Bethany Townsend of Worcester, England, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was three years old. Formerly a model, the 23-year-old is now a makeup artist who's looking to do a second stint in front of the camera. Townsend speaks candidly and confidently about living with Crohn's disease — an illness that requires intensive care and attention. She has even begun documenting her life with Crohn’s on her personal Instagram account; the response (nine million photo views) has been overwhelmingly supportive.
Townsend is calm and casual when speaking about her lifetime of surgeries and close calls, but most people aren’t as open about the inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn's affects the the gastrointestinal tract and can include symptoms such as persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fatigue, constipation, and abdominal pains. After several surgeries to remove sections of her intestines, Townsend was fitted with two colostomy bags on her lower abdomen. Although the bags assist her digestion and bowel movements, they remain a socially stigmatized "accessory."
That’s why Townsend’s courageous decision to post a photo of herself — in a bikini, with her bags in full view — is so important. She’s helping break down the barriers of propriety and shame that prevent many people from talking about Crohn’s. After all, the more you speak honestly about something, the more people will begin to understand it. We’re all for confident women with a story to tell — and we hope we’ll get to watch Townsend go from an Instagram selfie to a magazine cover.