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Camping with Crohn’s: What Could Go Wrong?

Later this week, I will be gathering my wits and a few meager resources, and heading off into the wilderness to test my mettle against both the elements and a complete lack of WiFi.

Normally, going camping wouldn’t phase me. I was a Girl Guide for fifteen years. I camped. Like, hike-for-hours-sleep-in-a-tent-cook-over-a-campfire-camping. Gold-level stuff. I’ve also watched enough movies know all the Rules for Surviving. Don’t be young, beautiful, and blonde. Check. Don’t sneak off to have illicit sex. Okay. Don’t piss off nature, ancient spirits, or vengeful teenagers. Fine.

But I have Crohn’s disease. Between-treatments-currently-rampant Crohn’s disease. Leaving the house seems like a Bad Idea. Camping seems downright foolish.

I’ll be honest. The “camping” is actually a music festival. One that I’ve been to before (while pregnant and with a j-pouch, no less). Yes, I will be sleeping in a tent, but there are also flush toilets, yoga classes, and a mustache competition (no, I am not competing). Hell, I’m even taking a French press. But still.

So what could I possibly have to be worried about? I’ll tell you.

Problem  #1: the toilets.

Okay, this is an obvious issue for anyone with IBD. Yes, there is a toilet block. But there are also other people using that toilet block. So what about the sounds? The smells? The mean girls glancing at me sideways as they nudge their friends and suppress their giggles?

Solution: “Call of the Wild” Poopourri and death-stare. The great thing about festivals is everyone’s bowels increase in both frequency and fragrance. This festival, in particular, tends to produce an overwhelming odor of craft-batch gin and kale lubricant. Everyone will be either self-conscious about their own business or having too much fun to care. The mean girls? Lucky for me, I  love confrontation. To try to intimidate or embarrass me is to invite me to open my mouth, and god help you then.

Problem#2: the outhouse

The toilet block is great: when it’s open. But it closes at 11:00 pm. After that, I’ll have to fend for myself. In the outhouse. In the dark. With Crohn’s. It’s daunting to the point of hold-it-till-morning. The husband wants to custom-make a toilet to keep in the tent. In the tent. But I just can’t. He’s also suggested a headlamp to light my way, but I’m worried how much of the inside of the outhouse I’ll see. I’m also concerned that someone may see the light filling the tiny wooden structure and break down the door in an attempt to save me from an alien abduction.

Solution: clip-on flashlights, wipes, regret that I didn’t get the headlamp or the tent-toilet.

Problem #3: food.

I can eat everything but mushrooms and celery (due to the obstruction risk). But festival food is an unknown, which can be catastrophic to a compromised digestive system. Is it going to be too spicy? (Great until it comes out the other end.) Too greasy? (My body won’t even try to digest it.) Hygienic? (I do not need any more diarrhea, thanks.) What if I can’t get enough to eat? (Wolves always go for the weak.)

The vision of myself clawing my way through food trucks, my jutting collar bones poking out eyes bulging from behind Buddy Holly frames as I try to find something, even a tub of brusselmole, to eat, is too much to bear.

Solution: Precut, prewash, pre-marinate, and vacuum-pack a variety of meat, vegetables, and fruit. Add a camp stove and a box of wine and boom, I’ll be the envy of all the cactus-jerky munchers in sight.

Problem #4: dehydration.

With good weather comes the sun. Hot, hydration-sucking sun. I get infusion-requiring dehydration sitting in my own house, so going outside is risky. And it’s not as simple as “drink more water”. The more water I drink, the more I pee. End of. Although not leaving my tree-shaded tent is the most obvious way to prevent both existential and actual desiccation, that would defeat the purpose of my attending the festival in the first place.

Solution: parasols, floppy hats, water, and electrolyte solution.

Problem #5: myself.

The main problem, the actually only real problem with this entire scenario, is me. I’m already sick. But what if I get worse? Although I will be reasonably close to civilization, it’s still a campground in the woods, hours away from a hospital. This is what should stop me from going, because it is the one thing I cannot manage. I can take my injections and my pills, manage my pain, eat the right things, stay out of the sun, and drink a river of electrolytes, but I cannot control my own body. If it decides to take the Crohn’s up a notch, it will, and I will be a helpless passenger, languishing among a gyrating crowd of ironic plaid shirts, the glare from acres of hair pomade burning me with the fire of a thousand suns.

So fear is my greatest challenge here, the only real one. The one that I can’t plan or pack for. But because I do love a good confrontation, I can’t pass this opportunity up. If I can survive this, and I know I can, then it is something else I have overcome. It may seem like a small victory, and one that many people take for granted, but with chronic illness, sometimes this is as good as it gets. Each victory moves me forward to the next, and every win for me is one less for my disease.

Solution: put on my big girl pants and hope for the best.

So wish me luck. If I survive, I’ll let you know how it goes. And if I don’t, know that I went down fighting, a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in my hand, and a kumbayah in my heart.