July 2, 2014 -- Bethany Townsend decided to post some snapshots of herself in a bikini, bravely exposing her colostomy bags for the first time. And now they’ve gone viral.
The photos of the 23-year-old English makeup artist, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, have been viewed by more than nine million people, according to Caters News.
Townsend said the overwhelmingly positive response to her pictures has inspired her to pursue a career in modeling.
"I didn't expect this kind of reaction at all,” Townsend told Caters. “The photo has been seen by millions of people and it's had 190,000 likes and over 10,000 comments on Facebook - it's just gone ballistic.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, Crohn’s disease is a condition that causes inflammation, or swelling, and irritation of any part of the digestive tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and rectal bleeding.
In extreme situations like Townsend's, it becomes necessary to remove the damaged section of the intestine and fit the patient with a colostomy bag to divert feces away from the damage.
Townsend said she was fitted with the bags four years ago after a series of operations failed to help her symptoms. She decided to show the bags off on Facebook and Instagram after seeing a few other women doing the same, according to Caters. She then sent them to the Crohn's and Colitis UK Facebook group, which posted them on their page.
"I sent them the picture and my information, and it all blew up from there," Townsend said.