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Crohn's sufferer sparks trend by proudly posing with colostomy bag on show

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For many sufferers, Crohn's Disease can trigger not just pain and discomfort but also feeling of self-consciousness.

The condition, which affects 1 in 650 people in the UK, means many of those affected have to wear a colostomy bag which can make some sufferers want to cover up, even in hot weather.

But now one young woman, Bethany Townsend, has bared and shared - posting a picture of herself in a bikini on Facebook with her bag proudly displayed and has unexpectedly kicked off a trend for other women to do the same.

Bethany, from Worcester, contributed to a hashtag #myCCUKstory on Facebook , illustrating her post with a shot of herself sunbathing in a bikini with colostomy bags in clear sight.

Since then, other sufferers have been inspired to contribute to the hashtag in the same way.

Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the digestive system which makes it difficult for the body to process food. It is possible to control inflammation and symptoms such as chronic pain, diarrhea and constipation.

But many sufferers need to have a part of their intestine removed, which means being fitted with a colostomy bag to receive the waste products from the body - or are given a temporary colostomy bag to give the colon time to heal.

Bethany has had parts of her intestine removed in small operations, before suffering a bowel rupture in 2010, where she almost died. Since then she has participated in an experimental stem cell treatment which resulted in her getting MRSA, and is waiting for a drug to be funded by the NHS in an attempt to curb the disease.

But she is regaining confidence in her body, writing that "after three and a half years, I decided that my colostomy bags shouldn't control my life. So when I went to Mexico with my husband in December last year I finally showed I wasn't ashamed", which she posted alongside the photo of herself in a bikini on holiday.

Bethany's picture has nearly 200,000 likes and has been shared over 15,000 times, gaining attention for the disease and encouraging other sufferers to contribute their photos. Her story was picked up by the Daily Mail, increasing the awareness of the hashtag. She commented later saying "reading all these comments is truly amazing. Thank you so much for all your support and taking the time to read [my story]. Hoping for a cure and one day it WILL happen."

Since Bethany posted her story, response has been overwhelming other sufferers have felt inspired to post shots with their colostomy bags to the #myCCUKstory hashtag on Facebook.

Both through #myCCUKstory and a previous campaign by Chron's and Colitis UK called #getyourbellyout, photos have been published showing both men and women proudly displaying their colostomy bags to reduce the taboo around the condition - conquering the shallow idea of a 'bikini body'.

Charlotte Guinea, 22, also shared a picture of herself on the beach in a bikini

Fellow sufferers have added their messages. Charlotte Guinea, 22, wrote alongside a picture of herself in a bikini, that she wants the experience of having a colostomy bag "to be talked about without them being a 'taboo' - too many of us suffer with these invisible illnesses on a daily basis & we should be proud of ourselves for what we've all gone through", and Katie Ashton added "I've posted these pictures because its high time people realise we are just as entitled to wear a bikini on the beach without comment, prejudice or double takes."

Katie Ashton posted this picture saying she was "sick of high waisted bikinis"

Elisha Nicholl posted this picture of her mum Tracey at Glastonbury with an original way of displaying her colostomy bag

The trend will hopefully inspire understanding and awareness of the disease, and that there is no one way to be beautiful.

To learn more about Chron's disease, visit chronsandcolitis.org.uk

Words: Victoria Gray, Images: Facebook

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