Teaching Assistant Poses With Stoma Bag To Inspire Body Confidence

A teaching assistant has been proudly sharing pictures of herself in her bikini and underwear with her stoma bag on show to inspire other bowel disease sufferers.

Bethany Gallagher was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 15 which left her in excruciating pain and going to the toiled up to 45 times a day.

After seven years of suffering from flare ups, which caused diarrhoea, vomiting, bleeding and extreme weight loss, Bethany had an ostomy bag fitted in April 2017.

Since having the bag fitted, Bethany who is now 23, has been sharing stunning pictures of her baring her bag in underwear and bikinis.

She is hoping to inspire others to love their bodies and 'be sassy with a stoma' using her Instagram account.

Bethany suffered for seven years before having a bag fitted. (Credit: Mercury Press & Media)
Bethany suffered for seven years before having a bag fitted. (Credit: Mercury Press & Media)

Bethany from Sheffield, said: "I started taking and sharing photos of my journey originally for my family and friends.

"My parents didn't want me to get a stoma. They thought it would open up loads more problems like body confidence issues.

"They didn't want to see their little girl go through that.

"So I set up an account to post pictures to show them that I'm okay and I'm proud of what I've been through.

Bethany want's people to believe that you can be 'sassy with a stoma bag'. (Credit: Mercury Press & Media)
Bethany want's people to believe that you can be 'sassy with a stoma bag'. (Credit: Mercury Press & Media)

"I remember thinking one day 'why should I not be proud of my body just because I have been through this?'

"The bag saved my life at the end of the day, besides I can't hide it.

"It trumps on its own, it really has got a mind of its own.

"So if there's no point trying to hide it then I might as well get it out.

The bag has stopped Bethany from going to festivals with friends. (Credit: Mercury Press & Media)
The bag has stopped Bethany from going to festivals with friends. (Credit: Mercury Press & Media)

"And now what started as a reassurance for my family has become a massive awareness-raising thing.

"I get so many people messaging me saying my photos inspired them and they've walked down a beach in their bikinis for the first time, I love it.

"It hasn't just helped other people, it has helped me too.

"It might sound silly but you get so used to the bag that you don't feel it so when you look in the mirror it can be a bit of a shock like 'ooh I've got a bag of poo stuck to me'.

Bethany hopes she can inspire other bowel disease suffers. (Credit: Mercury Press and Media)
Bethany hopes she can inspire other bowel disease suffers. (Credit: Mercury Press and Media)

"But seeing the photos has helped so much, it's made me realise that even with my bag and my scars my body really isn't that different to other people's bodies.

"I want to help everyone else with a stoma realise that. Here's to being sassy with a stoma."

Bethany started with problems aged 14 when she was suffering with acid reflux and diarrhoea, which doctors prescribed antacids for.

Symptoms worsened and Bethany was vomiting 'luminous green' fluid and experiencing extreme stomach pains, as well as rushing to the toilet 20 times a day.

Before having a bag fitted Bethany would use the toilet up to 45 times a day. (Credit: Mercury Press and Media)
Before having a bag fitted Bethany would use the toilet up to 45 times a day. (Credit: Mercury Press and Media)

Each flare-up saw five-foot-three Bethany's weight plummet as she struggled to keep food down and suffered diarrhoea 45 times a day - and by 22 she hit her lowest weight of just 5st 6lbs.

The teaching assistant, who lives with her boyfriend of 10 years, Mike Saul, also 23, had the surgery to fit a colostomy bag last year in the hopes it would one day be reversed.

However, Bethany then developed diversion colitis, an inflammation of the colon, and the only option was to have a second surgery to completely remove her large intestine and her colon in March this year, making her ostomy pouch a permanent fixture.

Bethany says she can't thank her family and boyfriend enough. (Credit: Mercury Press and Media)
Bethany says she can't thank her family and boyfriend enough. (Credit: Mercury Press and Media)

Her debilitating condition has seen Bethany torn away from holidays, spending birthdays in hospital and suffering embarrassing accidents while out with friends, but her devoted partner Mike has supported her throughout.

Bethany said: "I don't think I could have got through it all without my family and my boyfriend. Mike has been so supportive.

"He's there with me every time I have to stay in the hospital. One time he had to wheel me to the bath and wash me and then my bag came off so the bath was filled with faeces but it doesn't faze him at all.

"It's nice to know that even if you have all of this going on, you can find someone who will love you and help you."

Featured Image Credit: Mercury Press and Media

Bethany Gleave

Bethany Gleave is a Freelance Journalist at PRETTY52 and joined the team in 2018. She is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, and started her career at a national press agency, writing breaking and trending news for the national newspapers.

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