Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (along with ulcerative colitis) that progressively destroys the large bowel. Crohn’s disease is also a risk factor for colon cancer but for young Bethany Townsend, the ravages of an almost life-long battle with Crohn’s are obvious in a powerful image she recently posted to the social media site Facebook. Townsend’s goal for the photo was to raise awareness for Crohn’s disease so that momentum may pick up for efforts in curing the chronic condition.
Townsend is picture-perfect in nearly every way except for one thing people are not used to seeing, her colostomy bag. She recently shared her story with an advocacy organization called Crohn’s and Colitis U.K.
“Finally, after three and a half years, I decided that my colostomy bags shouldn’t control my life,” Townsend wrote. “So when I went to Mexico with my husband in December last year I finally showed I wasn’t ashamed. Still hoping for a cure.”
Townsend, who resides in Worcester, England, said she has suffered from Crohn’s disease since the age of three but was 11 by the time she was properly diagnosed. By then, her condition required that a 16-inch segment of her bowel be surgically removed. Subsequently, she has endured pharmaceutical treatments including steroids, infliximab, and methotrexate plus a feeding tube for four years and a total of five surgeries.
Unfortunately, Townsend ultimately suffered a rupture of her bowel that meant from then on she would need to use a colostomy bag in place of her large intestine. A colostomy bag is a collection device worn on the outside of the body and connected to the distal end of the small intestine by way of a fistula.
Townsend is hoping for approval in the U.K. of an experimental new drug. Otherwise, her last option is a bowel transplant.
Approximately 1.4 million people in the U.S. suffer from Crohn’s disease.