People With Crohn's Disease Are Posting Bikini Selfies Inspired By The Fearless Model (Photos)

by Alexia LaFata

The story of aspiring-model Bethany Townsend, 23-year-old sufferer of Crohn's disease whose photographs of herself in a bikini with colostomy bags attached to her body have gone viral, has inspired other women with Crohn's to be less shameful of their bodies.

Crohn's is a disease that affects the digestive system, causing severe inflammation and affecting a person's ability to absorb nutrients, digest food and remove waste.

In certain extreme cases, the damaged part of the intestine must be surgically removed, and the healthy part must be brought out as a stoma, which is known as a colostomy.

Other sufferers have come forward and shared their Crohn's stories, posting brave selfies and offering body inspiration to others.

Many of these photos are posted under the Crohn's and Colitis UK Facebook page with the hashtag #GetYourBellyOut.

In early June, Vickie Morris shared a selfie with her own colostomy bag.

She wrote:

Right I have been uploading holiday pics but held back on one! Why? 'I don't know because I thought people wouldn't approve! today I had a response and though F^*k you! I always bang on about 'support my cause' and 'raise awareness' so what better way than to bare here it goes! I am almost a yr done and proud! I have battled Crohns Colitis for the past 4 yrs and close family and friends will know how much this means. Here goes nothing eek! I wear my bag with pride.

Katie Ashton suffered from ulcerative colitis. She shared a selfie in a bikini to support another patient, Joseph Hendy, who wears both a fistula stoma and a stoma bag.

Hendy says that his next step is to have major surgery for either a permanent stoma bag or a reversal operation.

Ashton wrote,

Chin up life does get better I'm 30 had a permanent ileostomy 3 years ago and never looked back. Your [sic] an inspiration to many people..... Be proud of what you've come through.....!! Xxx

Townsend is shocked at all the attention her photo has received.

She says she was "devastated" after her surgical scars from various surgeries split open in 2010, which led her to be fitted with the bags.

When she met her husband, Ian, he didn't even bat an eye when she showed him her bags. Ian said "there was more to [her] than the bags and would always encourage [her] to show off her figure."

This outpouring of Internet support has helped her to truly accept the bags as part of who she is.

Townsend said,

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.