Friday, July 13, 2012

Guest Post: Matt's Story

A diagnosis of IBD sometimes makes us think that there's a set of limitations to living. We love to hear gutsy stories of IBDers who pursue their dreams and become fantastic role models for us all. Cue Matt's blog below - see how he is living above and beyond his disease.

'Arctic Adventures & IBD'

Anyone who has IBD knows that long distance travel (or travel at all) can be an anxiety filled and sometimes terrifying experience. These feelings are usually made worse during travel because bathrooms may not be easy to access and sometimes aren't even there at all. I've personally dealt with this problem and overcome many of these concerns during my trips to Canada's high Arctic, where I've travelled to for work.

Standing next to our toilet less plane!
I suppose I should start with my IBD story (although so many of ours are the same). I was hospitalized and diagnosed three years ago with severe pan-colitis. Like many twenty-somethings, I chose to ignore the several warning signs that I was spiraling into something very severe. Thankfully during my stay in the 'big house' I was put on Remicade which put me back in remission (more or less). After this experience I slowly got back to work, and about six months later the opportunity came up to go to a place called Arctic Watch, which is a wilderness lodge 500 km above the arctic circle in Canada's high arctic. How could I say no?!

Standing next to the Northwest Passage (and a Bowhead whale spine)

After packing all my expedition gear and buying an extra couple of pairs of long underwear to stay warm, I flew out of Ottawa headed to Yellowknife. Flying can be a pretty stressful experience for us IBDers. I made sure to book seats close to the washroom and made sure I was sitting in the aisle row. All of that organization couldn't prepare me for the shock of realizing our charter from Yellowknife up to Arctic Watch  had no washroom! We were going to be departing on a two hour flight to Cambridge Bay and then a two and a half hour flight onto Arctic Watch, and I was nervous. I put on my poker face and hoped for the best; there was no turning back now. The fight turned out to be an amazing experience (as the view from above of Nunavut is beautiful) and accident free!
Hard at work shooting video at the Thule historic sites
My second large shock came when we were headed out for a day on the land. We would spend the days watching belguas, tracking muskox, and even trying to track down polar bears.  There were certainly no toilets out on the Tundra, but there also weren't even any trees to hide behind! The approach I took to help me through was staying focused on my goal of shooting the best possible nature photos and footage. Getting my mind off washroom anxiety worked and I made it through the entre week with no accidents (but maybe some close calls)!

Shooting photos of Muskox (in the distance)
To sum up my experiences; it may be scary, very scary even, to go to a place that can't provide adequate washroom access. But, that shouldn't be a reason not to try new things and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I realize this doesn't apply to all of us IBDers of course, but as I write this (sitting on a plane headed back up to Arctic Watch for the second time) I can safety say: "IBD doesn't stop me!"


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