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Bikini and colostomy bags: Images of aspiring model with Crohn's go viral

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Bethany Townsend, a make-up artist and former model from Worcester, England, wants to pursue her modeling career again but a condition she was diagnosed that started when she was three years old posed a challenge to her dreams.

Bethany has Crohn's Disease, an inflammatory bowel condition that causes inflammation to the lining of the digestive system. Although the primary cause of the disease remains unclear, health experts believe it is caused by the immune system abnormally attacking the healthy bacteria in the gut. Individuals with a family history of the disease also have increased risks of developing the condition.

Crohn's disease, which is characterized by pain in the abdomen, diarrhea , weight loss and the presence of blood in the stool, often affects the lower part of the small intestine known as the ileum and while there is no available cure for the disease, treatment involves stopping the inflammatory process and relieving the symptoms. In some cases, the intestine has to be partially removed and when this happens, the patient wears colostomy bags in their lower abdomen to aid them in their digestion and bowel movement.

 In 2010, Bethany was fitted with two colostomy bags after she nearly died when her bowel ruptured. Although wearing of colostomy bag is important, those who do tend to feel embarrassed exposing themselves wearing the bags.

It was difficult for Bethany to embrace her colostomy bags at first but after meeting her husband, her views on her condition positively changed so last Christmas, while on a vacation in Mexico, Bethany decided to wear her bikini.

"At first I was nervous and worried that people would stare but it was fine," Bethany shared. "The staff at the hotel asked me about the bags on the last day of the holiday, but rather than being offended I was glad because it meant I could talk to them about Crohn's and tell them what it is."

Encouraged, Bethany decided to contact Crohn's and Colitis UK Facebook group and when her photo sunbathing in a bikini was posted on the charity organization's page, the image became viral gathering over 10,000 comments, more than 200,000 likes and seen by millions of people.

Because of the positive response Bethany said she is now willing to follow her dreams again.

"I'm looking forward to chasing my goals, and I know now that nothing can hold me back," Bethany said. "I won't let the Crohn's control me anymore."

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