Being fitted with two colostomy bags four years ago due to a chronic medical condition hasn’t stopped make-up artist Bethany Townsend from enjoying the beach. But her husband encouraged her to show off her great figure during a holiday in Mexico and snapped photos of Townsend wearing a skimpy black bikini that revealed the colostomy bags she needs to live as normal a life as possible. Townsend, who has suffered from Crohn’s since she was a little girl, nearly died several years ago when her intestines burst and she needed to be fitted with colostomy bags attached to her bowel.
Townsend agreed to wear a bikini and show off her colostomy bags because she admits she felt a bit emboldened because the people who would see her were not people in her daily sphere of living. But posing in a bikini gave her such a boost of self-confidence that Townsend decided to share the shots on the Facebook page devoted to Crohn’s and Colitis disease in the UK.
Townsend said she had many surgeries for her condition that weren’t successful.
“Then, four years ago I woke up in the morning and couldn’t move because I was in so much agony.
“I had to break a glass on the floor to alert my mom, who called an ambulance.
“When the paramedics came they lifted up my top to see that my surgery scar had split open.
“I was rushed to intensive care where they doctors told me family I would need more surgery as my intestines had become infected and inflamed again.
“I had no idea when I woke up that I would have the bags.
“When I first woke up and my mom told me about them I was just relieved as I’d thought I was going to die.”
“When I came out of hospital and everything finally sunk in, I remember going upstairs into my bedroom and just bursting into tears.
“I’d known a colostomy bag might have been an option but it was always something that I had wanted to avoid.
“I had a really good cry that day, and since then I haven’t shed another tear – I’ve just got on with it, I suppose.”
Townsend said that she hoped to inspire other men and women who must wear colostomy bags not to be ashamed to show off their bodies in swimwear simply because they need to wear a particular medical device.
The reaction to her bikini photograph, which has now gone viral, has been so overwhelmingly supportive and positive that Townsend reports that she now intends to return to her modeling career, at least on a part-time basis.
She admits she never imagined how powerful one photograph could be and she never expected to receive the kind of response from complete strangers that her bikini shot inspired.
Townsend 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 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.
“When I first had the bags fitted I was devastated — the reaction to this photo has really helped me accept them.”
Townsend says that the time the picture was taken, she didn’t think much about her decision to be photographed, but she now feels very glad she did it.
Now with the new attention, she hopes to get back into modeling.
She said: “I feel confident enough now to put myself out there and pursue modelling again.
“I did a little bit of work here and there before I had the colostomy bags, but once I had them fitted I thought that was the end of the dream.
“I’m looking forward to chasing my goals, and I know now that nothing can hold me back.
“I won’t let the Crohn’s control me anymore.”
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