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Adventures in Attending a Festival With My Illeostomy Bag

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As a festival goer, I’ve always been one to over pack. You prepare for every weather condition going along with emergency clothes just in case. There’s always at least three bags worth of stuff, but this year was my first with an extra bag! That bag specifically being an ileostomy bag after losing the whole of my large bowel earlier in the year — well I didn’t lose it, more like it was ripped out of me by highly paid and incredibly skilled surgeons — just under four months ago.

In hindsight, it was probably too early to go to a festival so soon, but after such a rubbish time, I needed to go be in a field with like-minded humans, food, friends and music. So I did it and I survived! It wasn’t one of my finest ideas, the outcome being utterly exhausted, but I’m super strong, I’ve always had to be strong! I didn’t ask permission from any sort of doctor. Why would I? It’s funny what some people think. In fairness, they would likely have said “ooh it’s a bit soon.” I would have thought “hmmm yeah” for a few seconds, then I would have done what I wanted to do anyway! You can’t change the habit of a lifetime. Or at least the lifetime of fighting illnesses! Smashed it. All of it!

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How was it with the extra bag? Well, that is what this story is about! Generally speaking, the idea of emptying and changing stoma bags at a festival sounds pretty horrifying, and at first I thought I’d never get to go to a festival again. I’m generally not the giving up type and I tend to not listen to the majority of opinions. Whilst losing my bowel was a new thing, I’ve been having brain surgery for 22 years, so I’m used to the whole making alterations to life, but not giving up.

The only joy I ever had from my bowel was the fact I was always constipated and very rarely needed to use the toilet for that kind of thing at a festie! A bonus!

I did discover an issue, that being, disabled portaloo could really use a light. It’s impossible to ensure you’re emptying into the toilet without a light. It’s pitch black, baring in mind I am also severely partially sighted and have pretty much zero night vision. You definitely do not want to kneel on the floor; even the thought of that is pretty disturbing. It’s on the same scale as choosing to sit in between two scary clowns. You just don’t do it. So, I’m squatting and hoping for the best. The noise of the emptying seems right. Little splats. This is OK. I’m doing it. Get me. The.. a different sounding splat. I got too excited that it was working. I felt like I had just climbed Everest in a bikini! Just like Rocky going up all those stairs!

I knew instantly that it had landed on my boot. This is a good time to be thankful for wearing Docs. Had it been the day before, I would have been wearing my suede trainers. Now that would have been traumatic! It’s been a while since I felt that lucky (apart from the whole being alive thing). When I opened that portaloo door, I felt like everything went in slow motion. In my head there was uplifting music (not the actual sound of the bass coming from the dance tent), my hair felt like I’d just stepped out of a salon and I felt invincible.

Who would’ve thought that poo-ing on your shoe in a portaloo could be so rewarding.

Getty image by nd3000

Originally published: September 25, 2021
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