Since she showed her slim figure off on her holiday I have been astonished by the bravery of Bethany Townsend. She is the young lady I tweeted about a few weeks ago when she shared her photos of her sunbathing in her bikini – I noticed her awesome tattoos before her colostomy bag!
I am delighted that my colleagues at The Mirror have run with this story, and have shown the world that having an ostomy bag is not disgusting but something that we should be able to show to the world without shame. I admire her spirit and courage.
She is a former model who gave it all up after being hit by Crohn’s and having to have surgery. I know how terrifying that can be – and I hope that she will become one of the first ostomate models – because that would, well be bloody fantastic!
Thanks Bethany for showing the world how beautiful you are – next time I look at a bikini in envy I’m going to bite the bullet and buy one – what an inspiration!
Here is the story – and for the gallery click here
Brave woman’s holiday snaps baring her colostomy bags viewed by MILLIONS around the world
It was the first time Bethany Townsend, 23, who has Crohn’s disease, had dared to post pictures of herself in just a bikini
For three years, Bethany Townsend was too afraid to share bikini pictures, even with friends.
The stunning 23-year-old suffers from Crohn’s disease and in 2010 doctors had to fit two colostomy bags after she nearly died.
But meeting husband Ian gave her the confidence to post photos from their dream holiday in Mexico together online.
In a bid to inspire other Crohn’s sufferers, she sent them to the Crohn’s and Colitis UK Facebook page.
Since then, the images have gone viral and been viewed more than ten MILLION times around the world.
Bethany, a make-up artist from Worcester, has been so overwhelmed she is considering taking up modelling – a career she gave up because of her disease.
“I didn’t expect this kind of reaction at all,” she said.
“The photo has been seen by millions of people and it’s had 190,000 likes and over 10,000 comments on Facebook – it’s just gone ballistic.
“I’m just so glad that it’s brought about more awareness of Crohn’s disease and it’s made me feel so much more confident about the colostomy bags.
“If I can inspire or help other people in my position to feel a little more comfortable in their own skin then I’m really happy.
“When I first had the bags fitted I was devastated – the reaction to this photo has really helped me accept them.”
Bethany was fitted with her colostomy bags after suffering from Crohn’s disease since the age of three.
In extreme situations, like Bethany’s, it becomes necessary to remove the damaged section of the intestine and bring the healthy part out as a stoma – known as a colostomy.
After almost dying when her bowel ruptured in 2010, Bethany woke from a life saving operation to find she had been fitted with two colostomy bags.
Bethany said: “Growing up I’d had various surgeries to try and combat the Crohn’s.
“I’d go in and have sections of my intestine cut out, but I’d only be in remission for a couple of weeks before it came back again.
“Then, four years ago I woke up in the morning and couldn’t move because I was in so much agony.
“I had to break a glass on the floor to alert my mum who called on ambulance.
“When the paramedics came they lifted up my top to see that my surgery scar had split open.
“I was rushed to intensive care where they doctors told me family I would need more surgery as my intestines had become infected and inflamed again.
“I had no idea when I woke up that I would have the bags.
“When I first woke up and my mum told me about them I was just relieved as I’d thought I was going to die.”
“When I came out of hospital and everything finally sunk in, I remember going upstairs into my bedroom and just bursting into tears.
“I’d known a colostomy bag might have been an option but it was always something that I had wanted to avoid.
“I had a really good cry that day, and since then I haven’t shed another tear – I’ve just got on with it I suppose.”
It was only after Bethany met and married her husband, Ian, 33, and jetted off to Mexico last Christmas that she finally felt ready to embrace the colostomy bags.
Bethany said: “When I met Ian I showed him my bags straight away, but he didn’t bat an eye lid – I actually felt like I was over reacting.
“He taught me that there was more to me than the bags and would always encourage me to show off my figure.
“I wasn’t sure but in Mexico I finally realised he was right, and decided to wear my bikini.
“At first I was nervous and worried that people would stare but it was fine.
“I realised that the colostomy bags didn’t control me or define who I am.
“The staff at the hotel asked me about the bags on the last day of the holiday, but rather than being offended I was glad because it meant I could talk to them about Crohn’s and tell them what it is.
“Ian’s always been my rock and supported me no matter what, we’ve had a tough few years but I know he’ll always be there for me.”
But it wasn’t until six months after their dream holiday in Mexico that Bethany finally felt ready to share her colostomy bags with the world.
Bethany said: “When you’re on holiday you’re in a bit of a bubble and it’s much different to when you’re back at home.
“I’d posted a few pictures to Instagram and Facebook but only my friends could see them.
“But after looking on the internet I saw a few other pictures of girls like me showing off their bags so I thought why not.
“I decided to get in touch with Crohn’s and Colitis UK Facebook group to see if they would let me post something on their page.
“I sent them the picture and my information, and it all blew up from there.”
Bethany still suffers with Crohn’s and hopes one day for a cure.
She said: “Doctors had hoped that the colostomy bags would put an end to the Crohn’s but four weeks later it was back.
“I then underwent a stem cell transplant but unfortunately I caught MRSA of the skin and the blood and it nearly killed me twice.
“Since then my Crohn’s has still been extremely active, I’ve lost more weight and now I’m waiting for the NHS to fund a drug that hasn’t really been in the UK.
“If this doesn’t work a bowel transplant is in talks as I can’t have anymore of my intestine out as I haven’t got much left.
“But I’m still really hopeful and after everything I’ve been through I know I’m a strong person.”
Bethany is now considering getting back into modelling – a career she gave up on after she was fitted with the bags.
Bethany said: “I feel confident enough now to put myself out there and pursue modelling again.
“I did a little bit of work here and there before I had the colostomy bags, but once I had them fitted I thought that was the end of the dream.
“I’m looking forward to chasing my goals, and I know now that nothing can hold me back.
“I won’t let the Crohn’s control me anymore.”