Travel is incredible – and endometriosis sucks. Recently, Andrew & I were en route to the most magical place on earth – yet that day was not the magical travel day I imagined.
Hey, I’m Kait, and my husband Andrew and I are travelers who typically highlight new and nostalgic destinations. Yet, the highlight reels of Instagram and YouTube sometimes show a partial picture. I hope my openness and honesty help out even one person by sharing what it’s like traveling with endometriosis. And for the sake of time, I’ll frequently refer to it as endo.
Endometriosis affects one in ten women. ONE IN TEN! That’s nuts – so the likelihood that you or someone you know and love has it is very high. There have been senseless generations of stigma around openly discussing women’s health, which is why I wanted to bring the conversation around endo to the traveling table. Take a second to think about how about 10% of the women you see in an airport, landmark, hotel, or wherever are just casually going about the same travel day as you but with varying pain levels.
A LITTLE ABOUT ENDOMETRIOSIS
I’m no doctor, and I only speak for myself and how it makes me feel, but it seems like my experience with endo is pretty standard.
WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
In oversimplified terms, it’s when endometrial tissue called endometrium (which typically lines the uterus) grows OUTSIDE the uterus…where it doesn’t belong. And therefore causes problems. Super fun.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
Imagine intestinal pain mixed with cramps, bloating, backaches, and shooting pain that goes from your hips to your knees until your legs go numb. So fun. Add in the occasional migraine, and it’s a party. And the crazy thing is – this isn’t limited to one week a month. You never really know when an endo flare-up will hit you. This occurrence for our Disney trip came at an entirely random week for me, with a flare-up that started the night before. For this reason, I always pack with the intention to be prepared for anything.
HOW I FOUND OUT I HAVE ENDO
Even as a teen, I battled with painful monthly cycles. I was put on multiple varying birth control pills when I was so young to try to fix the pain. For years I dealt with nearly black-out pain almost every month….until one day in September 2018 – I passed out in a bathroom stall at work because the pain was too great. I woke up to find my coworker shaking me and crawling under the bathroom stall to get to me. My boss was compassionate and nothing but understanding because she, too, has endometriosis.
Until this point, my ob-gyn suspected I might have it but kept putting me off and giving me high doses of pain medicine instead. It took me passing out from pain to be taken seriously enough by my doctors. We promptly scheduled a laparoscopic surgery for the following week, where several mega cysts and much endometrial tissue were removed. It was confirmed that I had level three endometriosis on a scale of one to four.
I tell this story because the barrier for women’s health to be taken seriously should not be passing out from menstrual pain, and to share that pain like this ISN’T normal. You should seek medical care from compassionate, knowledgeable doctors as soon as possible.
But I also share this part of the story because it’s both relatively common and still ongoing.
As there’s no cure for endo, it does come back for about 2/3rd of patients, even after surgery.
Unfortunately – I also drew that short straw, and while things are better than they were in 2018, there are still a lot of factors to deal with all over again.
HOW I DEAL WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS ON A TRAVEL DAY
First, I stretch in the morning; however, my body will let me. I like doing light yoga to stretch out my lower back specifically and do some hip openers that my chiropractor taught me. I love doing an easy flow along with Yoga With Adriene if I have time.
For pain management, I keep a small pill box which hilariously is a salad dressing container from the container store. It contains Motrin, Tylenol, Dramamine in case pain makes me nauseous, magnesium to help me sleep, and even stronger prescription NSAIDS if necessary in case of emergencies.
Under my clothes, I’ll wear a heat pack. The heat packs for menstrual pain are genius, but the lower-back packs can also work in a pinch. And yes – these are allowed at the airport. I tend to not wear mine through security – I’m sure you can, but I tend to put it on later because that process makes me sweat anyway.
In my carry-on, I bring a small plug-in heating pad that I lay or sit on and let the other heat patch and medicine do their work after landing or while in the lounge. I don’t always bring this along, but if I know there’s a chance for a flare-up, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
I try to avoid heavy foods, lots of dairy, heavy carbs, alcohol, sugar, more than one cup of coffee or caffeine, or any other dietary trigger if I’m trying to manage endo symptoms. Really brings out the joy of vacation, right?
While we often can’t change the cards we’re dealt, we can learn to work with them instead of fighting them or letting them take over. On travel days like this, I try to actively take my time, slow my pace, and do my best instead of fitting it all in, racing across the airport, indulging in carby snacks, or stressing out. Why? Because on flare-up days, that’s all I can do. And I’ll also say – Andrew has always been the perfect example of a supportive partner who loves someone with endo. He’s gone out of his way to pick up anything that will soothe my pain, leave me alone to rest, bring me whatever I need, or make sure I’m okay if I’m clearly not talking as much.
If you have endo or love anyone with it – be gracious to yourself and to others. We’re all just out here trying to make it from A to B in one way or another. You never know what others are dealing with, be it endometriosis or something much worse. But this is one of the reasons we insist on traveling as often as we do. We aren’t promised tomorrow, much less a long, healthy life full of adventure. So, fit in the adventure wherever however you can. As one of my favorite Youtube yoga instructors, Adriene, always says, find what feels good.
Have an exciting upcoming trip to plan for? Check out our most tried-and-true ways to plan a killer travel itinerary!