informed since they were taking off momentarily. They were kind enough to find me an aisle seat, and pillows in plastic to hold over my abdomen to mask the odor. Usually a funny person, I had very little humor left at that moment. I fully understood why having an ostomy was called a disability. I did not have the ability to change anything at that moment. By the time I reached my hotel bed, it was 3:30 a.m. Luckily I felt pretty good after four hours of sleep and I made it to my talk, which was the first of eight over the next five days.
What I have found over and over again since I had my colostomy 23 years ago was that life changed for me depending on how I reacted to it. Instead of completely falling apart due to my travel mishaps that day, I reminded myself that I was fortunate it had been years since I had an accident, and that I was going to speak to people about a subject I was passionate about—colon cancer screening. It was a dose of humility for me to recognize how blessed I am to have survived cancer, and to see my kids, and now my grandchild grow up. Sure, it was a tough day, but the next day brought great laughs and love and a reason to keep on going. Poop in my pants won't stop me! And I hope it never stops you from doing the things you want to do. My advice is to always have enough supplies when traveling; it sure has helped me.
So let the adventures continue. Travel and new experiences keep life from being dull, and meeting people from all over the world breaks down barriers. At year-end I reflect on all of these experiences, both good and bad, and continue to be grateful for another precious day. I have to get over myself and get back to living and laughing. I hope you do the same.
Brenda Elsagher is a loud and proud member of the ostomy community and a good friend of Hollister Incorporated. She is an international keynote speaker, author and comedian.
Her books include: If the Battle is Over, Why am I Still in Uniform?; I'd Like to Buy a Bowel Please!; Bedpan Banter; It's in the Bag and Under the Covers; and Your Glasses Are on Top of Your Head. You can find out more about her at livingandlaughing.com.
Financial Disclosure: Brenda received compensation from Hollister Incorporated for her contribution to this eNewsletter.
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