Cancer Chronicles 5: A Refusal.

This won’t be my first time ranting about ostomy bags. They are badly designed, with little thought, and they are spectacularly ugly. You have 3 colour choices: beige and clear, beige all the way, or beige and white. Let’s not pretend people are this ugly ass shade of beige, they aren’t. Medical supply companies are apparently still on the colonial system too: one shade fits all. It doesn’t. Why in the fuckety fuck don’t they make them in colours? People who are using these things have gone through a big change in their life, they aren’t dead, and many of us refuse to start walking about in ugly ass smocks or shirts 2 sizes too big to try and hide them, and we happen to like colour. A range of solid colours would be good. Good in every way, because colours are cheerful, and they tend to make people feel better. It’s not enough I get to deal with a colostomy, I have to deal with deadly ugly and depressing too? No, I refuse. I also refuse to be complicit in helping medical supply companies keep the stigma of such procedures alive and well. Who in the fuck wouldn’t be trying to cover up that level of ugly? So…

© C. Ford.

enter Sharpie Markers. :D A couple of the bags are gessoed, a couple are not. The markers need a small amount of dry time, after that, they’re golden, no smears. This is all quick and dirty, nothing fantastic, but it’s not deadly beige. Fuck beige, I never want to see it again. It should be struck off the official colour list. These are, of course, my out and about bags. I can’t be arsed to do this for when I’m just working at home, but when I do have to go out, I’ll feel much better about them. If you’re stuck with a deadly ugly beige medical appliance which is fabric, Sharpie makes a lovely range of fabric markers, and there’s a whole lot of fabric paint out there too, all of it stable and washable! I say it’s time for a full on revolt against the standard, racist, ugly ass beige medical supply sticks everyone with. Fuck that noise. Fuck cancer, too.

And a huge shout out to Sharpie for some great products!


  1. says


    “They may be full of shit, but at least they don’t suck!”

    :falls over laughing: Oh, I love that. I’d really love that on a business card. : D

  2. Raucous Indignation says

    That is wonderful!! I’ve never seen any patient, not one, ever decorate their ostomy supplies before. Did you leave a little window to the inside to check on the goings on? Some of the opaque bags have that feature. Good to know what’s passing through? I guess? There are like a dozen different manufacturers, although I see you’re using Hollister. Most of the companies offer free samples. The only real differences seem to be the type of adhesive and skin barrier technology. Medical suppliers actually do want to improve their products for their patients. Ostomy supply sales are probably pretty competitive. Nothing to really differentiate one brand from the next. Are the patients really interested in the different skin barrier technologies? I doubt it. But your bags are tremendous. What I say next is completely without mockery or sarcasm. I mean it in all seriousness. I think you should reach out to the ostomy companies. I’m sure you’re not the only one who feels the way you do. More color would be great. They already do that for cast material. And I bet the reason they don’t think do it for ostomy bags (very serious subject!) is the perceived stigma, but why not color? Maybe you could be the first to have your own line of designer ostomy supplies?

  3. says

    Raucous Indignation:

    I was working on one in the hospital while Rick was being prepped, and one of the nurses scooched over to talk to me about it, and is the same as me, wondering why the hell they don’t come in colours. When it comes to medical supply, a huge part of the problem, the basis of it, actually, is systemic racism. I don’t remember when, but quite sometime back, crayon companies finally got a clue about that pesky “flesh” crayon. I have sets of paints which have “flesh” colour, and of course, it’s all based on white people. Might be nice if medical people got a clue about that one. Thing is, people come in a wonderful array of colours, and not one of them is “medical flesh”. Think about all the medical accessories which are that fucking awful colour.

    Ages ago, I stopped using the standard “flesh” colour bandages for two reasons. 1, the colour. 2, band-aids made for children actually stay on, and they are colourful.

    Hollister wasn’t my choice, that’s what came with the scrip. Given how much the damn things cost, which is bloody outrageous, they could be so much better, in every respect. All of them should come with air vents. All of them should come with a set of cutters for all sizes. All of them should come in a wide range of colours. And if you ask me, they should also be available in a wide range of patterns.

    And yes, the stigma is, of course, a part of it too, but most of the medical supply business is stuck in a couple centuries back with the “flesh” crap. I’ll consider saying something. Right now, my plate is kinda full, and I have to say, it pisses me off no living end that not one single person working in this field ever once thought, hey, colour!

    I think the cast colours are fab, but y’know that was done for kids. I hate the assumption that adults have no use for colour.

  4. says

    For that matter, adult colouring books are a thing now. Why not printed colour your own bags? And I’m not looking to make a ton of money, I want people empower themselves, and start standing up and saying NO when it comes to ugly, depressing design just because it’s medical in nature. That’s lousy, especially when you consider that most people who have to use such stuff already have enough to deal with, and I’d think there would be someone who was capable of considering the psychological welfare of patients.

  5. Raucous Indignation says

    There are a number of manufacturers that make vented bags, some with activated charcoal too.

  6. Raucous Indignation says

    Didn’t we all find out that “flesh” colored crayons and Testors paints were nothing like any flesh anyone had ever seen? On living people, at least. I think that is the earliest developmental moment where systemic racism is that obvious. Flesh is supposed to be kinda pasty white people color? But even white people don’t really come in that shade and what the eff are these people thinking?

  7. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Caine, I applaud your efforts.
    I have wished I could have had the Redhead communicate with you, but she wasn’t going to touch a computer, much less the iPad I bought for her. I suspect you two could have have talked for days about designs.

  8. voyager says

    Those are the most wonderful ostomy bags I have ever seen, and I saw a lot when I was nursing. Solid waste never looked so good!
    For the record, I think colour your own bags are a seriously great idea. Imagine the impact that could have if you were a kid. Or a colour obsessed adult giving cancer the big fuck you.

  9. Raucous Indignation says

    Lots of medical supplies do come in that tan color. The systemic racism is there, for sure. That’s an actual pigment they have to add to the polymer when they make that stuff, right? So someone chose it. But exam gloves are mostly blue or purple now.
    Someone had to decide on that too. Sterile gloves for the OR are now either undyed latex or colorful when the glove is synthetic. I don’t always see the systemic tendrils that are wormed into everything. I know they are there. Sometimes I just don’t see them. Not every day has a clear WTF Testors moment. I was hesitant to post my first comment. I didn’t want to offend. I will say there are people in the medical world who actually get it. Many POC and women work in the field at all levels. A lot of us are natural born SJW types. But we’re immersed in the same culture. Both of my partners are POC. One sees it and the other absolutely doesn’t. I keep trying to see more clearly. I bet there’s someone in an ostomy supply company somewhere that would love to add some color. If they can only convince Corporate …

  10. kestrel says

    These are terrific! I love them! What a great way to brighten up someone’s day. I hope something will come of this… I’m thinking of all the happiness it would bring into lives that could sure use it.

    Oh gaak, that “flesh” color crayon. When I started kindergarten I got into a LOT of trouble because we were asked to do a self-portrait, and I used a brown crayon… I observed at a young age that adults get oddly emotional about some really weird and inconsequential crap. Then, later on, when I was maybe 6, I got a new set of crayons and was happily using every color I could to draw a horse, just to see and use all the colors, and was told by an adult that I was “wrong” and that “horses are brown”. ! WTF? I thought adults did not want me to use that brown crayon… You just can’t make people happy.

  11. says

    Perhaps something like a sort of tea cosy…
    Maybe with spikes? Hmmm…. poly-rubber spikes would be pretty easy to do…

    A bag decorated with a Donald Trump head would be unsettling, but there has to be a play on “shithole” there I’m just not seeing.

  12. chigau (違う) says

    The decorated bags are quite lovely.
    I like to think of FutureArchaeologists excavating them.
    (Obviously Ceremonial)
    …I wonder if I could knit a washable cover…

  13. says

    Great idea. Maybe the bags themselves could be done without colour, but patients could get a choice of coloured belts/holsters or some such. Like gypsum casts on broken legs -- people used to paint them and decorate them, today there are already coloured immobilizers for some cases.

    But those cost extra money.

    Medical supplies in general are drab and thus they often ad insult to injury. Hospital rooms are unicolor and depressing. The medical industry is only slowly catching on. In part because it is seen as improper to spend money on something that is not “essential” and the health insurance covers only the bare minimums (even here, alas) and keeping patients happy is seen as a “luxus”.

  14. jazzlet says

    They are wonderful Caine!

    You are so right about colour bringing happiness too and bringing coour to something that is the very symbol of the disease says ‘fuck you cancer’ like nothing else can. I love the idea of colour you own ones too.

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