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Travelling From A Spouse's Perspective

Travel can be a challenging task for IC patients. There have been several instances over the years when my wife and I have had to shorten, modify, or even cancel travel plans because of this disease. We never know what obstacles we will face once we leave our home, however we know the obvious ones.

My wife Gaye was diagnosed with IC two months before our wedding. During that time I was finishing my dissertation on learning disabilities. I began to see how my training might apply to modifying our lifestyle to IC. For example, many of the learning disabled individuals I helped had trouble following directions to a job interview. So, I would suggest that they drive to the location of the interview the day before in order to reduce their stress. The same technique has helped us, except instead of not knowing how to get somewhere, we take trial runs to learn where bathrooms are located.

Sometimes I'm a little hard on Gaye before a trip. I remind her not to cheat on her diet, because I want her to be well. Even on a trip I can be confronting when I don't want her to hurt herself with the wrong foods or activities. I even make her mad at times, and I know that I am being a bit selfish because when she is in a flare-up our plans have to change.

Although I consider myself an old pro at traveling with a person with IC, I still feel resentful at times when trips do not turn out as I had hoped. I try to deal with these negative feelings by learning to be realistic, especially about my expectations. I do not build up high hopes about anything. Then, if things work out, I am pleasantly surprised.

At first, like other couples, my wife and I learned to travel the difficult way - through trial and error. As time has passed we have learned to anticipate problems and plan accordingly. I would like to share some of things we think about as we plan a trip:

1. Feeling in control - Schedule trips when your partner is strongest. This may mean avoiding times of the month when IC symptoms have a chance of flaring, or it may mean avoiding trips during certain seasons that bring allergies. Try to keep the length of trips reasonable. Taking several three-day trips in a year, instead of one seven-day trip, may be more manageable.

2. Psychological Security - I know that this is obvious, however we have found that it is necessary to know where bathrooms are located where we live and when we travel. We often will not drive on a freeway if there is the possibility of a traffic jam or a lack of bathrooms (rest stops and fast food restaurants) along the route, even if it will take longer.

3. Flying - The unpredictability of airport and airline food can be problematic. Many IC patients find it helpful to fly in the late afternoon or early evening so that they can have a good/bladder-safe breakfast and lunch prior to the flight (the bladder is most active in the morning and early afternoon). It is always a good idea to bring food on the plane and sit in the isle seat so not to disturb other passengers during frequent trips to the bathroom.

4. Environmental Sensitivities - My wife's chemical sensitivities put her at risk when she leaves the safety of her home. We always reserve or ask for a non-smoking room and a room that has not been recently painted or cleaned with air fresheners, scents, sprays, or ozone machines. We put scented soaps etc. in drawers and bring our own pillow and pillow cases.

I have found that my wife's chemical sensitivities have been more problematic during travel than her bladder. There have been several instances in which we have had to be assertive with hotel managers and ask to switch rooms because of fumes. We have even had to leave one hotel and go to a more expensive one in order to meet our special needs. Although I did not like spending additional money, it was one of the best investments that I have made because the rest of the trip was a big success!

5. Staying with other people -
Family members and friends, however well-meaning, often do not understand the unique problems of the IC patient. The same chemical sensitivity issues that can come up in a hotel can also apply to others' homes. Feelings can be hurt when problems such as midlew or scents are pointed out. Sharing a bathroom is also not ideal, nor is sharing food. The IC patient can go hungry if the dinner prepared is not bladder-safe.

We often choose to stay in a hotel and rent a car, instead of staying in the homes of friends or family members and depending on rides. The privacy of a hotel room helps my wife rest and pace herself during a trip. Some hotel rooms also have kitchens. This can very helpful when restaurant availability and food are a problem. Having a car enables us to find a variety of restaurants, or go to a grocery.
One has to always consider the possibility that friends and family members will feel offended if the IC patient stays in a hotel. However, relationships with these people can also become strained when IC becomes an issue in their homes. Quality of time is often more important than the quantity of time you spend with others!

6. Driving in a car - We always make other people aware of the problems (i.e., need for frequent bathroom stops and dietary requirements) associated with IC prior to taking a road trip with them. We will not travel with those who are not accepting of this disease. We usually bring an ice-pack in a cooler, as well as a portable potty or a bag full of towels (as suggested by Jill Osborne) that can be used to cover up with, void into, and clean-up

7. Packing - My wife always brings her medication and doctor's phone number. We have found that it is better to bring too many things, instead of not enough, in case of emergencies.

8. Physical Stress - Travel can be physically compromising. Sitting in one position for too long in new environments, such as cars or airplanes, standing in lines, lifting and carrying bags, even when they are light, can affect muscles and posture, and result in pain. Daily stretching is essential.

Exercise of the Month

(4) Side Stretch (Standing)
Lateral torso muscles, shoulder girl

Starting Position
Stand with feet wider than hips and angled out at about 45 degrees. Stretch arms over head by earts and secure wrist with opposite hand.

Slightly shift body weight over to side of secured wrist. Bend knee and stretch upper body in opposite direction. Head follows stretch. Repeat on other side.

Shifting weight too far to side of bent knee

(5) Spine Stretch

Starting Position
Stand with feet angled out, one foot half way in front of the other. Loosely cup hands around the back of the head. Thumbs along the bottom of the skull. Do not lock fingers. Relax ankles.

Inhale, stretch up. Exhale, stretch head back (eyes looking as far back as possible) and gently bring elbows toward each other. Hold.
Release hands and arms and allow head to resume normal position before repeating with opposite foot in front.

Ever pushing head forward with hands, rocking up on toes or locking knees.

About The Authors:
Gaye is an author and IC patient & support group leader who has been involved in IC work for years. In 1990 she published "Stretch Into a Better Shape" and produced a stretching and exercise video for IC patients in 1993. She is a specialist in Aston-Patterning movement and muscle re-education.

Andrew has over ten years of clinical and health care management position. He is currently the Administrator of Maison Hospitaliere, located in New Orleans. Andrew holds a Ph.D. in Special Education, a M.A. of Health Adminstration, M.A. of Clinical Psychology.

They welcome your comments and feedback on their articles at: The Sandlers

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