Traveling with a J-Pouch can be nerve-racking and a tad more difficult than it is for healthy-coloned folks, but from my personal experience, J-Pouch travel is infinitely easier and more pleasurable than traveling with active ulcerative colitis. I would compare traveling with UC to getting a colonoscopy with absolutely no pain medication or anesthetics while traveling with a J-Pouch is like getting a routine pouchoscopy.
As a comedian, I spend a great deal of time on the road. My last UC flare began in the spring of 2008 and continued until I underwent my first surgery in December of 2010. Even though I feel incredibly grateful that people pay me to tell jokes, my “business” trips were not that fun during those two and a half years. Often, to get to my gigs, I have to take two flights, then rent a car, and then drive two to four hours to reach my destination. Doing these marathon trips while experiencing intense stomach pain and defecating 30 times per day was pretty brutal. There would be times when, after the plane landed, I had to push old women aside as I made a mad dash to the nearest toilet. There were tons of uncomfortable and worrisome moments, but a few will always stick out in my mind.
I’ll never forget the time I was driving from Albany, NY to Canton, NY, when I was in the middle of nowhere and I knew that I only had minutes (if that) to reach a restroom. I’m sweating, clenching every muscle I could possibly clench, and envisioning the worst-case scenario. Thankfully, I spot a gas station, do that uncomfortable walk/run while attempting to keep my butthole closed and just make it to the facilities, barely avoiding having to get the rental car detailed. I know I’ll never make a more satisfying trip to a gas station bathroom. Then, there was the time when I was driving from Milwaukee, WI to LaCrosse, WI and faced a very similar situation. On this occasion, I found myself running through a fancy hotel, hoping to make it to a toilet before I soiled the marble floors of the hotel lobby. I think many of you know that having UC involves a series of close calls and unfortunate mishaps.
A few months ago, I was asked to go on an overseas tour of the Middle East to entertain the troops during the holidays. I would be going to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt. I immediately accepted and was excited about the opportunity. Since my J-Pouch surgeries, I have resumed my frequent travel schedule and I haven’t had any real problems while traveling. However, all my trips had been domestic and I was aware that I had to take extra precautions with international travel. I would be going to places where the food and water have wrecked the stomachs of people without my issues, and I would be visiting countries where there probably wouldn’t be a surgeon or doctor around who knew anything about J-Pouches.
I returned from my twelve day trip on Friday, and I’m happy to report that I’m doing just fine. I made sure to pack everything that could help me if any J-Pouch related issues arose. I brought Lomotil, Immodium, Cipro, Protonix, and my butt-burn ointment. Because I performed at the American embassy in Lebanon and on military bases in Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt, I had American medical personnel available if I ran into any issues. Also, the military has evacuation plans in place if you run into a serious medical problem so that they can get you to a hospital that can provide adequate care. I avoided drinking the water and tried to only eat foods that I thought were safe.
My trip wasn’t completely problem-free. I experienced some stomach pain that was alleviated after I popped a Protonix and got some serious butt-burn. However, I was more than willing to experience some butt-burn in exchange for such a remarkable, fun, and fulfilling trip. I was able to snorkel in the Red Sea, visit the place where Jesus was baptized, do some karaoke with Russian tourists in Egypt, and joke around with a two-star general from New Zealand. More importantly, I was able to meet and entertain hundreds of troops who were incredibly appreciative to be able to see some comedy while they were away from their friends and families over the holidays. So, even though I became a little worried when the troops stationed in Sharm Al Sheikh, Egypt told me that the food they ate there had given them what came to be known as the “Sharm Shits”, I was confident that the “UC Shits” were much worse and I’d survive if I was to be afflicted with this unfortunate ailment.
If any of you are contemplating any sort of trip or excursion, but are concerned about traveling with a J-Pouch, I strongly encourage you to go on your adventure. Although I still worked as a touring comedian while I had active UC, ulcerative colitis robbed me of so much and kept me at home and in pain way too often. Now that I have a J-Pouch, I am unwilling to let my health situation deter me from living the life I desire (I try to avoid doing anything too stupid, though). I feel like I’ve been given a new opportunity and another chance to truly live. I want to make sure that I take full advantage.
Check out what Justin has wrote for BPT in the past.