Pills and Thrills

CW: drug use

Does anyone else get really really annoyed at the number of side-effects doctors expect us to tolerate?  

I warn you now, this is a rant and not a useful post.

On Sunday night I was in bad pain.  I don’t really know why or what was causing it, but I knew it hurt more than I could cope with and that I needed to be at work the next day.  So I did what I have been told to do when the pain gets really bad, and took some tramadol.  

I haven’t taken tramadol in a long time because it has a habit of making me a bit whacked out.  I avoid endone for much the same reason.  Both make me spacey and sleepy but send my mind racing at a million miles an hour, leaving my super-active brain stuck in a body that feels like it is suffering sleep paralysis.  I also don’t feel that they have much of an impact on my pain levels.  The next day I feel weak and shaky.  I don’t really like either of them.  Also, they both make you constipated.

Sunday night took things to a new level.  I took my tramadol at around 9pm.  I was fine at first in terms of side-effects and went to bed with a heatpack to wait the pain out. Half an hour later I was genuinely concerned that the doctors had replaced my innocent painkillers with hardcore hallucinogens.  

I’ll preface the rest of my experience by saying I’ve never taken illicit drugs of any kind.  I’ve never even been drunk.  I have no interest in perception-altering substances, so drug users out there may read this and go, “ah, you innocent child, thinking this is bad.”  I don’t know.  My poor little mind was bending.  

By midnight I was still not asleep.  My brain had carried out a really, really detailed mediation between my cat and my dog.  I could talk to animals, you see.  I forced myself to get up and go to the loo and was swaying like a drunk woman.  I could feel the world tilting, melting and floating around me, like my foothold on the earth was tenuous at best.  

When I got back to bed, I started crying because I felt like my arms were melting into one another, and I couldn’t tell my elbows apart.  I felt like my hands were on backwards.  I was being eaten by the bed.  I couldn’t move.  I could just about articulate to my husband what was happening, and I know I sounded pathetic and barely coherent.  

I was awake, my mind racing and my body distorting, until around 4am.  It was nightmarish.  I felt like I was living the Coraline movie.  

When I woke up the next morning, my body was wracked by tremors and I was so weak I could barely hold my phone to send an email to work saying I’d be late.  I was dizzy and nauseous.  The whole day I was tired and weak, couldn’t eat properly until mid-afternoon, and was really struggling to articulate my thoughts.  I would just lose the ability to say things halfway through the sentence, even though my brain was making the right pictures.

The only thing that made my pain reduce?  Time.  And quite frankly, even if the tramadol had worked, I’m not sure it would be worth the hassle.  

I know that I’m far from the only person to experience problems with the pills meant to relieve pain.  I’m far from the only person to have horrible side-effects with something as fundamental to the treatment of endometriosis as hormonal birth control.  I consider the issues I get – bloating, abdominal pain, tender breasts, mood swings, weird cravings, reduced energy – to be relatively minor, because we are told they are common and not really worth troubling a doctor about.  

Why are we expected to have to deal with this?  Why must sick people choose between pain and suffering from their illness and pain and suffering from their treatment?  Why am I in the situation where I’m forced to call in sick, not because I am ill, but because I attempted to use my prescribed medication?  Why, if I go to the emergency department, will I be offered endone as my only option, and be kicked out as soon as I take it?  What else can I possibly do?

Gosh, I hate endo.  

Total Pelvic Peritoneal Excision: One Month On

One month ago today I had the surgery I desperately wanted.  Regular readers will know that, sick of incredibly debilitating pain and sick of being told to wait it out, I contacted Dr Edi-Osagie in England and asked him to undertake a surgery I couldn’t get an Australian doctor to do: Total Pelvic Peritoneal Excision (TPPE).  Today I want to share with you my experience of this surgery and my recovery over the past month.

Unlike a normal excision, which simply digs individual lesions out of the peritoneum, or lining, of the organs and pelvic wall, TPPE also removes the peritoneum so that endo has nothing to grow back on.  In my case, the good doctor did this to the back of my uterus and my urethra, which was where the endometriosis was growing in my case.  

I much preferred the preparation for the surgery than what we have in Australia.  In Australia, you have to drink a variety of icky liquids that give you appalling diarrhoea, and not eat for a day. For this surgery, I simply fasted overnight and had an enema.  Embarrassing?  A little.  But honestly, I’d rather have a nice professional nurse sticking whatever it was up my bottom than drink litres of glop so foul-tasting that it’s even odds as to whether you expel your insides through your mouth or your backside.  For those who’ve never had surgery, I cannot properly convey how bad that stuff tastes, particularly when you haven’t been able to eat all day, and have been on “white foods” only before that.

The day before the surgery I had all my testing and whatnot, and the day of I met a whole reel of nurses, my anaesthetist, and finally, Dr Edi-Osagie. Due to distance, we’d only chatted on Skype before this.  He is as lovely in person as he seemed on the computer, and was very careful to ensure that I understood what was going on and had no fears about it.  He was very thorough in his post-surgery explanation too, taking me through all the photos of my innards (which I got to keep!) and, unlike many surgeons, waiting until I was awake and functional before speaking to me. I’ve had previous surgeons explain to me while I’m still drifting in and out of an anaesthetic haze, and by the time I woke up properly, I would only retain about 1/10th of what they were saying.  By waiting til the next day, Dr Edi-Osagie ensured I actually would remember and understand what he said.  

Initial recovery from was painful, although no worse than my last excision.  As with last time, I woke up in recovery with the shakes.  Jury is out on whether this is pain or cold or both, but an extra warm blanket and having control of my own morphine supply sorted it out.  I remained fairly dependant on the morphine until mid-afternoon, but after that did not need to use it again.  By the evening I was sitting up and had my catheter removed so I could use the toilet independently.  By mid-morning the next day, I was ready to go home. 

A note for vegans: the hospital I was in did not have any vegan options for dinner.  Bring something.  

The biggest problem initially in my recovery was the shoulder-tip pain. When you have laparoscopic surgery they blow up your abdomen with gas so that they have room to work inside your pelvis.  Not all of that gas comes out immediately, and it can bounce around your diaphragm and up into your shoulders, leaving agonising pain in its wake.  It’s kind of like having a stitch, but 100x worse.  The only thing you can do is try to move to a different position, use heatpacks, and drink lots of peppermint tea.  

Once the shoulder pain started to reduce, I became aware of a new problem: constipation.  The trouble with morphine, codeine and tramadol, all of which I used post-surgery, is that they constipate you terribly.  I’m normally a 2-3 times a day type of girl.  My surgery was on Sunday, and I did not poop again until Wednesday.  When I did, I was stuck in the loo for about 20 minutes because things were so slow-moving.  My poor insides felt so bruised.  

Lately I have also been experiencing bladder pain.  Urination has been uncomfortable since the surgery due to my urethra being stripped all the way back, but a week ago my bladder or uterus or something in there was in agony when I peed.  It is calmer now, but still uncomfortable. It isn’t a UTI – there’s no burning and I’ve had it tested just in case – but boy, it’s not fun.

Overall, recovery from the actual surgery has been remarkably good.  I have four little incisions, which have all healed beautifully. My peritoneum is about 3/4 regrown now, apparently.  I did about a 5km walk less than two weeks after the surgery without too much trouble. Walking wasn’t really a problem at all after about a  week or so, although standing still remains an issue, so I used a wheelchair for things like shopping or going to museums, where you walk and then stop, walk and then stop.  

One month on and I’m fairly certain that all my remaining issues are attributable to my new mirena.  I find the adjustment period for the mirena really rough, and I’ve had ongoing spates of bleeding and period pain (not necessarily related to each other) for the past two weeks. If those aren’t gone soon, I’m going to talk to someone about having the mirena removed and see how I go without it.  

It is really nice not having endo pain in the way I have come to know it.  If I can get rid of the mirena pain I’ll be a happy little chappy.  At the moment, I’d definitely rate the surgery as a positive experience.  I hope to know properly by the new year whether it has really worked or not, and I will keep you all updated.  

A Canberra Adventure: Floriade and Living Green

I want to take a moment out of the travel series but still in the theme to talk a little about our nation’s capital. I have a great deal of affection for Canberra, but it is often dismissed as a boring city full of public servants with nothing to do or see. Granted, it’s not a cultural hotspot like Sydney or Melbourne. It lacks the historic beauty of Adelaide, the tropical temperatures of Darwin or Brisbane, or the stunning natural beauty of Perth or Hobart. However, I think it has it’s own special something, particularly in October.  I acknowledge it is now well into November and I am very late posting this.  Blame my computer troubles.

Anyway, why October? Well, in October there are two festivals that are a wonderful celebration of my favourite season, spring.

The first is Floriade. Floriade runs from the middle of September to the middle of October each year, and is basically a big celebration of pretty flowers planted in themed gardens. The theme for 2018 was pop culture. There were displays of superheroes, including Wonder Woman, Batman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which made me incredibly happy. There were emoji flower beds, a Where’s Wally, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and Pikachu. There were multiple tubs painted as minions.

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Whatever floats Floriade’s boat, I suppose.  [Imagine description: three tyres stacked on top of each other and painted to look like a Minion from Despicable Me, with flowers growing out of the top tyre.]
I have to admit that 2017 was kind of “meh” in terms of the display. I don’t actually remember the theme, which is an indictment in itself. This year, though, I thought was stunning. The colours were intense, the displays were riotously beautiful, and the scent of those massed flowers was delicate and glorious. Canberra is apparently having a nicely warm spring this year too, so the weather was gorgeous.

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Tulips are always the most-used Floriade flower.  [Image description: lots of flowers, mostly tulips, in pink, white and yellow].
The best way to really get an idea of what the flower bed designs are is to catch a ride on the ferris wheel. It can be a bit hard to see some of the designs from ground level, which is a shame, because the gardeners work incredibly hard to come up with clever, legible designs. From on high, you get to see their work properly. Tickets for individuals cost $9 and you get around 3 or 4 passes at the top.

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It’s much easier to tell that this is supposed be Wally of “Where’s Wally?” fame from above.  [Image description: a flower bed planted to look like a portrait of Wally from “Where’s Wally?”, surrounded by people.]
Floriade also has a number of stalls from small businesses in and around the Canberra region. My luxury-loving sister never fails to get a silky soft merino pashmina from Opal Merino. My mum recommends the nut stall for cashews, almonds, macadamias and walnuts coated in chilli or sugar. My dad enjoys the local craft beers from Bent Spoke Brewery and Capital Brewing Co. I’m a fan of some of the hand-made soaps and also the big curly potatoes on sticks.

Food can be a little tricky for vegans at Floriade, although there are generally some accidentally vegan options. Canberra is a pretty hipster city, so you’ll also sometimes be able to scrounge a deliberately vegan but overpriced buddha bowl or something from one of the food carts. There is also live music and the occasional wondering entertainer on stilts or in costume.

There are also activities, games and stalls for children, as well as activities that you can book in advance. Alternatively, if you want a more structured night for adults, check out Nightfest. The flowers get illuminated with hundreds of lights and there are generally special displays as well as comedy, musical and theatrical acts. Just be aware that Nightfest has a cost for entry whereas daytime Floriade is free.

Floriade by its nature involves a fair amount of walking. Parking can be a nightmare to get close, and the displays themselves are fairly sprawling. If your endo keeps you from walking easily, you may want to not do it all in one go. Alternatively, wheelchair hire is available for $12. Just be aware that some of the paths are pretty rough. We hired a chair for me and while I definitely needed it, there were times I wished it came with a seatbelt. Some areas of ground were quite hard for my mum to push me over. I definitely recommend going early in the day, too, as Floriade draws huge crowds that are not always alert to the needs of wheelchair users.

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It’s worth taking some time at each bed.  The displays en masse are beautiful but there are also some stunning individuals hiding in the crowds.  [Image description: a close up of a red flower with a black centre, and some smaller purple and yellow flowers below.]
If you tire of the flowers and the vistas over Lake Burley Griffin, or if you are a hungry vegan who wants more than nuts, popcorn and potatoes, take yourself across the lake to Albert Hall and the Living Green Markets.

Although far smaller and less spectacular than Floriade due to its rather niche nature, Living Green still makes for a great time out. With a focus on veganism and environmental friendliness, the main draw for me is the food. Canberra Magic Kitchen, Veganarchy (still no idea how to pronounce that), and Rainbow Nourishments are just a few of the stalls that set up with curries, soups, pies, sushi, sausage rolls, cakes (cheese, cup and full-size varieties!), chocolate, ice-cream and snacks. This year I indulged in a Magic Breakfast from Magic Kitchen, which involved the creamiest spinach and tofu scramble I’ve ever had. My non-vegan husband agreed – 10/10 delicious. It also had some sort of veggie patty and a flourless bread that were unlike anything I’ve tried before. Now I want nothing else for meals ever again. I also had a peppermint Belgian hot chocolate from Dream, which is one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had – sweet but not overly, no obvious soy taste, and none of that nasty sludge at the bottom. For dessert I tried the rainbow pear and chai cake from Rainbow Nourishments. You’ve heard me rave about her cookbook before, but trying her products in person is even better.

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Yes, it looked this amazing.  It tasted fantastic too, although the slices were very generous and I felt overstuffed afterwards.  The buttercream to cake ratio was perfect.  [Image description: a cake covered in pink,blue, green and purple slices of pear}.  Photo courtesy of Rainbow Nourishments.
There are also stalls to raise funds and awareness for all manner of great environmental and animal-related causes, including Little Oak Sanctuary, the Animal Defender’s Office, Australian Rescue and Foster, and the MAWA Trust. You can buy vegan candles, handbags, wallets, make up, hats, cookbooks, advocacy books, and all manner of treats both savoury and sweet.  There is live music of variable quality but always a lot of passion.

Living Green has a sense of happiness and bustle as a multitude of vegans and environmental activists gathered to shop, mingle and (mostly) eat. If you visit Floriade on the first Sunday of October (Living Green’s usual date), I highly recommend taking a detour over to Living Green as well.  If you miss out in October but think you’ll find yourself in Canberra on the first of December, there’s another chance to sample the Living Green Market then.

Parking is a bit closer for Living Green and the ground is flatter, but the more cramped conditions may give wheelchair users some trouble.

Note for both events: bring cash! Although many stalls at Floriade accept cards, some don’t, and most at Living Green are cash-only.

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One more picture of a flower, because they were so pretty.  [Image description: a pink flower with a black centre and squiggly yellow stamen.]
Have you ever been to Canberra or attended either of these events? Please feel free to share your photos in the comments!

Flying with Endometriosis Part 5: What I’ve Learned

For many people, flying is already a nightmare.  For people with endometriosis, there’s an added layer of difficulty.  In this multi-part series, “Flying with Endometriosis”, I want to talk about some of things we can do to make travel a bit easier.

I’m back!  I’m in Australia again, the jetlag is slowly dissipating, and I have a shiny new computer on which to write blog posts (just as well, because writing them on my phone is tricky and tedious).  And on the way, I learned a couple of things that make me want to either reiterate, correct or edit things I’ve said previously.

1) Business is better

Like the bougie child I am, I flew business class this trip.  No, I could not have afforded those tickets without financial help, and I am very lucky.  However, I cannot overstate the difference it made to be able to lie flat – completely flat, even at 5’10” – rather than being sat up the entire flight.  This is particularly so on the way back, when I was bloated, sore and touch-sensitive from the surgery.  Having fewer people battling for the loos was also very important, as the surgery caused some interesting issues for my bladder and bowels.

If you are in a bracket where you can afford business class but are cringing at the unnecessary expense, I would encourage you to look at it less as a luxury and more of a way to avoid 24 hours of pain.

2) I should have packed differently

I needn’t have bothered with my Kindle as I ended up buying several fascinating books on my trip.  I didn’t open my Kindle once.

I should have packed a second Divinity collection Maxi.  Comfy as my leggings and my two-sizes-too-big jeans are, the flowing freedom of this dress was exactly what I needed, because on several days it got the point where I could not possibly wear something with a waistband.  It was also too cold to wear my shorter knit dress from Review more than once.  The longer dress helped cover my cold legs.

I should have remembered that Singapore Airlines Business Class is pretty luxe.  I didn’t really need so many products as the airline had a bunch in the airplane loo.  That being said, I would stand by bringing them in my carry-on if I had not been flying Business.

Overall, I think I packed pretty well.  I wore everything I took and used pretty much everything except the Kindle. I did have a problem with buying too much in the UK and not having enough room for it all on the way back, though, so I had to use my poor mother as a shopping mule.  Shopping in the UK is so much better than here.

3) I should have taken laxatives

Ok, so this one is a bit gross, but endo peeps will know what I’m talking about.  Post-surgery you are in a LOT of pain at first, so they give you a number of serious painkillers.  I had a morphine button – a button I could press any time I felt pain to get a shot of morphine – and morphine (plus the follow-up codeine) makes you as constipated as you can get.  My surgery was Saturday.  I didn’t poop until Wednesday (in a public toilet on an island full of squirrels, by the way), and I was chugging this weird liquid laxative they gave me (both gross and ineffective) and drinking prune juice like it was going out of style.  I know the laxatives I buy normally work (they are only in case of emergency and they just shoot through you).  I should have taken them and avoided three days of extra constipation pain, which I did not need.

4) I was 100% right to take my pillow and blanket

That pillow I mentioned that I took as carry-on was 100% the right call.  It was more comfortable to use on the flight and it was vital post-surgery.  I used it to:-

  • Protect my stomach from the seatbelt;
  • Prop up my knees to relieve tension on my back when shoulder-tip pain prevented me from sleeping on my side;
  • Tuck under one side of my distended tummy post-op so it didn’t flop awkwardly and painfully to one side
  • Hug to my torso as for comfort, cushioning and security;
  • Prop myself up in bed.

The blanket was great because I tend to get cold very easily after an operation, and the heating in my bedroom was all over the place.  I only used it once on the flight but since it tucks easily into the pillowcase having it there was hardly an imposition.

5) Taking an extra three days off work was the right call

I arrived back in Australia late on Friday night.  Originally I was supposed to go back to work on the Monday.  Instead I arranged to return on the Thursday.  Definitely a good idea.  Jetlag + post-op pain does not a happy combination make, and those extra three days were really important in my recovery.  I’m far from 100% yet, but I’d be far worse if I’d forged ahead with work on Monday.

6) I could not have done this alone

Having surgery unsupported is very difficult anyway.  Having it unsupported in a country that you don’t normally live in, where you have to organise transport and accommodation, would have been overwhelming.  If not for my family – particularly my mother – supporting me physically, emotionally and financially, I could not have managed the surgery.  Recovery is hard and at times scary.  I need someone with me, and I am so grateful I had that.

 

That pretty much concludes my series on flying with endometriosis.  Over the next few weeks you can expect a lot of posts about the surgery and recovery, but also about the places I visited because England is amazing and I want to move back there.  Hope you enjoy it!

Hello from Hospital

Hello, dear readers. I’m so sorry I’ve not been posting; I’ve been fully immersed in holidaying, seeing family, and, of course, preparing for my operation.

Said operation occurred this morning UK time, and I am now recovering.

Once I’m discharged I’ll do a post about the experience, including the differences between the UK and Australian approach. Right now, though, I can hear sleep calling my name again (she won’t leave me alone!) so I’ll say TTFN and give you all a proper update when I’ll less drugged up.

Wish me well, internet friends.

Flying with Endometriosis Part 4: Things to Consider

For many people, flying is already a nightmare.  For people with endometriosis, there’s an added layer of difficulty.  In this multi-part series, “Flying with Endometriosis”, I want to talk about some of things we can do to make travel a bit easier.

Sorry about my recent absence! My computer is utterly broken and I’m still adjusting to the app so there has been a bit of a break. I’ll try and return to more regular posting now, noting I’ll jet-setting off this very day, but expect posts to have a slightly funny format whilst I familiarise myself with the WordPress app.

Ok, we’ve gone through our pre-flight checklist, packed our carry-ons for maximum comfort, and dressed to impress our endo bellies. What else do we need to do?

This is less a post and more a list of things to consider for your trip that didn’t really fit into my previous three articles, but are still really important. I’ve divided them up into topics below.

Luggage

Is your carry-on manageable, or will it put pressure on sore joints if you have a flare-up? Think about the type of bag that is most comfortable for you. Although I’ve gone for a messenger bag for its capacity and great storage, it’s probably not the best choice if I start to end up in pain as the weight is not easily distributed across my body. A backpack or small wheeled case (although I often find I’m too tall to manage these comfortably) would be the more sensible option.

Is your main luggage easy to manoeuvre? I prefer a suitcase with four wheels to the traditional two. Firstly, it is easier for my tall self to handle without it running into my heels, and secondly, it trundles along happily next to me with minimal effort – great if my pain starts to flare. A large rucksack/hiking pack is not so great for me as it presses on my lower back and requires me to bear a fair amount of weight, which my battered bod doesn’t love.

Have you packed it for best weight distribution? Remember, heavy stuff near the wheels, light stuff at the other end. I find packing cubes invaluable for organising everything inside the suitcase.

Arrival

Is your hotel close by? After a long flight, it isn’t always a good idea to jump straight into sightseeing. You want to dump your luggage and explore in freedom, and possibly get a bath or shower to help relax your pelvis and work out any knots. Make sure that your hotel is either possible for you to walk to without inducing a flare-up, or that you can easily acquire transport there.

Have you scouted out local food options? If you are on the endo diet, low FODMAP diet or similar, you may want to know in advance where you can safely eat to prevent you having to go traipsing round the city in search of options when you are exhausted from your flight. A lot of travel bloggers and the like will turn up their nose at people who aren’t prepared to try all the wildest local cuisine, but it isn’t always practical when you have dietary restrictions. Don’t feel bad if you can’t or just don’t want to – food is not the only part of travel and you are not a “bad” tourist if you can’t handle the local food.

Are you near a doctor or chemist? Make a point of knowing the closest one to your hotel. Most chronically ill people are going to be pretty well-prepared to manage their conditions on the go, but things can go unexpectedly wrong, luggage can get lost or stolen, and medications can get confiscated by unsympathetic security staff. You never know when you will need a bit of medical assistance so better safe than sorry.

Tourism

Are you confident you can manage the activities you have scheduled? Make sure you know the refund policies of any booked activities just in case, and make sure you know your limits. I love guided tours as a good way to familiarise myself with a new city, but many involve a lot of walking. If you think it will be too much, consider a tour that involves transport such as a car, bus, bicycle, rickshaw, boat or tuk tuk.

Have you scoped out wheelchair hire? Many people with endo won’t need to fall back on a wheelchair, but I often do. Knowing where I can pick one up offers me far more flexibility than I would otherwise have.

If you do need a chair, are the places you want to see wheelchair-friendly, and will getting there in a chair be an option? You want to make sure that the chair helps you, not limits you. Using it as much as possible in accessible locations will ensure that you have the energy and spoons to get around less accessible locations on other days.

Do you have a couple of catch-phrases in the local language? Being able to say “help” and “I don’t speak X, do you speak English?” may just make the difference between being alone and in pain and being able to get the help you need. You don’t need to memorise the phrase book, but a couple of sentences can be so useful.

Do you have a map, either physical or on your phone? When I get a flare and have serious pain, my ability to think, plan and act is totally compromised. Being able to access the map function on my phone and have it tell me where to go is so useful. All I have to do is push through and follow instructions rather than try and navigate my way back to bed through an unfamiliar city.

What other steps would you take, endo-havers? Anything you always try to think about in your travels? Let me know in the comments!

Error: Blog Not Found

Hi all

I’m having some technical difficulties here at Bubbles central but I have some great posts coming. The travel series will continue and I’ll take you on another little trip with a Review of two of the ACT’s October festivals. New content coming…as soon as my computer remembers how to computer. 😩

Flying with Endometriosis Part 3: What to Wear

For many people, flying is already a nightmare.  For people with endometriosis, there’s an added layer of difficulty.  In this multi-part series, “Flying with Endometriosis”, I want to talk about some of things we can do to make travel a bit easier.

What is the first priority on a plane (except from arriving at your destination, of course)?  Comfort!  Planes are not the most comfortable, particularly if you are crammed into economy.  With endometriosis, it’s even less comfortable.  You’re stuck in pretty much one position for hours at a time and you have to line up for ages to use the toilet.  Then you have to walk around a heap in the airports.  Enduring all that, you can bet your [insert noun here] I want to be comfy.  Trouble is, I also want to look good, partly because I am vain and shallow and partly because it makes me feel more confident, alert and prepared.

I’ve already discussed how to dress an endo belly, but when you are travelling you really have to take comfort to the next level.  If you are more of a video person, I highly recommend checking out Miss Louie, who is one of my favourite youtubers.  She’s done this video and this one with a whole bunch of easy-to-wear travel outfits.  There’s something for everyone.

However, if you prefer a written list or simply can’t see Miss Louie’s options working for you, read on for a more general discussion.

In choosing an outfit, I think there are some questions you should ask yourself:-

  1. Does this press on my pelvis when sitting, standing or lying?
  2. Does it press on my pelvis if I swell up?
  3. Does this press on any other joints that tend to get sore or swollen?

These three are the most important, because that is ultimately what will dictate if an outfit is going to be comfy for a person with endo.  Anyone who suffers from flareups knows that something digging into your pelvis when it is sore and swollen if just horrific.  For some people, this may mean that any pants at all are off the table and you need to look at a dress instead.  For others, leggings or even super stretchy jeans or an elastic-waisted skirt will be fine.

The remaining questions are more general and probably less of a deal-breaker than the above three, but still worth thinking of:-

  1. Are there any buttons, zips, or other decorative things that will dig into you?
  2. Is it comfy enough to sleep in?
  3. Will it ride up and flash things it shouldn’t?
  4. Will it give you a wedgie?
  5. Will it wrinkle easily/does it look bad wrinkly?
  6. Can you take layers off if you get too hot or add layers if you get too cold?
  7. Do your shoes slip off easily for going through security?

If it will dig in, isn’t comfy, rides up, wrinkles, can’t layer and your shoes require a lot of lacing or other fiddling, don’t wear it.  It will be a hassle.  It will be uncomfortable, you will not sleep as well and you will get to the other end looking and feeling less than stellar.

My go-to for flights is this combination.

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All of these items are from Modcloth, except the boots which are from Betts.  (Yes, I used Stylebook to put this together).  They are a few years old so I doubt anyone dying of envy about my incredible stylishness will be able to get those exact items, however.  From the bottom up:

  1. Knee-high riding boots might not be as easy to slip in and out of as a pair of slip-on trainers, ballet flats, or ankle boots, but I know that I will wear them a lot in the UK so if I don’t wear them, I’d have to pack them anyway.  As they are my heaviest shoes, it makes sense to carry them on my feet rather than haul them all over the airport in my suitcase.  They do still come on and off easily, and look good with my leggings.
  2. Under my boots I’ll be wearing a pair of compression socks, to avoid DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is a blood clot that forms in the leg.  You won’t necessarily get it if you don’t wear them, but if you do, it can be super dangerous.  It’s very easy for DVT to become life-threatening in a very short space of time.  I’ll also use the compression socks in hospital after my operation, so they are good investment, if not the comfiest.  As I wrote earlier, I’ll have cosy socks to wear over them on the flight, because I kick my boots off as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off.
  3. I love these leggings because they have actual function pockets that can hold a lip balm or spare change.  They are a little small for my phone, but having pockets at all is great.  They are thick and warm but not too hard on the old pelvis.
  4. Underneath the top I’ll be wearing this singlet from Boody.  Incredibly soft and comfy (with the added bonus of being ethically made and environmentally friendly), the singlet will just provide an extra layer of warmth, help preserve modesty if something happens with my top, and let me take a top layer off if somehow my flight gets stranded in Dubai with no air-conditioning again.  Seriously not fun.  I nearly passed out.
  5. The top itself is just loose, soft and very comfy, but a bit fun with the patterned sleeves.  It helps make it just a little less basic.
  6. The cardigan is loose and voluminous so I can wrap it around me.  It has a deep hood so I can cover my face in case I loose my eye mask for the flight, and hide the fact that I’ve got a sheet mask on or suchlike.  It looks a little more dressy than, say, my Batman hoodie, but it is still comfy and casual.

I’ve flown with this outfit before and it was comfortable and practical.  Post-surgery the leggings might be a little tight or irritate the incision sites – if that happens, I’ll switch to a long-sleeved maxi dress from Divinity collection.  It’s not quite as ideal as they are incredibly long so they do drag on the floor and do wrinkle a bit.  However, it is very comfy, will keep my covered when I lie down, and is an easy canvas to accessorise.  My pelvis will be totally free to do its thing and I will be warm, my modesty will be protected, and I should still look pretty acceptable when I stumble into my husband’s arms when I arrive back in Australia.  I’ll be taking both my black and my burgundy ones in my suitcase in any event.

Do you have a go-to travel outfit?  What do you look for in travelling clothes, either generally or to protect yourself from endo pain?  Let me know in the comments!

Flying with Endometriosis Part 2: Carry-On

For many people, flying is already a nightmare.  For people with endometriosis, there’s an added layer of difficulty.  In this multi-part series, “Flying with Endometriosis”, I want to talk about some of things we can do to make travel a bit easier.

In my last post I talked about some of the things people with endometriosis can do before they travel to make the journey a little easier. But what should you take on the flight with you to help once you are in the air?

I’m going to list all the things I’ll be packing in my carry-on and why. It won’t all be endo-stuff, so hopefully this will be useful to everyone, but there will be plenty of endo-specific items on there.

Although I do want to try travelling with only a carry-on in future, that’s not feasible this time round as I’ll be having surgery and will need more items than I can fit in a carry-on. This post is therefore going to assume people are travelling with both a carry-on and checked luggage.

My carry-on bag is the Deluxe Handbag of Holding from ThinkGeek (unfortunately discontinued). It has lots of pockets, is comfy to carry and holds heaps of stuff. It also slides neatly into the overhead lockers, or, better yet, under the seat in front. For that reason I prefer it to a backpack, which can be more three-dimensionally bulky than a messenger bag.

Deluxe Handbag of Holding
Deluxe Handbag of Holding.  Note the many handy pockets.  

I’ll divide the contents up into “themes” within the back, using the different pockets and some clear makeup bags to corral all the different bits and make them easy to find.

Now, onto my list.  Buckle up, because it’s a long one!

ENTERTAINMENT

– A book. Kindles and e-readers are great, but we have a family tradition of treating ourselves to a new book when we go on a long-haul flight. It is nice to read something new and to give my eyes a break from the screen.

– A kindle, because I read quickly and there is no way one book will be enough, particularly whilst I’m recovering from surgery. It is easier on the eyeballs than a backlit screen and holds a charge for a million years.

– My phone. Music, books, movies, my blog, the internet, app games, and a useful tool all in one. To maximise its use I will also be taking my earbuds and a portable recharger pack, because iphones are battery-guzzlers and I use mine a lot.

– A puzzle book. I love sudoku, killer sudoku, kakuro and grid-based logic puzzles. These booklets are usually thin and light, but doing something on a hard copy is a nice change from electronic entertainment and helps stimulate my brain by giving it something different and a little challenging to work on.

– My journal and pencil case.  I’ll be able to write, doodle, plan, play noughts and crosses or hangman, and pass immature notes to my sister.

COMFORT

– Cosy socks. I’ll be wearing compression socks to reduce the chance of DVT (more on that later), but they aren’t very warm, planes are chilly and I have poor circulation. A pair of warm socks makes for a happy me.

– A blindfold and earplugs. Most airlines will provide these and they are really helpful in getting some shut-eye on the plane, especially if you, like me, sleep with a blindfold anyway.

– A travel pillow. For economy/premium economy, a neck/shoulder pillow that makes it possible to sleep in an upright position, as it will support your head from lolling uncomfortably to the side. There’s bucketloads of different styles out there, but I’ve chosen this one as I like how high it keeps my head and the fact that it doesn’t go behind the neck or across the throat. Although I may not need it on the flight it will be very useful on the trip to hospital. For people in business or first, you may not need a pillow at all, but I have used this one before and really liked it. It can also help bolster the slightly sad pillows they give you to sleep on.

– A blanket or shawl. I opt for the blanket in the above pillow/blanket combination. It’s thin and light but very warm. I get cold absurdly easily and get too cold on flights even with the blankets they provide, so an extra blanket is a must for me. I choose a blanket rather than a shawl as it covers all of me, but a shawl is more versatile as you can wear it and not look like a ninny.

Berocca. I love this stuff. For those not familiar with it, it is a multivitamin that dissolves fizzily in water. It comes in a few flavours (only berry and orange are readily available in Australia) and it is very refreshing. It perks me up far more easily than caffeine without the crash when it wears off. It’s healthier than coffee and has the added bonus of helping prop up your immune system with easily-absorbed vitamins.

– Painkillers of varying strengths. I will be taking everything from panadol and De-Gas to endone, just in case. If you are planning on taking the strong stuff, it is a good idea to have a letter from your doctor explaining that you have a legitimate reason to be carrying a small pharmacy of opioids.

– Heat patches. You can’t really take a microwaveable heat pack on a plane, but stick-on heat patches can give the same relief for a fraction of the room and don’t require external heating. Carry plenty. I’ll be wearing one on my lower back as a matter of course and carrying spares for my pelvis.

– Nasal drops and nasal spray. I get a very dry nose on flights because they are so dehydrating and I live in dread of that turning into (yet another) sinus infection. Nasal drops help get rid of congestion and the spray helps rehydrate those sore passages.

– Lozenges. Again, dry air, insufficient water – a sore throat is a strong possibility.

– A water bottle. You do get water on planes, but it comes in very small disposables cups or bottles. It simply isn’t enough to keep you hydrated. Taking a water bottle lets you have more water at a time without bothering the cabin crew every thirty seconds.

– Knee pillow. This isn’t something everyone will need, but I’m a side-sleeper and I need something between my knees to alleviate pressure on my back. I have a very old, very floppy pillow I use for this and I’m going to be terribly extravagant and take it with me. I can also use it as lumbar support, cushioning between my pelvis and a seatbelt, or just for clutching to my stomach as a comforting thing during a flare. It’s not for everyone, but for me it’s a must.

– A hair tie and hair brush.  I’ll be braiding my hair out of the way anyway, but hairties snap and get lost exactly when you need them not to, and it is always nice to have brushed hair.  Makes you feel a little more human when you stagger off the plane.

SKIN

– Face and body wipes. Air travel is exhausting and it is easy to end up clammy and gross-feeling. Being able to clean up either at a stopover or in the airport loo can make you feel so refreshed and more awake.

– Mist toner. Whenever I wash my face I always follow up with a toner. I’ll be taking my Skinstitut mist, which is not only a toner but can also be used as a refreshing spray under or over makeup and smells divine. A little spritz can help wake you up and help you stay feeling fresh in between washes or stops.

– Night cream.  Because it is heavier than a day moisturiser it is better at standing up to the beating your skin takes on a long flight.  I’ll be taking this one from ELF as my normal Sukin one, whilst amazing, is in a big heavy tub.

– Lip balm.  Again, airline = dehydration = chapped lips.  I’ll be using a tinted one from Hurraw to add a little colour to otherwise uniform pasty white of my face.

– Sheet masks.  Yes, it’s a bit extra, but I’m going to be on those planes for a long time and a little extra moisture and luxury never goes astray.  I am determined not to look the way I normally do when I stumble off a long flight – like an ashen, pasty-faced zombie.  I will have glowing skin, darn it!

– Eye roller.  I just use this little doodad from ELF, which instantly refreshes and cools my puffy eye bags.  It’s just really nice and takes up basically no room, so for me it is totally worth it.

– Concealer and brow powder.  The only makeup I’m taking.  I just want to be able to cover the inevitable enormous pimple that will arise during the flight and fill my brows in, because that makes me feel a little more put together and with it when I land, which in turn makes me feel more awake, confident and ready to deal with the jetlag.

– Hand sanitiser.  Planes are filthy and you don’t necesarily want to wait in a queue to wash your hands before your food comes, especially if you get trapped by the food trolley and have to wait ten million years to get back to your seat.

– Hand cream.  Dehydration, etc etc.

– Deodorant.  For the sake of your fellow passengers, please.

– Toothbrush and toothpaste.  Some airlines give it out, some don’t.  I want to take my own toothpaste in any case, so I know that it is vegan, cruelty-free, low-abrasion and contains fluoride.

MISCELLANEOUS

– Spare undies, because when you have endo you never know what your body will surprise you with.  Also, luggage can get lost.

– A spare top and leggings.  I’ll be taking these leggings and this long-sleeved top from Boody.  These items are incredibly thin and lightweight and take up very little room, but they are warm, soft and incredibly comfortable.  The leggings I won’t wear without something covering my bottom as they are a touch see-through, but these will double as a change of clothes in an emergency, and will function as pjs if my luggage goes AWOL for a while.  They are also great for an extra layer of warmth if I get even colder than anticipated on the plane or when we land.  I plan to buy several more of those tops.

– Sanitary pads.  See above re underpants.  Also, it’s nice to be able to have one to hand if another person finds themselves in period-related difficulties without adequate supplies.  Tampon or cup users will want to bring those instead.

– Passport, tickets and wallet (duh).

I think that more or less covers it!  I will no doubt think of extra things I want to take, forget to pack something, or change my mind at the last minute, but this is my list as it currently stands.  Anything you would add to it?  Anything that you have found really helps your endometriosis travel a little easier?  Anywhere you think I’m being totally OTT?  Let me know!

 

 

Flying with Endometriosis Part 1: Pre-Flight Checklist

For many people, flying is already a nightmare.  For people with endometriosis, there’s an added layer of difficulty.  In this multi-part series, “Flying with Endometriosis”, I want to talk about some of things we can do to make travel a bit easier.

Happy October!  As I mentioned a few posts back, I’m travelling to the UK this month, so travel is very much on my brain, hence the new series.  I want to do some tips and tricks on making travelling with endometriosis just that little bit easier.

Ensuring that you have the smoothest flight possible starts long before you get on the plane.  Below are some of the things I would recommend doing before you travel.

1) Book the best seat you can afford.  It’s hard to pass up on some of the great deals you can get on an economy flight, but let’s face it – economy seats on a long-haul flight are just horrible.  This is particularly so if sitting is a difficult position for you.  When I’m in a flare-up, it’s the worst possible, as it puts pressure on my back and makes my ovaries very unhappy.  The seats are also very small and there isn’t much room in the footwell, so you can’t wriggle around to get a better position unless you’re very tiny.  At 5’10” (178cm) it’s definitely not an option for me.  If you can afford it, consider an upgrade to premium.  You don’t get a lot of extra room or recline, but it might just make a difference.  If you can’t afford it, do your research on how to nab the best seat in economy.  Seat Guru can help you find the one for your plane.  I’d always say an exit seat is best for the extra legroom, but ensure that you are physically able to assist with the doors in an emergency in you go for that one.  Also utilise your charm and your poor swollen belly to try and get a free upgrade, noting that it is getting much harder.

2) Get travel insurance. Be careful, though – many will not cover pre-existing conditions, so search around for one that does. It is pricey, but it is probably cheaper than the cost of rescheduling your flight and paying for extra accomodation if you can’t fly due to a flareup. That being said, the cost for many people may be prohibitive so some people may find that risking it is more financially sound, particularly if they aren’t prone to flare-ups or are practised at travelling through them.

3) Rest. In the days leading up to the flight, rest as much as you can so that you have a good healthy baseline to start from. I know I don’t get much sleep in economy, and whilst lots of sleep prior isn’t going to magically prevent you from being exhausted when you hit the tarmac on the other side, it will help you feel better for longer and strengthen your immune system (planes are germ factories).  If you can, pack the majority of your stuff at least a day ahead of time so that you can use your last day to relax and only worry about the last-minute things like your toothbrush.

4) Get hydrated.  Like this resting tip, this is to help buffer your immune system against the hit it is about to take on the plane.  In addition to being super germy, planes are incredibly dry and it is really hard to take in enough liquid.  Make sure that you are at least starting your journey on the right foot by being as hydrated as possible for at least a few days before you get on the plane.  This will also help you avoid UTIs.  Trust me, you do not want a UTI whilst flying, especially whilst flying long-haul economy.  0/10 would not do again.

5) Avoid triggers.  If you know you are reactive to certain foods or activities, do not eat those foods or engage in those activities prior to flying.  The last thing you want to do is set off a flare-up before you even get on the plane.  I’ll be completely nixing onions, garlic, beans, cabbage, alcohol and carbonated drinks from my diet for a week prior to flying, and cutting way down on the sugar and gluten.  I’d also suggest not smashing out a mad core workout prior to your flight – for a few days beforehand you might want to limit yourself to yoga, walking and maybe some gentle weights.

6) Take your medications and vitamins religiously.  Again, it is all about getting your immune system to the best place it can be before you put it on that plane and destroy it. Even if you aren’t normally a supplement taker, consider a multivitamin and maybe a cranberry pill (I refer to my earlier point re UTIs) as a pre-flight booster.

7) Plan an itinerary (if you can).  If you are on holiday you want to see and do as much as possible.  If you have at least the broad outline of a plan you can build in rest days.  Last time I was in Europe I was totally healthy, and tried to do heaps every day.  I was utterly exhausted after a few weeks.  I will never do that again, especially now I’m a sicky!  It also allows for a little more flexibility, and, of course, helps you pack sensibly for the activities you are doing.  Speaking of which…

8) Plan a capsule wardrobe.  This is a wardrobe where everything goes with everything else to make multiple outfits out of fewer pieces, so you can reduce the weight of your suitcase (a very good thing when you have endo!).  It also forces you to really think about what you are bringing, which will hopefully encourage you to choose only comfy, multi-functional pieces that will see you both through whatever your holiday activity is as well as a flareup or rest day.

9) Treat yo’self.  The day before you travel (or the day of, if you are flying later in the day) have a nice bath, if you have a bathtub.  Do all the luxurious skin things like a face mask, shaving, washing your hair etc.  It will not only help you feel super nice on the plane and help you look spiffy when you reach your destination, it will also allow your muscles, and that pesky pelvis, to relax.  Your poor body is about to crammed into a pressurised metal tube on a small seat next to a bunch of randoms.  It deserves a little love.

Image result for treat yo self gif

So, those are my pre-flight must-dos.  Any I’ve missed?  Do you have a pre-flight ritual that helps your body deal with the stresses of long flights?  Share in the comments!