When Margaret MacLennan learned she was having a procedure as a result of her ulcerative colitis that would leave her with an unsavoury bag attached to her stomach, she thought her bellydancing days were over.

But the 27-year-old decided to take it as an opportunity to get people talking about ostomies — bags attached to the body through an opening in the skin that collects waste. 

 dancer Margaret MacLennan

Bellydancer Margaret MacLennan won't let an ostomy bag stop her from performing on stage later this month. (CBC)

Last fall MacLennan got very sick and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the muscular tissues of the colon and rectum.

She's not sure yet how long she'll be stuck with the ostomy bag.

Friday was her first day back in the studio.

'For a while I thought I was going to have to quit belly dance, because having an ileostamy should be a career-ending illness for a bellydancer' -  Margaret MacLennan, bellydancer

“For a while I thought I was going to have to quit belly dance, because having an ileostamy should be a career-ending illness for a belly dancer,” she said.

“I was really upset for about a half hour, but it was only a half hour and I remembered that's not why I started dancing in the first place.”

Not uncommon

Last year Capital Health performed 350 ostomies in Nova Scotia.

Ostomy Halifax says MacLennan's story is inspirational.

“Your life doesn't stop,” said President Elaine Jeffrey. “You can go on, you travel, you have friends, you work and you can do whatever you did before.”

Now MacLennan is practising for a main stage performance in St. Johns, N.L., for the United Ostomy Association of Canada's annual general meeting in August.

“I have a lot of scar tissue to kind of get over, so I'm re-learning how to use all the muscles in my abdominal,” she said.

MacLennan's dance teacher is glad she's back.

“I was really happy because Margaret had made a comment I think on Facebook about not being able to dance again and I kind of lost it a little bit, because I think, like me, bellydancing is a huge part of her life,” says Laura Selenzi of Serpentine Studios.

MacLennan said it will take more than this for her to leave her dancing days behind her. 

“You'd probably have to kill me or chop off most of my legs. As long as I have a part of me that can dance, I'm still going to do it."