Crohn’s and Colitis is getting a new face — and she’s smokin’ hot.
Bethany Townsend was diagnosed with Crohn’s at the tender age of 3, and was “devastated” when she had her colostomy bags fitted. But her perspective has since changed — thanks to social media.
The 23-year-old British beauty has become an internet sensation since sharing a bikini-clad selfie via Facebook — ostomy bags and all. Bethany’s beautiful photo while sunbathing in Mexico has been seen by 10 million people and liked nearly 200,000 times within a matter of days.
“After three and a half years, I decided that my colostomy bags shouldn’t control my life,” Bethany captioned the shot. “So when I went to Mexico with my husband in December last year I finally showed I wasn’t ashamed.”
Crohn’s disease is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system, affecting the person’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. Colitis is a similar condition contained to the colon.
“I didn’t expect this kind of reaction at all,” Bethany tells The Daily Mail. “It’s gone ballistic.”
That said, it’s taken her awhile to embrace her ostomy bags.
“When I first had the bags fitted I was devastated,” she admits. “The reaction to this photo has really helped me accept them. 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.”
“Reading all these comments is truly amazing,” Bethany captioned her post after it went viral. “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.”
And it seems like she has done just that. Here’s a few more viral Facebook photos of young women embracing their ostomy bags.
Noticing this new ‘movement’ of publicly embracing ostomy bags, Colitis survivor Julie Giddens is speaking out about her experience. At the age of 17 Julie was diagnosed with Colitis, and within weeks she had her colon removed. When Julie woke up from her surgery, she had an ostomy bag.
“When I first saw Bethany’s pic, I smiled and thought, ‘Wow, she’s amazing!,’ ” Julie, now 33, shares with HerScoop.
“I felt that Bethany was so brave to post those photos,” Julie says. “I have spent years searching for swimsuits that would hide my ostomy bag and never even considered wearing a ‘normal’ bikini and just baring it all. Women like Bethany help reinforce in my mind that just because I have a bag, doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful. I’m alive and healthy today because of my bag…and that’s a beautiful thing.”
She adds: “I’m not as brave as Bethany yet. Perhaps in time, I will be. I’ve battled with low self-esteem because of my bag and I’m just not there yet.”
Julie is hoping that these viral photos will help shatter some of the shame facing people who have ostomy bags.
“There seems to be such a stigma around ostomies,” Julie says. “Our society places so much emphasis on outer beauty and this idea of somehow being ‘perfect’ that it’s really hard to be a young woman living with an ostomy. I feel I can never live up to those standards.”
She adds: “But I am so very lucky to have incredible people in my life who continue to reinforce that I am beautiful, inside and out. And I’m happy to say that I’m finally starting to believe them. So I thank Bethany, and other strong, sexy ostomates like Jessica Grossman. Because of them, I am feeling better about myself.”
Not only are these brave young women helping to spread awareness about Crohn’s and Colitis, they’re also reaffirming that everyone has the right to be happy in their own skin. You rock, ladies!