A BRAVE young woman from Worcester has posed in a bikini with her colostomy bags to inspire young people to be more confident about their bodies as she continues the fight against a debilitating bowel disease.
Bethany Townsend, aged 23, of St John’s Worcester who has battled aggressive Crohn’s disease since childhood has become an internet sensation after her holiday snap from Mexico went viral, attracting more than nine million views and has 190,000 “likes” on Facebook.
Mrs Townsend went public to inspire other people with Crohn’s and had not expected to be flooded with modelling offers after her brave decision to contact the Crohn’s and Colitis UK Facebook group to see if they would let her post the picture on their page.
One of the modelling offers came from lingerie company Vanilla Blush which specialises in “sexy” underwear for people with colostomy bags.
Your Worcester News has featured Mrs Townsend’s struggle from the beginning, including the physical pain she faces and her battle to find a cure, including having sections of her bowel removed and an attempt to raise £350,000 for stem cell treatment in the US.
The make-up artist, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the condition at the age of 11, hopes to inspire other people with Crohn’s disease to feel comfortable in their skin and raise awareness of the condition after she was fitted with two colostomy bags in 2010 which she initially found to be devastating.
She said: “I wasn’t expecting this. Most people haven’t got the courage to do it (show people their colostomy bags) because they feel ashamed or not confident, which is exactly how I felt but it came to a point where I thought ‘enough is enough, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We are just like everybody else’.
"I hope more people will now be open about it, especially young girls and young guys. If this helps any of them I’m glad.
"All I have ever wanted is to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease and finally I feel I have done it. All I want to do is give hope to the little girls who have Crohn’s. If I can do it, they can do it.”
The condition is still active and after a stem cell transplant as she sought to fight her condition, she nearly died after contracting hospital superbug MRSA.
Crohn’s disease is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system, affecting the sufferer’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste.
In extreme cases it becomes necessary to remove the damaged section of the intestine and bring the healthy part out as a stoma, known as a colostomy.
Mrs Townsend almost died when her bowel ruptured in 2010 and since then she has been fitted with two colostomy bags.
She has had several operations to remove parts of her intestine and woke up in agony four years ago after her surgery scar split open. She had to be rushed to intensive care but survived but she had to have colostomy bags, something she had always wanted to avoid.
It was only after Mrs Townsend met and married her husband, Ian, 33, and jetted off to Mexico last Christmas that she began to feel more comfortable about her colostomy bags.
She got in touch with Crohn’s and Colitis UK Facebook group to see if they would let her post something on their page which is where it all began to take off.
She says she may ultimately need a bowel transplant.