Bikini photo aims to change perceptions of Crohn’s disease

A woman has become an internet sensation after posting pictures of herself online in a bikini.

Nothing unusual about that of course, but because of her struggles with Crohn’s disease, Bethany Townsend has to wear colostomy bags at all times, which are fully on view in her holiday snaps.

The photo she uploaded is the first time since the bags were fitted two years ago that the 23-year-old has dared to post any sort of revealing shot, despite her dream of being a model.

And it’s now been viewed by nine million people and counting. Bethany said: “I didn’t expect this kind of reaction at all. 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 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.”

Bethany has had Crohn’s disease since the age of three. The condition, recently diagnosed for Towie’s Sam Faiers, causes inflammation of the digestive system, affecting the sufferer’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. After almost dying when her bowel ruptured in 2010, Bethany awoke from a life-saving operation to find she had been fitted with two colostomy bags.

Bethany said: “Four years ago, I woke up in the morning and couldn’t move because I was in so much agony. “I was rushed to intensive care where they doctors told my family I would need more surgery as my intestines had become infected and inflamed again.

“When I first woke up and my mum told me about them, [the bags] I was just relieved as I’d thought I was going to die. 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.

Bethany said: “When I met Ian, I showed him my bags straight away, 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.

“I realised that the colostomy bags didn’t control me or define who I am.”

“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.”


Lifestyle

Not all trends are created equal. Some are exciting – like first-date butterflies; others are comforting – like ice-cream and Golden Girls reruns.Trend of the Week: Floral free for all

Veterinary medicine is a demanding career, leading to mental health problems for some vets.Elephant in the clinic: Helpline offers support to vets with mental health difficulties

Pearl Lowe turns 50 in April – and she’s got a lot to celebrate. TA look into the reinvention of Pearl Lowe

Bonnie Ryan couldn’t be happier.On a roll: Why Bonnie Ryan couldn't be happier

More From The Irish Examiner