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An Exciting and Terrifying Adventure with My Stoma

Shirley, her husband, and her stoma “Winnie” embarked on the adventure of a lifetime while traveling around Southeast Asia. Part 1 describes their decision to sign up, and in Part 2 below, read about their epic journey!

Our grand send-off

It was Monday, August 13th, 2018 at 10 AM as we drove over the start line of the Indian Rickshaw Rally. We drove out in a line of over 80 auto-rickshaws to a real royal send-off. It was so loud and colorful; there were drummers drumming, bands playing, people shouting, dancers, and even camels being paraded. Flying streamers filled the air as they were boomed out of some kind of device and showered each rickshaw in turn, as we were officially sent on our way with the waving of the huge checkered flag.

We were the oldest participants

Looking around at all the other brightly painted rickshaws and their excited teams, we were definitely the oldest participants. Most were groups of three young men, primarily in their 20s and early 30s. Teams containing British Army Tank Commanders, Indian Doctors, and lots of “youngsters” on gap years looking for excitement. How could we possibly compete against the likes of these physically fit “young ones?”

The largest amount of luggage was for my stoma

The rickshaw was packed to almost bursting as we left. Luckily, we had a roof rack as we had one large backpack containing all we would need for the rally, including tools for the inevitable breakdowns, clothes, small gifts for children along the way, etc. But the largest amount of luggage by far was for “Winnie” (my stoma). I had two small suitcases full of everything I could get my hands on. Pouches, night bags, a nightstand, adhesive remover, barrier sprays, stoma paste, adhesive strips (these are a half-moon shaped, sticky plaster that is placed around the baseplate for extra security), disposal bags, etc. I think a baby would have needed less luggage than “Winnie”! Then, we had one additional backpack full of our clothes and toiletries and so forth. My husband and I would be spending the next two weeks almost living in this auto-rickshaw, only stopping to eat and sleep.

I was so excited and terrified

As we crossed the start line, I was so excited and so darn terrified at the same time. This was a rally that required stamina, something  I hadn’t had for a long time, as I had suffered severely with fatigue due to my cancer. Plus, I had “Winnie” – was she going to cause me any problems on this epic adventure? Well, we were off, and that was it, no turning back now! Too many people had put their faith in me with sponsorships and words of encouragement.

So we set off, soon the noise of the start line had disappeared, and we were off to ‘God knows where’. We had a rough route planned but that could change at a moment’s notice as road closures and undriveable roads became a regular occurrence.

We had lots of breakdowns

It was hard going, I’m not going to lie. Each day became harder and harder. 5 AM wake-ups to get on the road early, brief stops for food and water, and the inevitable stops for requested “selfies” along the way. We never knew what town or village we would be staying in as it depended on road conditions and breakdowns. Yes, we had lots of breakdowns, 16 in all, plus we were stopped by the police 6 times, and our claim to fame was the auto-rickshaw catching fire as we entered into the state of Goa!

So, how was Winnie?

You may be reading this now and thinking, “So, how was Winnie?” Well, I can tell you that she behaved impeccably; in fact, she was a blessing. I didn’t need to go in search of a “western” toilet. I could “pee” anywhere. And “pee” anywhere I did! In fields, behind trees, at the rear of wagons and those hole in the ground toilets didn’t bother me one bit. After all, I can stand and pee now.

We completed the rally a day early

We completed the rally a day ahead of schedule and were the 4th team to enter the city of Bangalore. The rally was due to finish in Kerala, but due to extensive flooding in the area, the endpoint was changed to Bangalore.

We then drove through the city to the finish line. I was greeted with hugs and kisses and big pats on my back from the English Tank Commanders. They knew of my cancer, and word had spread amongst the youngsters. I was greeted so warmly and with respect by all. They couldn’t believe that I had a stoma and had completed the rally at the “front of the pack”. To be honest, neither could I!

And lastly, but more importantly, Hubby and I raised over $3200 dollars for a bladder cancer charity!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.