Courageous picture leads to top award nomination - The Malvern Observer
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Courageous picture leads to top award nomination

Malvern Editorial 26th Nov, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

A WOMAN with Crohn’s Disease who became an internet sensation after posting a holiday snap showing her colostomy bag has been nominated for a special award.

Bethany Townsend from Ledbury is up for the Body Confidence Queen category at Cosmopolitan Magazines’ Ultimate Women Awards which takes place in London next Wednesday (December 3) after her bravery proved a real inspiration for others.

Most young women do not think twice about sharing their holiday photos. But for 23-year-old Bethany, who wears a colostomy bag, it was a courageous move which shone a much-needed spotlight on bowel disease, inspiring thousands to bravely share their own body-confidence photos.

The picture Bethany shared only told half the story – her chronic illness over the years has nearly killed her on a number of occasions.

Since being diagnosed when she was aged just ten, Bethany has spent much of her time in and out of hospital suffering invasive medical treatments which may even have left her infertile.

“Just four weeks after being diagnosed I had 16 inches of my bowel removed,” she said. “Then, four years ago, my bowel burst and I ended up with two colostomy bags.”

A year later, Bethany underwent a stem-cell transplant and chemotherapy as part of a treatment trial, which led to her contracting an MRSA bug that nearly killed her.

Despite the trauma of suffering such life-altering treatment, Bethany has never lost her positive outlook on life. And it was when she was on holiday in Mexico in December last year that Bethany’s husband Ian, 33, persuaded her to put a bikini on.

“It was the first time I’d worn a bikini with my colostomy bag – it was a big step for me,” Bethany added.

“When Ian said, ‘Come on, let’s take a picture,’ I didn’t mind – I put it on Instagram and Facebook for my friends to see, and I felt fine about it.”

Months later, Bethany decided to see if the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK would be interested in using her story to inspire other sufferers, accompanying her story with the bikini photo.

Shared across the world, the photo was seen by a million people within four hours, and a further six million within a day. It has now been viewed more than 12 million times.

“I had no idea what reaction it would get, but a day later things had gone mad. I realised it wasn’t just a big deal for me, but also for other Crohn’s sufferers like me.”

Picture credited to  Elspeth Van Der Hole

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