Except for a previous blog post about my knee replacement surgery, I have written little about my own health problems.

I take Toprol for moderate high blood pressure and an antihistamine for my many allergies. Otherwise, I am in relatively good health. But there is one exception. For the past four or five years I have suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

You have probably seen the ads on TV showing someone strolling through an airport searching out every restroom, duly noting their location in case of an emergency. That's me.

What started out years ago to be an occasional nuisance has become a major problem. I never know when the IBS is going to hit.

I have learned to identify certain foods that trigger an episode. Black pepper is the major culprit in my case. There are other foods that will trigger an attack, especially if I consume more than one within a few hours of each other or over-indulge in a known trigger, such as soy, high fructose corn syrup, fruit, soft cheeses and several other lesser irritants.

The condition has reached a point where it severely limits the things I can do and now impacts my quality of life.

I no longer feel free to travel and limit my activities to events that require me to be away from home for no more than two or three hours at a time. I always have to ask if there is black pepper in restaurant-prepared food. I have been in restaurants where there was nothing on the appetizer or entrée menu that I could eat. Better restaurants will usually try to accommodate me by preparing something special, but at other times I have found I was able to eat only a dinner roll and dessert.

A 70-mile drive last week with a friend to enjoy the fall foliage almost turned into an embarrassing disaster. We had been on the road for about forty-five minutes when the distressing cramps warned me that it was going to be a bad day. Lunch plans were cancelled and my friend, who was driving, immediately turned around.

We were still miles away from the nearest town, and the cornfields were looking more and more like a viable option as my friend hurried for home. We finally came to a small town with a country store, which I jumped out and ran for, as soon as the car stopped.

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The dour proprietor pointed me to a Port-A-Potty outside the door as my only option. I have always avoided those things like the plague, but, any port in a storm. Much to my friend's relief, we made it home without a disaster. But I don't think she is going to be inviting me on any road trips in the near future. That's what my life has come down to.

I have tried many things to mitigate the problem; peppermint capsules, Immodium, probiotics, avoiding coffee and tea, using lactose-free dairy products and various other remedies that have been suggested. Nothing seems to make much difference.

I have learned that stress is a contributing factor. But I am a caregiver. There is no way to avoid stress.

My daughter recently suggested that we take a three-week trip south after Christmas. I would dearly love to park Charlie with his daughter and hit the road with her, visiting friends and relatives along the way. But unless I decide to survive on a toothpick and a glass of water for the duration, I don't see that happening.

Ah—the Golden Years. My aunt used to say, "The only thing that's golden is my urine." So true.