The newest news about ostomates I’ve noticed, is the trend in breaking the taboo of ostomies and ostomy bags through posted photographic images.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are just a few of the social media being used by ostomates to show and share their colostomy, ileostomy, urostomy bags and scars.
They are young, middle-aged, elderly, male, female, and all of them are plucking up the courage to share themselves and their bags to wider and wider audiences.
I have heard some folks, (ostomates and non-ostomates) take offense to the photographic images, and I heard other folks cheering them on.
Aspiring model ostomate Bethany Townsend posted her image with Crohns and Colitis UK Facebook group with her story, and the photos went viral. (See more at: http://tiny.cc/6rofkx).
Then there’s male model Blake Beckford (33) from Stratford-upon-Avon, who suffered from ulcerative colitis, eventually his colon was removed and he has a permanent ileostomy. He had dreamed of becoming a fitness model before his 2003 diagnosis and after 10 years, he developed the confidence to pursue his ambitions, and he has landed a feature in Men’s Health Magazine. (See more at: http://tiny.cc/bwofkx)
These brave ostomates are working to make news as a way of getting ostomy attention, support, and for spreading awareness.
The tracks laid by ostomates everywhere is one of a trend that other industries are now climbing aboard and riding the vive la différence train. JC Penny for example is featuring disabled models in a recent campaign. The major retailer states they are committed to greater representation in the fashion industry, representing their diverse range of customers. To date I don’t believe they are featuring an ostomate, but who knows what next year will bring.
Then there’s Jessica Grossman, (24), of Ontario, Canada, who is a trailblazing campaigner for women with ostomies, inspiring them to embrace their ‘second chance at life’ through her initiatives. (See more at: Facebook – Uncover Ostomy).
Photo-based activities conducted by oneself or as part of an organized group or project is occurring in many forms of community settings, and are catalysts for political/social change and for community-strengthening. Ostomates sharing their images and stories shows to be an important step in allowing people to take pride in and ownership of their ostomy, building confidence and supporting their feelings of validation that they are being listened to and taken seriously.
In my understanding, the images I have seen represent a means to an end rather than an end itself, for the purpose of emphasizing their courage and well being rather than illness. They are sharing to engage in awareness, advocacy and possibly their own individual healing. The images provide opportunities for peer support, socializing with new people, (ostomates and non-ostomates), and personal support.
Sharing the ostomates realities is a way we can all be more understanding of one another, regardless of any differences we my have.
Percy and I feel this new and inspiring trend is an opportunity to send out a resounding cheer, “go ahead folks, be proud of who you are, you’re amazing, embrace your ostomy, inspire others, and keep spreading the awareness.
Jo-Ann L. Tremblay
“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”