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!

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.

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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!