Bethany Townsend once dreamed of being a model, but after her bowels burst four years ago, forcing her to wear a colostomy bag, she gave this dream up.
Late last year, the woman from the U.K. who suffers from Crohn's disease decided not to be ashamed of the bag connected to her abdomen.
"[…] when I went to Mexico with my husband in December last year I finally showed I wasn't ashamed," Townsend wrote in a Facebook post to the Crohn's and Colitis UK page.
She included this picture and it has gone viral, causing her to rethink her abandoned dream.
Bethany Townsend has suffered from Crohn's disease her entire life and four years ago got a colostomy procedure, which she used to hide … until now. (Image source: Crohn's and Colitis UK/Facebook)
Since her photo was posted on the group's page on June 21, it has been shared more than 15,000 times and liked more than 195,000 times, receiving supportive comments and prompting others to post photos of themselves not hiding colostomy bags or their scars from surgery.
"Isn't it amazing that we can have most of our guts removed and still show more 'guts' than everyone else combined," one commenter wrote.
"[It's] great that more people putting photos out on Facebook lately showing what Crohns is all about, well done for having courage to show your body without hiding it and why should you really, You look amazing […]," another wrote. "All this helps people to understand Crohns, and for me is a help as my daughter has it. The thought of wearing a bag scares and worries people and can leave people feeling really upset and depressed but if more people show it then it can only help them to see they arn't [sic] alone!"
According to the National Institutes of Health, Crohn's disease is one that inflames or irritates the digestive tract, resulting in pain, diarrhea, cramps, scar tissue and other symptoms.
Townsend explained that she had Crohn's as early as 3 years old, but was misdiagnosed until she was 11 years old. At that age, she had 16 inches of her intestines removed, but that was just the beginning.
"Since then I've been on steroids, infliximab, methotrexate and every other drug going as well as being tube fed for 4 years. After five more operations my bowel burst 4 years ago and I ended up with two colostomy bags," she wrote. "They thought that would help until 4 weeks later and it was back.
"I then went on to have a stem cell transplant which was in trial in the UK, we all hoped it would work 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 [National Health Service] 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 hopeful."
It took three-and-a-half years, but Townsend decided that "my colostomy bags shouldn't control my life."
Townsend said that she wasn't shy posting photos of herself for friends only to see on Instagram, but seeing others publicly post photos of their bags inspired her to do the same. After her own photo went viral on Facebook, Townsend said she is ready to consider modeling again.
"I feel confident enough now to put myself out there and pursue modelling again," she said.
(H/T: Daily Mail)