stoma ileostomy bag woman me before you disability

Stoma and Ileostomy photoshoot

When surgery became a possibility I did what we all do these days and googled it… THAT was a mistake (seriously don’t google stomas, you’ll give yourself nightmares!!)

Many images are medical, none are particularly flattering, most are terrifying.

Since having my subtotal colectomy and ileostomy I have realised that neither is anywhere near as frightening as I thought they would be.  My bag is barely noticeable and my stoma is kind of cute to be honest!

I had two separate emails from women recently, one saying she had a stoma and an ileostomy a few years ago and didn’t leave the house for six months till she had the takedown surgery.  And another from a woman due to have surgery who spoke of her fears of being ‘ugly’ and ‘disgusting’.  Both emails broke my heart.  I feel so sad that this life saving operation has such a bad reputation when it comes to looks and self esteem.

I understand the feelings.  When I first had my surgery I was to scared to look at my stoma.  The thought of my intestines being on the outside horrified me and from the images I had seen online, I believed my femininity and any form of attractiveness would have been removed along with my diseased bowel.

Since then I have been googling A LOT – I wanted to find some powerful, beautiful images of women with ileostomy or colostomy bags and stomas to share on this blog.  I struggled…. There are some model shoots for stoma products that I found cheesy.  There are plenty of medical photos and quite a few selfies!

So I decided that as I live with a photographer and Im not really a wallflower that I may as well do a photo shoot to show off my bag and stoma and hopefully to create a series of photos that show femininity, sexuality, creativity and beauty.

I would LOVE your feedback as Im feeling quite nervous about putting these out there…  I wanted to show others the true face of stomas and ileostomies.  Im obviously not a model, Im a normal size 16 woman with wobbly bits and stretch marks.

I have a stoma and I wear an ileostomy bag but they are such a small part of what I am.  I hope this can inspire others who have had or are due to have the surgery.  Your body is awesome.  This surgery saves lives and that little bit of intestine doesn’t change who you are – be proud, be confident and be amazing.

Love Sam xx

All photography is by the awesome Timm Cleasby of The Picture Foundry.

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stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

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stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot

stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot

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ileostomy and stoma photo shoot black and white female woman with ileostomy bag

ileostomy and stoma photo shoot black and white female woman with ileostomy bag

173 replies
  1. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    WOW…..You look fantastic and thats just it…this journey has been hard for you but you just turned that into a positive for others. I wish i had half your confidence…oh and also loving your sequin pants x x x

    Reply
  2. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    WOW…..You look fantastic and thats just it…this journey has been hard for you but you just turned that into a positive for others. I wish i had half your confidence…oh and also loving your sequin pants x x x

    Reply
  3. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    Sam. These are amazing. Truly. You’ve done a remarkable thing I think.

    My daughter had a colostomy when she was newborn due to an ano-rectal malformation. It was reversed when she was about 7 months old so she never had to deal with any negative feelings about herself thankfully. It’s amazing how quickly everyone gets used to it though. (She’s 10 now and doesn’t even know she has a scar on her tummy)

    I’m not sure why I mention that except to say I understand a tiny tiny bit of what you’re going through right now. Much love and healing to you and yours while your recovery continues. Xxx

    Reply
    • sam
      sam says:

      Thanks so much for sharing – it’s hard enough when it’s myself, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to watch your baby go through it.

      Glad she’s doing we’ll now x

      Reply
  4. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    Sam. These are amazing. Truly. You’ve done a remarkable thing I think.

    My daughter had a colostomy when she was newborn due to an ano-rectal malformation. It was reversed when she was about 7 months old so she never had to deal with any negative feelings about herself thankfully. It’s amazing how quickly everyone gets used to it though. (She’s 10 now and doesn’t even know she has a scar on her tummy)

    I’m not sure why I mention that except to say I understand a tiny tiny bit of what you’re going through right now. Much love and healing to you and yours while your recovery continues. Xxx

    Reply
    • sam
      sam says:

      Thanks so much for sharing – it’s hard enough when it’s myself, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to watch your baby go through it.

      Glad she’s doing we’ll now x

      Reply
  5. Roi
    Roi says:

    That is a fantastic and brave thing you’ve done there Sam… I hope you and this excellent photo shoot by Timm will inspire and even help other folk, especially women, in similar situations to cope just that bit better. xx Roi

    Reply
  6. Roi
    Roi says:

    That is a fantastic and brave thing you’ve done there Sam… I hope you and this excellent photo shoot by Timm will inspire and even help other folk, especially women, in similar situations to cope just that bit better. xx Roi

    Reply
  7. Linda Jee (Damama)
    Linda Jee (Damama) says:

    Sexy beeatch 😀 You look fantastic and the stoma just looks like one of the Strawberry naevus things that people have. I’m surprised at how small and discreet the bag is!!
    Well done you for giving hope to other women through these photos xxxxx

    Reply
  8. Linda Jee (Damama)
    Linda Jee (Damama) says:

    Sexy beeatch 😀 You look fantastic and the stoma just looks like one of the Strawberry naevus things that people have. I’m surprised at how small and discreet the bag is!!
    Well done you for giving hope to other women through these photos xxxxx

    Reply
  9. Sarah Woodgate (faeriesigh)
    Sarah Woodgate (faeriesigh) says:

    You look amazing and these photographs are wonderful. I hope that other women will be inspired by these and feelnas beautiful as you obviously do

    Reply
  10. Sarah Woodgate (faeriesigh)
    Sarah Woodgate (faeriesigh) says:

    You look amazing and these photographs are wonderful. I hope that other women will be inspired by these and feelnas beautiful as you obviously do

    Reply
  11. lifespaller
    lifespaller says:

    Great photos. Interesting to view the stoma and surgery scars in the context of other body modifications and choices (tattoos, hair, clothes). I know it is not a choice and these photos can’t possibly reflect all you have been through, but they put the stoma in its place as just another life event in a full life. The medical photos never show this so the stomas always seem huge. If I end up having a stoma these photos show that I will not become the bag. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  12. lifespaller
    lifespaller says:

    Great photos. Interesting to view the stoma and surgery scars in the context of other body modifications and choices (tattoos, hair, clothes). I know it is not a choice and these photos can’t possibly reflect all you have been through, but they put the stoma in its place as just another life event in a full life. The medical photos never show this so the stomas always seem huge. If I end up having a stoma these photos show that I will not become the bag. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  13. Andy Revill
    Andy Revill says:

    Lil sis as your brother in law there’s something’s I shouldn’t see, you shouldn’t have worn those bloody stockings!!
    On a serious note, totally beautiful pictures xxxxx

    Reply
  14. Andy Revill
    Andy Revill says:

    Lil sis as your brother in law there’s something’s I shouldn’t see, you shouldn’t have worn those bloody stockings!!
    On a serious note, totally beautiful pictures xxxxx

    Reply
  15. Lily Vanilli
    Lily Vanilli says:

    I came back to look again as I am really taken with these photos. You need to SEO the becheebus out of these pics so every woman (or man) who googles for stoma or ileostomy feels slightly more like a human. Fanks x

    Reply
  16. Lily Vanilli
    Lily Vanilli says:

    I came back to look again as I am really taken with these photos. You need to SEO the becheebus out of these pics so every woman (or man) who googles for stoma or ileostomy feels slightly more like a human. Fanks x

    Reply
  17. StephsTwoGirls
    StephsTwoGirls says:

    Those pictures are amazing – lucky you living with a photographer! Not that I’m saying you don’t look gorgeous all the time, ahem. Anyhow I really admire you for getting this post out there to help others, as I’m sure there muct be plenty of others who need that boost in confidence and to know it doesn’t stop you being the rest of who you are (if that makes sense?!). x

    Reply
  18. StephsTwoGirls
    StephsTwoGirls says:

    Those pictures are amazing – lucky you living with a photographer! Not that I’m saying you don’t look gorgeous all the time, ahem. Anyhow I really admire you for getting this post out there to help others, as I’m sure there muct be plenty of others who need that boost in confidence and to know it doesn’t stop you being the rest of who you are (if that makes sense?!). x

    Reply
  19. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    Damn! You are and look amazing. I love how you are smashing taboos. I love how you are owning your body, your stoma and your own sexuality. By you doing it, you are also giving ‘permission’ and encouragement to EVERY woman. You are my heroine and woman crush. Hahah! Does that sound creepy? Sorry! Sam: you rock!

    Reply
  20. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    Damn! You are and look amazing. I love how you are smashing taboos. I love how you are owning your body, your stoma and your own sexuality. By you doing it, you are also giving ‘permission’ and encouragement to EVERY woman. You are my heroine and woman crush. Hahah! Does that sound creepy? Sorry! Sam: you rock!

    Reply
  21. kate
    kate says:

    Think your amazing Sam your photos are gorgeous! my mum has a urostomy so I know how she felt when she first had it and she still feels very conscious about it now years later. You are an inspiration to others! x

    Reply
  22. kate
    kate says:

    Think your amazing Sam your photos are gorgeous! my mum has a urostomy so I know how she felt when she first had it and she still feels very conscious about it now years later. You are an inspiration to others! x

    Reply
  23. Tricia
    Tricia says:

    You are a courageous young lady to help others through such an ordeal. Half the battle is to eliminate the fear. And your beautiful..

    Reply
  24. Tricia
    Tricia says:

    You are a courageous young lady to help others through such an ordeal. Half the battle is to eliminate the fear. And your beautiful..

    Reply
  25. Julia Dawn Mason
    Julia Dawn Mason says:

    My son is on peritoneal dialysis and has a peritoneal dialysis catheter in his stomach . He has never let it limit his activities. He had a kidney transplant in 2000, but a respiratory infection set off a rejection of the kidney in Sept of this year.He did not get depressed at going back on dialysis, just faced it as something he had to do to live.

    Reply
  26. Julia Dawn Mason
    Julia Dawn Mason says:

    My son is on peritoneal dialysis and has a peritoneal dialysis catheter in his stomach . He has never let it limit his activities. He had a kidney transplant in 2000, but a respiratory infection set off a rejection of the kidney in Sept of this year.He did not get depressed at going back on dialysis, just faced it as something he had to do to live.

    Reply
  27. Toni
    Toni says:

    Beautifully done! I was a Home Health nurse and dealt with several patients with both colostomies and ileostomies and it really isn’t that bad – especially if they have good surgeons. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos.

    Reply
  28. Toni
    Toni says:

    Beautifully done! I was a Home Health nurse and dealt with several patients with both colostomies and ileostomies and it really isn’t that bad – especially if they have good surgeons. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos.

    Reply
  29. thestomabaglady
    thestomabaglady says:

    These are stunning, I have been hoping to have some black and white photos done of my new post op body. You are exactly right about the images on the internet, they are terrifying. These are just the right kind of images the world needs to see – you look fantastic.

    Reply
  30. thestomabaglady
    thestomabaglady says:

    These are stunning, I have been hoping to have some black and white photos done of my new post op body. You are exactly right about the images on the internet, they are terrifying. These are just the right kind of images the world needs to see – you look fantastic.

    Reply
  31. Judith Green
    Judith Green says:

    Lady, you are ROCKING! Seriously. You are a beautiful woman. Who gives a shit (ha ha) how that shit ( see what I did there?) exits your body? I’m jealous of your stoma. Mine was a car crash compared with yours. Giggle….stoma envy….words I never thought I’d say 😉

    Continue Super Human, you are the best xxx

    Reply
  32. Judith Green
    Judith Green says:

    Lady, you are ROCKING! Seriously. You are a beautiful woman. Who gives a shit (ha ha) how that shit ( see what I did there?) exits your body? I’m jealous of your stoma. Mine was a car crash compared with yours. Giggle….stoma envy….words I never thought I’d say 😉

    Continue Super Human, you are the best xxx

    Reply
  33. leslie stevns
    leslie stevns says:

    i love these!!! i have been thinking of doing some pics for my husband…. he has been my rock for so many years. i am not ashamed of my stoma….. it has brought me to where i am in life today… i am for free than i have been in a long long time!! you are a beautiful woman…. keep rocking it…. looking forward to seeing more!!

    Reply
  34. leslie stevns
    leslie stevns says:

    i love these!!! i have been thinking of doing some pics for my husband…. he has been my rock for so many years. i am not ashamed of my stoma….. it has brought me to where i am in life today… i am for free than i have been in a long long time!! you are a beautiful woman…. keep rocking it…. looking forward to seeing more!!

    Reply
  35. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous, absolutely love these pictures, you look amazing! Such positive images, you should be bloody proud of yourself!!!

    Reply
  36. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous, absolutely love these pictures, you look amazing! Such positive images, you should be bloody proud of yourself!!!

    Reply
  37. Leah Cohen
    Leah Cohen says:

    Thank you so much for posting these beautiful pictures!! My disabled son is having this surgery & I too have been afraid to look online at all the “scary unmanaged” stoma pictures, until I ran across YOU on Pinterest!! You are so lovely & you just made me feel so much better!! Thanks so much honey, keep doing what you’re doing. God bless from Los Angeles!! =)

    Reply
  38. Leah Cohen
    Leah Cohen says:

    Thank you so much for posting these beautiful pictures!! My disabled son is having this surgery & I too have been afraid to look online at all the “scary unmanaged” stoma pictures, until I ran across YOU on Pinterest!! You are so lovely & you just made me feel so much better!! Thanks so much honey, keep doing what you’re doing. God bless from Los Angeles!! =)

    Reply
  39. Jo Beavan Matcher
    Jo Beavan Matcher says:

    Sam you are beautiful and amazing! If I am lucky enough to get pregnant again I plan to ask my husband to take pictures throughout. In my last pregnancy I looked for stoma pictures in pregnancy and after much searching found a lonely blog in a foreign language. These photos are so important for people to see normal people with a stoma!

    Reply
  40. Jo Beavan Matcher
    Jo Beavan Matcher says:

    Sam you are beautiful and amazing! If I am lucky enough to get pregnant again I plan to ask my husband to take pictures throughout. In my last pregnancy I looked for stoma pictures in pregnancy and after much searching found a lonely blog in a foreign language. These photos are so important for people to see normal people with a stoma!

    Reply
  41. lorna
    lorna says:

    I’m about to have my second ileostomy. My op is planned for this week. I want pictures like yours in fact when I have my bag put on if you want I will get some pictures done and send them to you so you can use them to hopefully show others that we are still sexy hot ladies. I’d love to do something to help at least one person so please contact me if you need any help thanks lorna

    Reply
  42. lorna
    lorna says:

    I’m about to have my second ileostomy. My op is planned for this week. I want pictures like yours in fact when I have my bag put on if you want I will get some pictures done and send them to you so you can use them to hopefully show others that we are still sexy hot ladies. I’d love to do something to help at least one person so please contact me if you need any help thanks lorna

    Reply
  43. Stella o shea
    Stella o shea says:

    Going for my surgery in a few days and seeing these photos made me less terrified. Thank you. Wish I had your courage.
    You must be helping so many people you will never meet.
    Stell xx

    Reply
  44. Stella o shea
    Stella o shea says:

    Going for my surgery in a few days and seeing these photos made me less terrified. Thank you. Wish I had your courage.
    You must be helping so many people you will never meet.
    Stell xx

    Reply
  45. Kirsty
    Kirsty says:

    Beautiful photos! I wish I’d seen these photos before my husband’s ileostomy op yesterday as I was a little nervous after seeing other photos online. He had his operation yesterday and we eventually plucked up the courage to look at it for the first time last night. My first thought and comment was that it was really cute, quite small and not scary at all. In fact I found your blog after googling ‘my husband’s stoma is cute’! I wish I’d seen your photos before as we would have been far less nervous, and I’m going to encourage him to have some photos done in the future when/if he feels ready to. Thanks again 🙂

    Reply
  46. Kirsty
    Kirsty says:

    Beautiful photos! I wish I’d seen these photos before my husband’s ileostomy op yesterday as I was a little nervous after seeing other photos online. He had his operation yesterday and we eventually plucked up the courage to look at it for the first time last night. My first thought and comment was that it was really cute, quite small and not scary at all. In fact I found your blog after googling ‘my husband’s stoma is cute’! I wish I’d seen your photos before as we would have been far less nervous, and I’m going to encourage him to have some photos done in the future when/if he feels ready to. Thanks again 🙂

    Reply
  47. lynne (aka Puss)
    lynne (aka Puss) says:

    Hi 🙂 Great photos! Im 52, had illeostomy surgery when I was 28. I can remember the “BAG” being to the forefront of absolutely everything I did for about the first year and then life took over! Three kids, a farm to help farm with my hubby, horses to break in…as I returned to full health the “BAG” reduced to a tiny little insignificant part of my life…even to the point where having the odd whoopsie when not at home has become a “meh…weas the baby wipes” moment. ALWAYS carry a spare bag wherever you go and you’ll be sweet 🙂

    Reply
  48. lynne (aka Puss)
    lynne (aka Puss) says:

    Hi 🙂 Great photos! Im 52, had illeostomy surgery when I was 28. I can remember the “BAG” being to the forefront of absolutely everything I did for about the first year and then life took over! Three kids, a farm to help farm with my hubby, horses to break in…as I returned to full health the “BAG” reduced to a tiny little insignificant part of my life…even to the point where having the odd whoopsie when not at home has become a “meh…weas the baby wipes” moment. ALWAYS carry a spare bag wherever you go and you’ll be sweet 🙂

    Reply
  49. Jemma
    Jemma says:

    Wow this is so inspiring, I am lucky enough to have had my stoma reversed now but still stuffer with bile acid malabsorption and inflammation. At the time at had my stoma I wish I had seen your blog, I was so ashamed and withdrawn I avoided social situations and wore clothes miles to big. Keep writing and inspiring so refreshing to see and read xxxx

    Reply
  50. Jemma
    Jemma says:

    Wow this is so inspiring, I am lucky enough to have had my stoma reversed now but still stuffer with bile acid malabsorption and inflammation. At the time at had my stoma I wish I had seen your blog, I was so ashamed and withdrawn I avoided social situations and wore clothes miles to big. Keep writing and inspiring so refreshing to see and read xxxx

    Reply
  51. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    Well done for raising awareness for something that no-one should be ashamed of. They should have posters of you in Stoma Clinics all over the world 🙂
    I had an emergency colostomy 8 years ago and didnt have the first clue what it was all about. Thankfully SA has an amazing Stoma Clinic who helped me with all the do and donts on how to care not only for the stoma but my own self confidence issues. It was still the hardest 7 months before the reversal procedure as hardly anyone, even close friends and family who had never heard of the procedure had even the faintest idea what it all meant and in the beginning everyone was all grossed out and ‘keep it behind closed doors’ attitude. Its the uninformed general public who can often be the cruelest.

    Reply
  52. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    Well done for raising awareness for something that no-one should be ashamed of. They should have posters of you in Stoma Clinics all over the world 🙂
    I had an emergency colostomy 8 years ago and didnt have the first clue what it was all about. Thankfully SA has an amazing Stoma Clinic who helped me with all the do and donts on how to care not only for the stoma but my own self confidence issues. It was still the hardest 7 months before the reversal procedure as hardly anyone, even close friends and family who had never heard of the procedure had even the faintest idea what it all meant and in the beginning everyone was all grossed out and ‘keep it behind closed doors’ attitude. Its the uninformed general public who can often be the cruelest.

    Reply
  53. Laurie Kronmiller
    Laurie Kronmiller says:

    Just saw your fantastic photos. You certainly showed what you intended and definitely sexy. I applaud you and thank you for your guts. (Hahaha – truth anf a little stoma joke to boot!)

    I had a colostomy November 2016. I think my stoma is so kind of pretty too. Mine is tear drop shaped since it is a “double barrel” stoma.

    So again, thanks for being so daring. I think your pics should be in every stoma clinic.

    Take care! Xxxx

    Reply
  54. Jennifer from Alabama
    Jennifer from Alabama says:

    Thank you. I needed this. Had my emergency operation early morning on March 26th and woke up to my ileostomy. Been in hiding except to the doctor’s and one friend’s house ever since. My boyfriend is very caring but my mind is not quite there yet. Looking for the day of my takedown but also glad I’ve experienced this. Makes life a little more interesting but nothing we can’t handle here. As I’m trying to stay optimistic I’m worrying about my new figure and if I’ll ever be up to a good weight again.
    Thank you for giving me the strength I needed to wake up tomorrow and be a better me for a change. Going to get my self esteem right back up. Bag or not, healing scar or not I’m still me.
    With warmest regards and well wishes, Jen

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […]  It helped that I lived with a super talented photographer! I wanted some images that represented ME.  The person I was before and the person I wanted to find under my scars, dressings and emotional […]

  2. […]  It helped that I lived with a super talented photographer! I wanted some images that represented ME.  The person I was before and the person I wanted to find under my scars, dressings and emotional […]

  3. […] can see more of my shoots here, here, here and here.  All photos are by Timm Cleasby at The Picture Foundry and are copywrited, […]

  4. […] can see more of my shoots here, here, here and here.  All photos are by Timm Cleasby at The Picture Foundry and are copywrited, […]

  5. […] have done a few photo shoots before to show my stoma and ileostomy bag before, and so I thought I would have a few of my post j pouch […]

  6. […] have done a few photo shoots before to show my stoma and ileostomy bag before, and so I thought I would have a few of my post j pouch […]

  7. […] loving the bikini shots doing the rounds, I have been open and shared my photos for the last year as I think it is so important to demystify and show the reality of having an […]

  8. […] loving the bikini shots doing the rounds, I have been open and shared my photos for the last year as I think it is so important to demystify and show the reality of having an […]

  9. […] And whether that body is fat or slim, muscly or bony, whether you have scars, stretch marks, a stoma, big boobs, little boobs, no boobs, a big bum, a flat bum, thighs that are tiny or thighs that have […]

  10. […] And whether that body is fat or slim, muscly or bony, whether you have scars, stretch marks, a stoma, big boobs, little boobs, no boobs, a big bum, a flat bum, thighs that are tiny or thighs that have […]

  11. […] when I had my stoma photo shoot, we also did quite a few other photos with different styles.  The last few months have been tough […]

  12. […] when I had my stoma photo shoot, we also did quite a few other photos with different styles.  The last few months have been tough […]

  13. […] I hope you enjoy the shots – if you would like to know more then please visit So Bad Ass. […]

  14. […] I hope you enjoy the shots – if you would like to know more then please visit So Bad Ass. […]

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