Woman Posts Brutally Honest Bikini Photos To Highlight Devastating Illness

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Bethany Purnell/Instgram

A young woman has gone viral on social media after posting brutally honest bikini photos to show the effects of the devastating illness Crohn’s disease.

20-year-old Bethany Purnell from Carmarthenshire, Wales, was diagnosed with Crohn’s – a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease – when she was just 10-years-old.

After medication and treatment failed to help her, Bethany decided to have her large intestine, or colon, taken out at the age of 17 leaving her with an ileostomy bag.

The bag, also known as an ostomy, collects waste that can’t pass through and is fitted to the outside of the body.

Although she was once embarrassed by her disease, Bethany now shares proud and confident photos with her 12,000 followers.

Speaking with UNILAD about how the disease affects her, Bethany explained:

Crohn’s is a life-long disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract.

For me, personally it causes excruciating abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, inflammation of my joints, diarrhoea, bloody stool and it affects my mental health.

My Crohn’s is a severe case. Every medication or diet I tried failed to work. I had no quality of life whatsoever. My life was spent on the toilet or in bed.

During a routine colonoscopy Bethany ‘couldn’t deal with the pain any longer’ and decided that she had to take a more extreme step to deal with the condition.

She told us:

I screamed at my surgeon ‘Take my colon out, take it all out!’ And he said, ‘Okay, I’ll arrange surgery for you sometime next week.’

And then my heart sunk as I realised what I had said.

At the time, it was very emotional. I was 17-years-old and I was worried about my future.

I was worried if I’ll ever be able to find a partner that accepts me, worried if I’ll ever be able to wear the same clothes and worried if it’ll stop me from doing things with my life like swimming etc.

Bethany bravely had her diseased large intestine and rectum removed.

Crohn’s disease affects 115,000 people in Britain as well as 1.6 million in the US with eight out of 10 patients needing to have a part of their intestine removed.

The cause of the disease is still currently unknown and there is no known cure with the conventional treatment being medication.

Wanting to raise awareness about the disease, Bethany decided to share her experiences, and has been overwhelmed by the response:

The first thing I did was research and I found some amazing people that were confident and answered any questions I had.

I wanted to do the same for others. So I chose to be as open as possible with my bag, so others can see that I still live a ‘normal’ life despite my bag.

The response was amazing! I receive the biggest amount of support on my Instagram.

I’ve made the best of friends through my account and I’ve helped SO many people gain confidence in themselves. I feel over the moon knowing I’ve helped others.

Bethany hopes her posts show people what those with ileostomy bags and Crohn’s disease can do, which is everything.

She also shared the photos on dating sites so she wouldn’t have to reveal her ‘secret’ later on.

Bethany explained to UNILAD how her life has changed for the best:

Luckily now I have an amazing partner, who loves me just the way I am! It hasn’t stopped me from wearing tight fitting clothes and it hasn’t stopped me doing anything with me life.

I can even go swimming or play sport etc. and it doesn’t affect my life whatsoever!

Although my health hasn’t improved the way I expected it to – because my Crohn’s is so severe – my life has changed for the better!

I no longer have to worry about where the nearest toilet is, or having accidents in public. I no longer have to live my life glued to the toilet and it’s made me more proud of myself.

She does admit though she is still focusing on her health before she jumps into a career or studying.

To others with the same condition, Bethany shares some rather simple advice:

As silly as it may sound, try not to stress! Because stress is one of the worst things for IBD.

Every single case is different and what happened to me, may not happen to you. Don’t be frightened of what the future may hold, live for now and always be strong.

And Bethany isn’t alone in taking to social media to highlight issues affecting women and ideas of body image.

Thessy Kouzoukas – who co-owns the fashion brand Sabo Skirt – has been diagnosed with the painful condition endometriosis, which occurs when tissue behaving like the lining of the womb is found outside of the womb.

Due to this condition, Kouzoukas suffered a ruptured cyst and has shared images on her Instagram profile.

Truly inspirational stories!

To find out more about Crohn’s Disease the Crohn’s and Colitis website has plenty of useful information and advice.

Please book an appointment to see your GP if you have any symptoms of endometriosis, especially if they’re having a big impact on your life.

As well as support from your doctor, you may find it helpful to contact a support group, such as Endometriosis UK, for information and advice.