Posing in your bikini can be a daunting enough prospect at times, but with a visible medical condition, it can become an even greater act of bravery.
One woman who’s taken the challenge is Zoey Wright, who was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2012.
‘I remember stepping on the scales and seeing the numbers and I couldn’t believe it. I went from being a healthy 140lb to an unhealthy 112lb in less than four weeks,’ she recalls.
‘I just cried… I cried a lot. I could barely walk and sometimes I couldn’t even leave my bed to even wash myself because I was so weak.’
Frequently hospitalised due to her condition, Zoey was eventually told that she would need to have ileostomy surgery, during which some of or all of the large bowel is removed, and the end of the small bowel is pulled to the outside of the abdomen to create a stoma.
At the time, her health stabilised enough for her to be able to avoid the surgery and rely on medication – and having felt weak and frail for so long, Zoey decided to find her own way to get stronger and regain the weight she lost – bodybuilding.
However, her symptoms continues to worsen and in November 2014, she made the difficult decision to go ahead with the procedure after all.
Image: Instagram/Zoey Wright
Image: Instagram/Zoey Wright
Instead of hiding away, Zoey now runs various social media accounts under the names ‘Bodybuilding with IBD’, where she proudly posts pictures of her post-surgery body in the hopes of breaking down the stigma of stomas and colostomy bags.
‘When you have passion and drive for something you enjoy nothing will stop you,’ she says.
‘Body building has always been my coping mechanism and it continues to be that every single day. I’m in control and I’m going to kill it.’
And Zoey’s not the only one!
Marcia, a brave mum of two, previously shared this snap on her Facebook page, and gained over 60,000 likes from fans.
Marcia Paterson, 40, suffers from Crohn’s disease and had a colostomy bag fitted after falling ill four years ago
Marcia, who appeared on TLC’s ‘Too Ugly for Love?’ to show why she feels beautiful even with her colostomy bag on show, told the West Lothian Courier: ‘It’s a condition that can be embarrassing for a lot of people.’
‘I was shocked by how many things there were to to consider, and by how it was going to work and affect my life. But rather than be negative, I decided to be positive.
‘This is something that happened to me – I never expected it – and I’m not ashamed of my body, the scars, or my bag. I don’t think there should be any stigma at all.’
Another woman with a colostomy bag, Bethany Townsend, 23, took a bikini selfie that went viral last year with over 13,000 comments on Facebook and over 242,000 likes.
Bethany bravely shared this photo of herself sunbathing on holiday, and has now encouraged a wave of other Crohn’s and colitis sufferers to do the same
The reaction to Bethany’s photo, posted on 21st June, was so overwhelming that she’s now determined to pursue a career in modelling. She told This Morning: ‘It’s just a picture that I got my husband to take on holiday.’
The holiday had been a turning point for Bethany, who would usually cover up her colostomy bag under a swimsuit.
‘Even at the airport I bought a swimming costume and just thought “Right, I’m going to wear that”, but my husband was like “No, please, just put your bikini on and come outside” so, after about 5 or 10 minutes I thought, right, ok… ‘
Other brave Crohn’s sufferers, like Vickie Morris, have also shared their bikini selfies on social media
Prior to Bethany and Marcia’s pictures, a campaign called #GetYourBellyOut, originally created by Sahara Fleetwood-Beresford, Victoria Marie, Lorna Haymes and Gem Willingham, called for those living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis to show their tummies in support of the cause, and sufferers have been taking to Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s Facebook page and sharing their snaps on Twitter ever since.
Katie Ashton took to her Twitter page to share this picture of herself on holiday to support the campaign, with the caption: ‘Keep #GetYourBellyOut everyone… If it helps 1 or 100,000 so proud to be me and of everyone who battles IBD xxx’
What is Crohn’s?
Crohn’s is a disease that causes inflammation in the lining of the digestive system. It’s a chronic disease which means it’s long lasting and can only be controlled, not cured, and affects 90,000 people in the UK.
What is a stoma?
A stoma is a surgically created opening in the abdomen to allow waste to leave the body. A pouch is then placed over the stoma to collect waste products that would usually pass through the colon and out of the body through the rectum and anus (your back passage) – this is the colostomy bag. It can be permanent or temporary.