Women With Crohn's Disease Star In Powerful Calendar To Show Stoma Bags Can Be Sexy, Too
A group of women with Crohn's disease have stripped off for a lingerie calendar to end the stigma around stoma bags.
The calendar girls have all undergone surgery to remove parts of their intestines and need ileostomy bags to replicate the function of their missing organs.
Participant Samantha Cawley wanted to prove that the pouches, which are similar to colostomy bags, are no barrier to being sexy. The 28-year-old train driver said: "There's a lot of stigma surrounding having an ostomy and it is something that needs to be stamped out.
"I know there are some women out there that don't want to get naked in front of their partners because they are so self-conscious so, hopefully, this calendar will do something to help them rebuild their confidence."
Cawley, who is from Hardwicke, Gloucestershire, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease - which causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system - at the age of 26. It can cause fatigue, severe abdominal pain, unintended weight loss and diarrhoea.
The 28-year-old, who is the face of August in the calendar, went to the doctor with two of these symptoms and was diagnosed after a number of tests. She said: "At first it was hoped that they could fix it with a concoction of drugs including steroids, but sadly this didn't work.
"In April 2014, I had surgery to remove some of the bowel. At the time I was warned I may come out of surgery with a colostomy bag but, on that occasion, the operation was successful."
Just three days later Cawley was rushed back into hospital because her bowel had split and doctors were forced to install an ileostomy bag, which collects faeces.
"I consider myself one of the lucky ones," she said. "I had a long-term partner, in fact we are getting married next month, so I already had this great support network. But I know a lot of other ladies in my situation are scared to even go out."
The calendar is raising money for the charity Purple Wings, which supports sufferers of bowel disease.
Founder Lauren Henderson, 27, of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, said the 11 women involved were extremely brave and it was great that they didn't feel self-conscious.
The teacher, who appears as Miss November and organised the shoot, said: "It's so hard trying to get the message out that these women are still beautiful. I'm so proud. It's epic. I really can't put it into words.
"I think there are still people that think ileostomy bags aren't very nice - times have changed.
"We are so lucky and on a day to day basis people don't know we have these. No one gave us a choice - we needed these to stay alive. Other people need to get on with it and accept it. It's a massive thing to get it out, but it shouldn't be."
Copies of the calendar can be purchased at purplewingscharity.com