An inspiration – former model shows ostomy bag to the world after surgery due to Crohn’s


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

Caters
Sensation: Bethany is considering taking up modelling after her holiday snaps went viral

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.

 

CatersBethany Townsend
Confidence: Bethany wanted to inspire other Chron’s sufferers to feel better about their appearance

 

 

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.

 

CatersBethany Townsend
Battle: Since being diagnosed with Chron’s aged three, Bethany has had several operations

 

 

 

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.

 

CatersBethany Townsend
Love: Getting married to husband ian gave Bethany the confidence to pose in her bikini

 

 

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.”

For the full story:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/brave-womans-holiday-snaps-baring-3792563#ixzz36EDj7eHa 

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Overwhelmed by your acceptance


Before I tell you about mine & Winnie’s ‘big weekend of adventure’ searching for Banksy’s famous street art and almost collapsing in the weirdly sweltering heat while lost in Bristol (yes Andy, we were lost!!), I want to say a massive heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you!

Me & Winnie at Gay Pride in Bristol - just a little bit burnt

Me & Winnie at Gay Pride in Bristol – just a little bit burnt

Four days have passed since I revealed Winnie in all her naked glory to the world, and I have been bombarded with tweets, Facebook messages and comments from people all over the world thanking me for sharing her.

For years I dreaded the idea of having a stoma. In my mind the birth of Winnie meant I would have to live the rest of my life trying to hide the pink lump on my stomach, covering her up with baggy jumpers and bin-bag style shapeless outfits. I thought I would be living the rest of my life in shame. People would point and stare at the shape of my bulging ostomy bag under my clothes, and I would be labelled a freak, disgusting, minging or dirty.  I thought that it wouldn’t matter what I wore, where I went, what I tried to do with my life or who I tried to confide in, no one would ever look at me as a normal 25-year-old woman again (not that I have ever been normal #lol).

Hope you can read back to front

Hope you can read back to front

I guess I thought that once I had my operation I would just be that girl with the bag of poo on her stomach. I guess I believed that my stoma would define me, just as my Crohns had done in the past.

For example:

Last year I was out celebrating a friend’s birthday. We were having a lovely night, chatting, drinking wine and gossiping at her gorgeous flat before heading out on the town. I was feeling ill, but wanted to have fun and ended up talking to one of her friends (who was a medical professional) about my Crohns/Colitis. She seemed understanding, and asked all kinds of questions, which I happily answered. Everything was ok until a couple of glasses of wine later (I only had one or two, she might have had bottles), when we were dancing in a packed bar and she yelled ‘OY CROHNS’ across the dance floor at me.

Looking back I wish I had gone up to her and said something witty and cutting in response. If my friend had heard she probably would have slapped her in the face. But at the time I was totally shocked into silence. She had called me by the name of my illness..it was like I had been slapped in the face! Needless to say I headed home soon after the ‘incident’ and have never spoken to that rude and nasty individual again!!

So after all my years of worrying about the world not accepting my stoma – or even me coping with living with my stoma – words cannot describe how it has felt to receive so many messages of support from fellow IBD sufferers and ostomates from all over the world. I am honestly speechless (and if you know me that doesn’t happen often). I have been called an ‘inspiration’, ‘brave’, ‘positive’, ‘sunny’, and Winnie has been described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘perfect’. I have never been one to take compliments easily, and I have certainly never been called an inspiration before, so I was shocked and overwhelmed as the comments came pouring in via twitter, and my voice even started to quiver with emotion as I read them out to Andy while he was driving us to Bristol for one of my more arty challenges. 

When the tweets came rushing in I was half expecting a flurry of negativity. I thought I was about to be bombarded with 140 characters of hate and disgust, telling me that I was ‘minging’, ‘revolting’ had a ‘penis on my stomach’ or ‘poop coming out of my side’. But instead I watched as you all embraced Winnie for all her naked, pink, slipperiness, and welcomed her into the world with a massive ‘hi, lovely to finally meet you’! I waited for a long time for that message of hate and, guess what, I’m still waiting!

There are no words

There are no words

I hope that showing you Winnie naked and revealing the bare truth about life with a stoma will help the world to understand what living with an ostomy is like. Your messages have truly touched me, and if just one person out there is able to see past their preconceptions about what life with a stoma is like; see past their crippling fear of living with an ostomy; or even gain a little understanding of what a life-changing operation this really is, then showing Winnie to the world will all have been worthwhile.

You have all made me feel so accepted, so welcome, and so natural. It has been a feeling that I have wanted for so long – don’t get me wrong many people in my life have accepted my Crohns and my ostomy, my family, friends and boyfriend have been amazing about it – but I have never felt this accepted for who I really am in my entire life. With Winnie I feel weller (i know its not a word) than I have ever done in my life – she makes me feel fitter, happier, freer, stronger and more independent than I could ever have imagined. But now I feel a part of something bigger, something tightly woven and strong. I feel like I have been given a massive pat on the back or hug from the world, told I am ok, and welcomed with open arms into a new world of understanding, acceptance and hope.

You guys and the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

You guys and the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

I may still come out of the toilet with my skirt tucked in the back of my knickers (happened at weekend and flashed special ostomy pants to everyone in Starbucks), she might make farting noises during meetings, meals and intimate moments, and I might still nap like an old lady in the middle of the day, but you have accepted me and my stoma without raising a disgusted eyebrow or questioning our cuts and chainsaw scars – and that’s more than I could ever have hoped or dared to dream of!

Anyway, because this is a little long I won’t tell you about me, Winnie & Andy’s big adventure in Bristol today, I will save that until tomorrow, but for now I will leave you with a taster of what’s to come….

There’s no shame in talking POOP, mooning nurses & yucky antibiotics


http://youtu.be/meTZDQ0qEjc

So I’m back on the dreaded antibiotics again! I always dread going to the doctors because no matter what the problem they always

Me & Winnie have a very bad day and night

seem to put me on antibiotics, in fact, I think they have put me on so many of them over the years that they may as well be giving me a little tablet with nothing in it for all the curing qualities it is having on my body….which, I am now sure, is totally immune to them.

Antibiotics never seem to do anything apart from mess up my meal times, as, if you follow the instructions correctly, which I always try to do, you have to take them one hour before eating or two hours after eating totally destroying all the advice my dietician gave me to help me gain weight and to give my poor beaten body nutrients and the energy to fight my evil Crohns/Colitis, who keeps coming back with bigger and better weapons every day!

I dread going on them and, probably like a lot of stubborn IBD and chronically ill patients, when I get an infection or complication that I know will require being put on those dreaded blue capsules I try to put up with it for a few days – (#ahem) Weeks – until it goes gooey and pussy and starts looking like a scene from Alien, then, and only then, do I face my fate and head to the doctor’s surgery with my tail firmly tucked between my legs begging for tablets or a miracle cure.

ARGH the big blue puke pills

ARGH the big blue puke pills

You see all the antibiotics do, and it doesn’t seem to matter what type they give me, is make me really horrendously nauseous. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if they’re for flu, a skin infection, eczema, conjunctivitis, or all of the above at once, they trump the thing they are meant to be curing by making me sick to the stomach the moment I pop the first luminous coloured coated capsule into my trembling mouth (almost went Mills and Boon then guys with the imagery #lol). But the cruelest thing about antibiotics is not the unfading nausea, but the fact that they don’t make you actually throw-up – here we go, I hear you all sigh, we knew she was Bulimic… But let me try to put it to you this way. Think of anytime that you have been horrendously hung-over and your stomach is tossing and flipping like a dingy lost in a massive storm at sea (think green and sick bags) you always reach that point where you think ‘I just need to be sick, I will feel better once I’m sick‘ – and sometimes you can’t…so it just sits on your stomach like a rock for the rest of the day, meaning you can’t eat or sleep or even smell food….THAT’S WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR ME ON ANTIBIOTICS!! I hope you understand what I mean now.

So today I dragged myself to the doctors to get my dressing changed on my ileostomy scar, which despite it being eight weeks and

Me & Archie too weak to get out of bed

two days since the dreaded op is still leaking and oozing horrible puss – basically it is just been stubborn and refusing to heal the right way. Let’s put it this way, my skin is trying to be radical, waving a placard and screaming I will heal, but not the way YOU THE MAN want me to!!! Instead I will heal from the outside and then spit through causing as much pain and taking as long as possible just to annoy you 🙂 I can almost hear it chuckling insanely as it rashes over and over granulates (oh get me – a medical term).

But despite my concern that the scar has gone all red, gooey and pussy, from the weird heat we are having in England at the moment (we are never satisfied with our weather are we?) and is now covered in red and brown eczema that is soooooo itchy it is a physical and mental effort not to scratch the dressings – I sometimes place my handbag close by just so it will rub against it and give it a cheeky scratch every so often as I walk to the coffee shop (I know that’s soooo naughty of me, and it won’t heal, but it just feels so damn good!) – the nurse said it seemed fine and put some iodine on it to stop any potential mastermind evil infection sneaking its way into my body and causing havoc.

HMMM bad spelling at Docs - should I be worried about other skills?

HMMM bad spelling at Docs – should I be worried about other skills?

Anyway, anyway, anyway my biggest concern and what led to me thrusting my bare naked bum in the poor bewildered nurse’s face, was a very sore lump on my butt that has developed over the past few days making it painful for me to sit on the loo or basically sit down anywhere at all. Before you all laugh, I don’t have piles – I have to add piles are no laughing matter, they are very painful and, yes (#snigger), I have had them many times before. As I told this poor woman about this lump, which has left me perching on the end of seats and tentatively sitting down, hovering above couches and benches like you do when you’re preparing for your bare flesh to hit boiling bath water (ouch!!), I could see her face gradually changing from the kind reassuring smile when she was changing my dressing to a stretched evil grimace. I swear I could honestly see her thinking ‘Oh no not another pimply bum I’m going to have to stick my finger in…Yuck!’ (obviously she didn’t say that, but, quite frankly, she didn’t have to).

So here’s the image. Me lying in the nurse’s chair with my girly knickers (with pretty stars on) pulled down around my knees and bum pointed unceremoniously in the air, with this poor middle-aged woman prodding my bum and me pointing into my bottom saying ‘I can feel it there, what is it?‘ – I have to explain here that because of Winnie and Oscar I can’t see the area down there…I mean it is hard enough to look at your underneath in the mirror anyway (which guys will know if you are checking yourself, which you should be) without two bags swinging in the way all the time (yes I know that sounds rude!) – and her going mmm ahhh in a ‘I don’t know what it is’ kind of way.

On the nurse’s table moments before sticking my butt in the air

This was one of those moments, which like on a night out when you suddenly realise you might have pulled, that you wish you had nicer underwear on…but never mind, that was the least of my worries as a second later the nurse started squeezing at the lump inside my bum cheeks so hard that I start squealing in pain – yes squealing like a little piggy. She squeezed and she squeezed saying ‘Are you ok? Can you feel that? Does that Hurt’ – I squealed something like ‘yes it hurts, I’m ok don’t worry’, but in my head I was shouting OF COURSE IT BLOODY HURTS YOU ARE SQUEEZING MY BUM OFF!!! Eventually, after what seemed like a year and some puss coming out of the lump later, she declared it was a small cyst, caused by the plastic enema I have been shoving up my bottom to calm down the remaining part of my colon and that I would need antibiotics.

Which is what leads me to gulping down this horrid blue sugar-coated tablet knowing, beyond any doubt, that I will wake up tomorrow as sick as a dog with a massive warty cyst on my bottom bright red and shining like a beacon on a rocky bay. ( I know what an anti-climax to a very long rambling story!)

Anyway the other night when I couldn’t sleep I vblogged another Ostomy Hour – I hope you LOVE IT and will tell all your friends about it 🙂 PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE WITH MARSHMALLOWS ON TOP. It’s about the online IBD community and the amazing support just everyday people are giving others by sharing their stories on the interweb.

Since I have had my ostomy I have found so many brave Crohns and IBD sufferers who are selflessly putting themselves out there, basically having the balls to tell every little thing about their life in order to help others (in my vblog above I talk about when I did a tell-all article in the Evening Chronicle and the crazily large pic of me they used on the front grimacing like a maniac). They post every little hicup, embarrassing moment and gory detail about their symptoms, the illness and the way they cope living while being constantly attacked by IBD…it is just so refreshing to hear people being so blatently honest and revealing the unglossed ‘real’ version of how IBD sufferers cope every day – stripped bare with no regard to what people might think of them or what impact telling their stories might have on their own reputations or their careers.

So, thank you to all those brave IBD and Ostomy bloggers and tweeters….from my very heart you are amazing (I am not talking about me here before you think HOW BIG HEADED). Please carry on sharing your story so that we can rid the world of the shameful stigma attached to IBD.

If you want to read my story from the Evening Chronicle go to:

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/health/secret-shame-crohns-disease-nearly-1417593      

or click on the image below:

EEEK every Geordie recognised me :)

EEEK every Geordie recognised me 🙂