Just a few days after getting home from my recent hospitalization, lying in bed in pain from my pelvic drain,
restless and unable to sleep at around 2am, I was absent mindedly scrolling through my twitter feed and stumbled across an unusual tag. Curious I clicked on it and was amazed to find dozens of pictures of bellies, abdomens and stomachs of all different shapes, colours and sizes. Some had scars, some had staples, some had stomas, some had ostomies – all of them had one thing in common…yes you guessed it – all had Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease.
The tag #GetYourBellyOut is the best campaign to raise awareness for Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis I’ve seen in years. Yes it was inspired by the no make up selfie twitter campaign for Cancer Research UK, but when something works that well why not adapt it and use it to promote other causes and help tens of thousands of people across the world. It’s inspired a heck of a lot of people, increased public understanding of IBD, helped raise money for Crohn’s and Colitis UK, but best of all it has given people strength and most importantly of all HOPE.
To say the pictures in this hashtag are inspiring would be an understatement. For IBD sufferers across the world they are life changing. Every single person who has taken a picture of their stomach has given hope to someone and helped the public finally understand that having Crohn’s/Colitis or/and an ostomy is nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of. In fact we are showing the world one cheeky stomach at a time that we don’t give a shit, and that we want the world to know about this illness so that more can be done to help both those suffering from IBD and all those who in the future have to go through the horrific ‘in the dark’ pre diagnosis stage, we all shudder to remember these days.
IBD is a disease which is often thought of as embarrassing, taboo and is hidden behind the toilet cubicle door. But as more celebrities come out to the press with the condition the public’s awareness is increasing, but its a slow journey to understanding. This campaign is literally pulling this disease out of the toilet stall and into the public domain. What you see is what you get – let’s not be ashamed, join together and educate the world. So I’ve added some pictures of my own abdomen to remind you of the journey my tum has been through over the past two years alone.
As you all know since I was first diagnosed I haven’t hidden my IBD from the world, in fact since I had my ileostomy operation I have become a loud and proud Ostomate. But I remember how hard it was to show my stoma the world for the first time. I remember the first post when I showed the world Winnie naked (without her bag) and raw, I remember feeling nervous and scared that people would think I was a freak, i half expected a barrage of hate on twitter from people slating the way I looked. But what I got when I posted the photo out to the world was more acceptance and love than I could have ever imagined. It was incredible. The understanding and acceptance was enough to reduce me to tears. I gained hundreds of followers within hours and my blog was shared across the world. I had heartfelt messages from people telling me how brave I was, how amazing I looked, how I had given them strength and hope, how I had made them less nervous about their ostomy, I even had celebrities retweeting the picture in the hope to spread awareness of IBD and stomas – I was surprised and overwhelmed.
This campaign is just like that all over again but on a much larger scale. I wish I’d thought of it, I’m so glad that @ColitisandMe did. The idea is beautiful. For any woman, man, child with IBD posting your abdomen online can be a horrifying notion. I mean many of us have battle scars, stomas, bags, drains, stitches, bruises from injections, weight loss, open wounds, and those that don’t often suffer from bloating and pain in that area. I understand why people think twice about letting anyone see their stomach, for years I didn’t want anyone to see mine at all and heaven help you if you tried to touch my abdomen. But scrolling through the hashtag shows that we may all different shapes, sizes and have different battle wounds but we are all beautiful and our bodies tell a story of courage, bravery, determination and hope. Every one of the pictures tells a different story; some have had surgery many times, others have lost vast amounts of weight, others look toned and perfected in the gym. But no matter how different they are our stomachs have been through a lot and we are still here and hopefully inspiring others.
I like to think of my scar as a little reminder of everything I’ve been through and I’m still going through. Next year I will get round to getting that tattoo to permanently etch my battle onto my skin. I’m proud of what I’ve coped with and managed to achieve despite my illness, and I’m hoping this social media campaign makes people feel the same way. I know some celebrities have already got on board with this campaign but I hope more do soon to spread awareness and of course raise cash for Crohn’s and Colitis UK. If this campaign helps just one person not feel alone with their illness and gives just one person hope, or educates one employer or school, then it will be a step in the right direction.
I’ve joined the hash tag and posted pictures of my stomach, scar, ostomy bag and all. So what are you waiting for, join the trend and make a difference. Come on, you could change a life forever!
To donate to the cause to raise money for Crohn’s and Colitis UK text IBDA99 & your donation to 70070 you can also follow the #GetYourBellyOut Facebook Page by clicking here. Or donate by LinkedIn here. Come on every penny helps!