By Rebecca Drew
THIS inspirational young woman has been sharing pictures of her ileostomy bag with her 11K Instagram followers after having her large intestine removed as a result of Crohn’s disease – and says it was the best decision of her life.
Bethany Purnell (20), from Carmarthenshire, Wales, developed Crohn’s disease when she was 10 when she first started suffering with fatigue and would fall asleep as soon as she came home from school. Soon after, her symptoms developed, and she suffered with severe abdominal pain and diarrhoea and was unable to leave the bathroom.
Over the years, Bethany tried different medications, surgeries, liquid diets and has been fed through a tube to manage her condition. Going through school, Bethany didn’t tell anyone about her condition apart from her closest friends and had her large intestine, or colon, removed at 17.
“I was ten-years-old, at first I suffered extremely badly with fatigue. My parents noticed that I would come home from primary school and would fall asleep as soon as I got home. Then a few weeks later the diarrhoea and abdominal pain started, which was very severe,” she said.
“It left me unable to leave the bathroom. I lost a lot of weight and had blood in my stool. It was such a frightening time.
“I’ve tried many different medications, had many surgeries, tried different diets, even liquid diets and being fed through a NG Tube, which is a tube that went up my nose, down the back of my throat and into my stomach.
“Mentally I manage quite well. I get down days where I feel super unwell and feel quite unable to do things for myself. Fortunately, I have a great support network from friends, family and my Instagram.
“My Instagram account is like a support network, if I ever feel down or need any advice, I ask my amazing followers and they’re always happy to help me and others.
“I was so young when I got diagnosed that I didn’t have much of an opinion on it. Whatever my doctor or parents said, I did. I didn’t even know what an ileostomy bag was until I had to get one.
“At the age of 17, I went in for a colonoscopy and it was the most painful one I have ever had. My intestines were so badly diseased and my rectum was practically scar tissue that I just screamed at my surgeon to take my colon out and I was booked in the following week.
“It turns out it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I proudly posted it on social media and showed the world that I am rocking this Ostomy bag. I honestly wouldn’t go back.”
In her spare time, Bethany plays the guitar and does nail art, she hopes to go to college to do a nail technology course when she is well enough to turn her passion into a career. Bethany admits that she does sometimes have days when she feels down about her condition but says she couldn’t imagine going to the toilet normally anymore.
Bethany is very open about her bag and it hasn’t stopped her finding love.
“I do still get my down days where I wish I was ‘normal’ but they are definitely outweighed by the good days. Even though my Crohn’s is very severe and having my ileostomy bag unfortunately didn’t benefit my health hugely, but it’s benefited my life.
“It has changed my life in a huge way and I honestly couldn’t imagine going back to ‘pooping normally.
“When I first got told that I had to have an Ostomy bag, I researched into it and found some incredibly inspiring people that were giving advice, writing blog posts and even making videos on how to change it or what to wear to conceal it.
“Those people helped me in ways I could never thank them, so I wanted to help other people too. I wanted to show others that were going through similar situations that they’re not alone and having an Ostomy bag really isn’t as scary and frightening as you first think.
“I even went on dating apps and showed a photo of my Ostomy bag so that it wasn’t a secret and I didn’t have to ‘reveal’ anything if I decided to go on a date. I wanted to be as open as possible and if that person didn’t like me because of my bag then they’re obviously not the person for me.
“Luckily, I’ve found an amazing man that accepts me and Ed (my bag) equally.”
Bethany’s friends and family are super proud of how far she has come and she shared her words of advice to other sufferers.
“My advice may sound silly, but it is true. Try not to stress out about it. Every single person with Crohn’s Disease is individual, no two people are the same,” she said.
“Unfortunately for me, my disease is severe. Not everyone ends up having surgery, some people have to take one tablet a day and that suppresses the disease.
“We also need to end the taboo around poo. Every single being in the world has to poop and there’s still a big stigma around it.
“If there’s something abnormal going on, please get it checked out by a professional. I cannot stress that enough. Be open, be confident, be brave and most importantly, stay strong.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/bethanypurnell