Travel bags with toilet paper sitting glowing on top prepped and ready to pack into a blue SUV

Traveling with IBD: A Harsh Toilet Paper Tale

It's the holidays. My husband and I are driving from Ohio to Florida to visit family. As typical with long drives, miles without restroom breaks can be challenging for those with IBD.

This year I found myself breaking one of my UC rules: to pack your favorite toilet paper in your purse. For full disclosure, I am a bathroom tissue "snob." As someone with colitis, I can't help but be finicky about what gets rubbed on my derriere. So, I always travel with my favorite loo roll in the car.

The many unknowns of the open road...

Unfortunately, someone living with Crohn's or UC should also pack a small amount that can easily be carried into a gas station/convenience mart. For me, I know I should have my beloved Charmin parceled out into a small bag tucked inside my purse. But with the pandemic, I was out of "travel shape." My husband and I hadn’t done much traveling lately.

So, there I was, stopped at a gas station in a somewhat seedy area just outside Port Canaveral, Florida. We hadn't passed any restroom facilities for a while, and my husband and I were both ready to pop. Like others, we grabbed the first opportunity we came across. It was a not-so-clean gas station.

My husband hopped into the one-and-only restroom while I paid for the fuel. When he came out, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You better grab it while you can."

"Gotcha!" I replied. Quickly, I thanked the cashier and headed towards the one facility.

A gutsy adventure at the gas station restroom

With heavy intestinal urges bearing down on me, I grabbed the restroom's door handle and yanked it open. Much to my surprise, a stranger had somehow beaten me. Inside, a man stood at the toilet relieving his bladder.

"Oh, God! I didn’t know anyone was in here!" I shouted. With a reddened face, I slammed the door and hurried away. But that embarrassment only worsened the UC call rumbling in my gut. I ran an aisle away from the one-seat restroom and bent over at the waist in pain.

"Hold it in!" one side of my brain yelled to my intestines. "You gotta wait!" While the other side of my brain kept repeating, "For the love of God, why didn’t he lock the door?"

Quickly, the man exited. I offered apologies, and he shrugged while walking away, "I thought I had locked it."

When I entered the restroom, I made sure I locked the door. Then, I released the tsunami of pain building in my gut. "Thank goodness I made it," I thought to myself.

But then, I realized: No toilet paper.

No toilet paper?!!

Nope. Not a single square. Now, what was I supposed to do? The sweat beads popped out on my forehead. I could have texted my husband to bring me the roll I had out in the car, but I knew he rarely looked at text messages. What if he didn't read it? I couldn't sit there all day.

Besides, the restroom was gross, dirty, and not a place I wanted to linger for any amount of time. So, I quickly eyeballed the small space for another choice. Located on the opposite wall was a paper towel dispenser. The thick, coarse, brown paper towels could work. Honestly, they would have to work. I had no other options.

But did I want to rub that on my bum? In addition, the trash already overflowed with wadded-up paper towels. Should I really add my own messy refuse to the pile? Well, I knew I couldn’t flush it. The paper would clog.

In desperation, I used it. Oh, my poor, sensitive tush!

Gotta protect that IBD tush

Lesson learned as I ran out of that gas station: Always travel with spare toilet paper on hand. Granted, I feel bad for the stench and filth left in that trash can. But maybe that will signal the gas station to leave extra rolls in that one-seater.

Rest assured, my derriere will never let me forget this abrasive paper towel tale.

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