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To Festival or Not to Festival with An Ostomy?

I won’t lie, despite some of the rather crazy and adventurous things I’ve done post-surgery, I wasn’t half nervous to attend my first full weekend festival with my stoma…

I’ve attended numerous day festivals since undergoing stoma surgery whereby I could retreat to the comforts of a hotel and room service or, even my own bed on occasions! However, I had not yet attended a full weekend festival since about a month before my first emergency surgery back in my UC ridden days – needless to say, it didn’t end well.

Perhaps this is why I was so nervous? Or perhaps, it’s completely normal to feel that way? (I believe, it’s the latter). However, there is no reason why we should hold back from attending festivals (or anything we may choose in that case) as ostomates. With a little extra planning, we can have the best time too – after all, it is likely that you were given your stoma to save your life so, it would be rude not to live and enjoy it if you’re at a stage that you can (and, if boogying in the mud is your choice of fun that is).

So, I’ve composed a little list of tips and advice having recently attended my first weekend festival with a stoma that I hope you may find helpful this festival season or, may even use to inspire planning a future festival!

RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH

I must admit, I can be a bit of an OCD planner however, there is nothing wrong with this and more often than not, there is an abundance of useful information out there before hand. People work for months preparing for a festival so there is certainly no harm in dropping a quick email requesting additional information with regards to disabled camping (which as ostomates, we qualify for), special access toilet schemes, additional (more bearable) showering facilities or anything else that may be worrying you. I must admit, some are far better than others in terms of how accommodating they are and how much more ‘bearable’ those allocated facilities are but, nevertheless, certainly worth asking and finding out beforehand.

Although it is rare, and, everybody’s worst nightmare in this situation, you never know who may wander into your tent… The likelihood is that they won’t be interested in stealing your spare stoma supplies, however, I do highly advise storing your spares and more importantly, any medication you may have, in multiple locations so that if in the unlikely circumstance anything does happen, you have back up.  Did you know that most festivals have a free service that you can store your meds in safe, designated places that only you can access? Bigger festivals also tend to have medication fridges for anything that needs to be kept safely at a specific temperature.

Become a pro at bag changing from the comforts of your tent…. Believe me, although it may take a little extra prep, it is 100 times cleaner, more comfortable and more successful than attempting it in a four day old unemptied portaloo that has no flush, no aircon, no loo roll,  nowhere to put anything and absolutely no space to move (not to mention the building queue of inpatient drunks waiting outside…). I even perfected the technique of emptying my bag into nappy bags over the course of the weekend which again, although doesn’t sound it, was a lot more pleasant than the previous plus, it meant not having to make multiple trips in the dark during the night – who’s the real winner?!

WATER WATER WATER

You get even more dehydrated when you’re singing and boogying particularly when you throw heat, saturated foods and alcohol into the mix! A large majority of festivals offer a free tap water scheme so be sure to take some empty reusable bottles and be sure to top up. If you prefer bottled, I highly suggest you seek out the cheaper locations sooner rather than later. Some stalls, particularly those nearer the main stage tend to rip you off, I paid up to £4 for a 500ml bottle, whereas if you visit the on-site supermarket for example, it is a much more affordable price. At the Isle of White this year, they even had a scheme where you got money back for returning your empty bottles and cans.

You can NEVER have too many wet wipes.

Unleash your inner granny if needs be – your deck chair WILL become your new best friend! Definitely don’t feel pressured to keep going, it can be hard work. Take a cheap deckchair in with you – there can be a lot of hanging around in-between acts, I assure you, everybody will be jealous by the end and there will be absolutely no judgement.

BUT WHAT TO WEAR!?

Whatever the hell you like! Anything goes at a festival and these are the least likely places that people are going to look twice at what you’re wearing or if you’re sporting something that clearly outlines your bag. Wear your PJ’S if that’s what you’re most comfortable in – literally. Anything goes so wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable, happy and confident.

This leads me on to my next top tip THE BUMBAG TRICK. This has been an absolute GAME CHANGER for me since undergoing surgery. Not only is a bumbag a perfect festival appropriate accessory AND a perfect safe way of carrying your spare supplies but, it also comes in as an incredibly handy cover up if you are a little bag conscious or want to hide a filling bag while you watch the remainder of an act without rushing to the loo.

YOU CAN NEVER TAKE TOO MANY SPARE SUPPLIES, EVER.

It sounds like an obvious one, but go with people that know you well – be honest and open with them about your potential concerns and don’t be afraid to ask them for help (on the second day of this particular festival, I was having serious leak after leak (urrgh) – my boyfriend and I found ourselves sprinting all the way back to our tent from the main stage holding my bag in place having changed it about 5 times already within that hour. Needless to say, he became my pro bag changing PA by the end of the weekend and had the routine down to the tee! You just have to take it with a pinch of salt, deal with it and laugh it off so that you can get back to enjoying as soon as you can.

It is inevitable that your diet is going to change. At my first festival post op, I was so so worried to eat in case it caused issues with my bag or output so, I went without (stupid move, Amber). Just don’t go overboard and don’t feel the need to have 20 fried burgers a day because someone else is (needless to say that would also cost a bomb!) There is an increasing varying of food choices at places like this that cater to all sorts of culinary needs – have a good wander the first day and suss out what might work best for you later that night when you’re wandering home with the munchies – you definitely don’t want to ruin it for yourself on the first day and regret it for the rest of the weekend! Be sure to stock up and take plenty of snacks that you know won’t disagree with you and that will tie you over – my go to’s are cereal bars, biscuits and brioche buns!!

I won’t be a bore and reiterate all of the usual advice bashed into us by our loved ones but, I will say, take it on board, it is, in fact, usually very good advice and worth taking on board. Know your surroundings, be sensible and most importantly, ENJOY.

Still unsure? Try a day festival first!

Amber

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