Blankets, coolers, chairs and bikinis are all typical sites on the beaches of the world. Summer months draw out inhibitions and punctuate fun. Being confident in a new swimsuit only adds to the sand and surf experience many desire. Now, thanks to a brave young woman, colostomy bags are accepted to be exposed on the beach as well.
After years of hiding and embarrassment, many are following the lead of 23 year old Bethany Townsend from the UK. A former model and now a make-up artist, Townsend has set a new trend in fashion with her recent photos. She was encouraged by her husband, Ian, to wear a bikini on a Mexican vacation, which showed off her great body and also exposed her colostomy bag. She mustered up the guts to show it all, bikini, sunglasses and bag. Townsend has suffered from a young age with Crohn’s disease, which eventually led her to require the necessary accessory.
Townsend posted her photos to a Facebook site addressing Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. Though hesitant at first, she has received cheers for her openness and spirit. Many others are now posting their own bikini and colostomy bag photos with confidence. The time has come to be who you are and not worry what others may think.
Several bowel diseases such as Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are serious and debilitating conditions that sometimes involve surgery to remove parts of the colon. As everything that goes in must come out, artificial exits are created in the abdomen. The surgical opening is called a stoma. Colostomy bags are designed to be attached to the opening in order to collect waste. At the patient’s discretion and privacy, the procedure is easily taken care of.
Townsend had the surgery in 2010 after her bowels burst, leaving her no other option but a colostomy bag. The choice is easy when it comes down to your survival. The often embarrassing situation really is a life-saver, where as many years ago the patient would not have survived this type of condition.
Overcoming the stigma of being different has been in full force for decades. Society has become accustomed to the needs of the handicapped and mentally challenged, but still remains uneasy about certain medical statuses, such as a colostomy. Townsend and others are helping to break down more barriers which have simply hidden a human function of life.
As Townsend’s confidence level has soared, she plans to return to modeling with or without hiding her colostomy bag. The designs in fashion are increasing with concealing and patterned pouches. Nicola Dames, who also suffered from a bowel disease requiring surgery and a colostomy bag, has opened a shop in Glasgow specializing in sexy underwear and lingerie for people wearing a bag. She is supported by Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud as a spokeswoman.
There is still hope through medicine and fashion to lead a next to normal life when confronted with the trials of a little talked about condition. Living a full life and letting it all hang out may just result in many more showing the confidence to expose themselves in a bikini and a colostomy bag on the beach.
By: Roanne FitzGibbon