About Me

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I'm Carole, living in London, happily married and mum to two amazing boys.I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Rectal Cancer in April 2010. Surgery took place in November 2010 and I now have a permanent colostomy...Spinal mets were then diagnosed in October 2011...In January 2012 I was told of further spread to the hip area (multiple lesions)..My life expectancy is now 6-9 months. Walk alongside me on the last part of my experience with this..

Monday, 28 March 2011

Travelling with a Colostomy Bag....

Before I organised my surprise visit to Rhodes I admit to being worried about moving outside my comfort zone with 'baggy'.......At home I'm in my routine, I know exactly where everything is and my daily routine now takes probably less time than going to the loo in a normal way would.

However being 'away' from home was something I'd not tackled previously - apart from my time in hospital of course....but that was when I still hated baggy, when it took up my every waking thought and was the cause of huge distress to me, initially.

So, before I went I read up on various different websites about any potential problems with travelling - particularly flying. I read that some people said it was 'fine, no effects at all' whilst others said their bag had 'inflated during flight', or been 'particularly noisy' and they'd felt embarrassed by it.
I decided the only way to find out was to try it and see!

I took all my supplies in my hand luggage for two reasons, firstly so that I could do as many changes as I felt I needed to and secondly just in-case my luggage went astray. I didn't fancy being stranded without bags for even a few days!

I can now say without a doubt that travelling with baggy is easy, no different from going to Sainsburys or anywhere else locally. It didn't inflate, it wasn't noisy and the whole flying experience was the same for me as for everyone who was bagless! :-)
I'd forgotten how noisy planes are anyway - even if it had decided to become fartybag for the whole journey, no-one could have heard anyway....but it didn't behave any differently to normal anyway.

Heathrow was an experience though...if this had happened to me a few months ago I would have been mortified and fallen apart in tears - but not now :-)

As I went through the scanner at Heathrow the alarm went off (this is 'normal' apparently for both me and Sarah - for some reason we both set off alarms for no apparent reason)

Security woman says in her 'stern' voice
'Step to one side and raise your arms'
She then uses her little handheld scanner on me which doesn't make a sound. So she then 'pats me down' and all is well until she arrives at the bag area.
'What's this?' she asks LOUDLY!
I say (perfectly calmly & quietly) 'It's a colostomy bag, I have a permanent colostomy'
'What's that then?' she says, again LOUDLY
By now a few people have turned around and are watching the developments with interest...they probably thought they were seeing a drug dealer caught leaving the country with their stash

I said 'I have a permanent bag attached, I have a stoma, I had cancer'
She says 'Lift your clothing so I can see it & investigate the contents'
I say 'Nope'
She says 'Pardon! What do you mean 'No'?'
I tell her I'm not lifting my top in view of everyone, and again say it's a colostomy bag that I have for medical reasons
She says 'What's in it then?' LOUDLY
I say 'Crap' (LOUDLY) because now I'm pissed off with her bossy attitude and mannerism towards me
She just looks puzzled and says 'I need to see what's in the bag'
I now start to laugh and say 'No you don't, really you don't want to see - trust me on this one'
Luckily I then spot her colleague standing just to the left of me and I ask him 'Excuse me, do *you* know what a colostomy bag is?'....
He replies 'Yes madam, I do indeed'
So I ask him if he can please explain it to his colleague without the need for me to show her - in public view of everyone!
He speaks to her in Urdu - she looks completely shocked and says 'Off you go then'

LOL! I can't believe I'm the FIRST person she's ever come across with a colostomy but if I am, I hope I've made her think about *how* to ask those difficult questions.

All was then well until I got to Athens - where I had to change flights. This is because there are no direct flights outside of the holiday season.

Going through security to get my connecting flight the (very nice) security man asks me to open my hand luggage bag and explains that the scanner has picked up a spray can. He says it's probably perfume or similar that I've forgotten about.
I open my bag and take out the spray (which I'm allowed to travel with) and he looks at it and says 'It's fine....may I ask why you have a colostomy?'..
I tell him it's because I had cancer and to remove my tumour I had to have a permanent colostomy'
He looks quite sad at this and says
'But you're so young!'..Lovely man :-)
I say 'Yes but at least I'm alive at the moment, eh' - he smiles and says 'Welcome to Greece, have a great time'

Yes! that's more like it Heathrow lady. It just takes a few moments to *think* about what you're doing and all is well.

I was also searched at Athens coming back - again the alarm went off (sigh) and although she scanned and then hand patted me down she completely missed the bag, so no need to go through it all again.

So, if you have a permanent colostomy (or a temporary one) and this is what directed you to my website I can tell you that travelling with your baggy will be fine :-)
Just be prepared to come across people who've not had any proper training in this area :-)
Apart from that, remember to pack your supplies in your HAND luggage and not your suitcase and all will be well.

Another note on the 'bag'...some people have asked me why I've not named it. Simple answer is because I never named my bum so I don't want to name my stoma. 'Baggy' it is and baggy it will stay.
Happy camping travellers :-)

Much luv xxxx


  1. Happy camping? You went camping?? lol

    On a serious note, glad to hear that the practical side of travelling with the bag was fine. Less impressed with the customer care training of the staff at Heathrow! It's horribly reminiscent of the attitude of gateline staff on the railways: a 'guilty until proven otherwise' approach. Mind you, that's as much down to the training they're given (and the emphasis on what purpose of their role is) as it is a reflection on the people doing the job. Although how many nurses have you come across in the last year who don't know what a stoma is? And they say education levels in this country aren't being dumbed down . . .

    *Gets off soapbox and wanders off to make a cup of tea*


  2. There's an Australian comedian, Adam Hills, who sometimes appears on 'Mock the Week' and tells how his artificial foot regularly sets off the metal detector systems when he is being screened at airports around the world.
    After Richard Reid in 2001, Adams foot was even more suspect.
    On Mock the Week he slips it into his stand-up comedy routine, sometimes taking the foot off and putting on the table.

  3. Well done sis, especially travelling alone, I'm so proud of you. You 'OL Bag!

  4. Oh my Carole! Quite an airport ordeal!! I cannot remember if I entirely knew about stomas and ostomies and colostomies and illeostomies before all this rained down on Sheri's and my parade. I guess I do now though and so does at least one more security agent at Heathrow!

  5. Carole,

    You handled airport security much more gracefully than I would have. I've taken a few domestic flights since surgery and have never had anyone questions or inquiries about "what's in the bag," much to my relief, but I'm sure at some point I'll find myself in that situation and try to keep your responses in mind.


  6. Hi Carole,
    I loved reading your 'adventures at the airport.
    It must have been difficult, but well handled!!!!
    I hope that the knowledge that you gained will encourage you on many more trips away!
    I am sure that there are many people out there who will benefit from your experiences......putting their minds at ease!
    My mind takes me all over the place when I think of naming bottoms and farting bags!
    Take care.
    Love 'n' stuff

  7. Hi Carole,
    Im an Aussie just about to travel for the first time since getting my bag. I would just like to say thankyou for making me feel much better about traveling and for the good laugh. I loved your blog, and by the way I did name my stoma "Quacka"as he always makes rude remarks at the wrong times. Lol

    Take care and again thankyou,

  8. Hi Wendy,

    Glad you saw the humour in this post and wishing you a great trip :)

    Hope 'Quacka' behaves but if he doesn't, no-one will hear above the noise of the engines anyway.

    Keep in touch - much luv xxXxx