UC Travel Story: Dis-Ease in "The Big Easy"

The “Big Easy” (more formally known as New Orleans, Lousiana) proudly proclaims, “Let the Good Times Roll!”

But could someone with IBD survive and thrive in the “Big Easy” experience?

Traveling with ulcerative colitis

In 2012, I boarded a plane filled with excitement. I was visiting New Orleans for the first time. Even though I traveled for professional reasons to attend a conference, I still tingled with the enthusiasm of exploring a new city.

But as someone living with ulcerative colitis, this internal vibration of anticipation would come at a cost.

Traveling with UC creates a struggle on its own. But throw in spicy cuisine with a splash of July humidity that encompasses New Orleans, and I am a hot mess.

Travel brings out our truest self

For this trip, I was barely a year into a relationship with the man I would eventually marry. Trying to hide the horrific realities of UC, I was on my “best” behavior. Well, at least I intended to be.

My body had other plans.

This man, whom I totally adored, didn’t know the REAL me. He hadn’t yet realized how the combination of air travel, elevated temperatures, even higher humidity, pulsating nightlife, and day-long spicy meals, would PUNCH the colitis monster raging within me.

He learned quickly.

UC urgency at the airport

At the airport, the fast-paced, raucousness of workers and passengers entered my body. It shot its uncomfortable busyness into my head. Traveled like a prizefighter to the innermost lining of the digestive system.

Navigating the terminals felt like Muhammad Ali knocking and punching his way through the inflammation and ulcers in my digestive tract. The atmosphere sent me running to the restroom multiple times before I boarded the plane.

“Where’s my Imodium?” I questioned nervously. Sweat beads ran down my back as I ransacked my purse during the third restroom visit.

“Oh, please, Mother Mary. Please stop this madness!” I prayed during my fifth restroom run.

All those IBD "what ifs"

I was on fire with the fear of “what ifs.” What if the diarrhea didn’t stop onboard? What if the plane’s lavatory was occupied when I needed it? What if I can’t hold it? What if I don’t make it?

These “what if” scenarios haunt one with an IBD in every step he/she takes. The barometric pressure of anxiety travels along the nerve endings of this disease. It irritates and squeezes the lining of the large intestine.

With UC, my immune system fights too gallantly. It thinks food, good gut bacteria, and cells lining my colon are intruders. So, it battles and wages a war — even aboard a flight to the “Big Easy” or in the city itself. This disease knows only BIG and not EASY.

“Are you okay?”

It became the trip’s mantra from my love. His concern grew with every bar and restaurant we visited.

Whether munching on Café Du Monde’s scrumptious beignets or casually chewing Cajun cuisine, our trip together to New Orleans was spent apart more than together. Not because I had workshops to attend. That was a given as a conference participant. Our after-hours were spent separated: my love spent more time alone at a table while I sat praying in unfamiliar restrooms.

Thankfully, Jax Brewery offered a convenient ambiance for both of us. The restroom located upstairs offered me privacy during my intestinal battles, whereas the bar provided him with a stunning view of the Mississippi River.

Traveling with UC: definitely not easy

In the end, the “Big Easy” was not so easy. But neither is the disease of UC. Both remind one to slow down. To take life easy.

The more one dips into the ease of life, the more joy can be found in the festivities of life, food, drink, and beignets.

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