An estimated one million Americans are currently affected by Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes chronic inflammation involving any location of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bethany Townsend, of Worcester, England, has endured hardships since first developing the disease when she was only three-years-old. Then in 2010, her bowels burst and she had a portion of her intestines removed, which led to having to be fitted for two colostomy bags, through which her stool collects.
While Townsend was relieved to have survived the ordeal, the makeup artist was devastated about having to rely on the colostomy bags, she told the Daily Mail. She also decided to shelve her modeling career as a result.
But when she finally grew sick and tired of hiding her colostomy bags, she decided to pose for a photo in a black bikini and shared the image on Facebook.
Six months after posting the image, Townsend sent it to Crohn’s and Colitis UK, a nonprofit that works to improve the quality of life for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the main forms being Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
The group was ecstatic about the photo and posted it to its Facebook page. The image has since gone viral and continues to inspire people with and without Crohn’s.
“Reading all these comments is truly amazing,” Townsend wrote on her post after it took off. “If I can inspire or help other people in my position to feel a little more comfortable in their own skin, then I’m really happy.”