I am very proud of the photographs I had done with my stoma and ileostomy bag and last week, they went viral! Appearing in the Metro, Daily Mirror, BT online and The Independent as well as media outlets around the world including lots in Scandinavia, my photos went a little crazy under the hashtag #stomaselfie.
The purpose of the photographs were to lift the veil, so to speak, on what is under the ileostomy bag. When I was in hospital before my surgery to remove my colon, I googled images of stomas and I was horrified, all the images were very medical, many stomas that were having issues with prolapse or infection and my fear was intensified.
What I wanted was to show stomas in a way I hadn’t seen before. To show that my stoma didn’t remove me of my femininity, sexuality or who I was. I wanted to show the world that it was nothing to be ashamed of, that I was proud of my ostomy and that it really wasn’t as terrifying as I had once imagined.
I have received many messages of support of these photos, telling me that I am helping to reduce the taboo and stigma. For that I am very proud and though I was afraid to first show these, I am happy to know that by sharing the images, that I am making a positive impact to the lives of those with stomas.
I know it is a little controversial and some people don’t think I should be showing my stoma, some think it is akin to photographing your bum hole and so it is inappropriate. Some think it is just a little gross… But the truth is that millions of people worldwide live with a stoma, and if me showing these photographs help just a few of them, then I am happy.
Unfortunately, some media outlets have got the information wrong and say I have crohns, a colostomy and that these images were inspired by Bethany Townsend’s bikini shots, the truth is I have Ulcerative Colitis, I HAD an ileostomy (I now have a jpouch) and these shots were taken and shared in October 2013 well before the shots of others with ostomy bags went viral!
Unfortunately, there have been some nasty comments, but I know that putting yourself out there with images like this will always divide opinion. I know that showing my stoma will bring out the worst in some, but it is so important to share to try and change the opinions of those who think it is “disgusting”. I receive thousands of amazing comments filled with lovely words and I know I make a difference. I don’t do this to get attention or for likes on Facebook!! Hahaha!!! I do it to make a difference and I believe that I do.
Nice, huh? But then you get comments like this that make it all ok…
“Certainly brave, and since the photos have popped up online I’ve shown my son – 4 years old why he has such a large scar across his tummy and what used to be there. It’s not something I’d ever Google to show him, but because it had popped up I thought it would be helpful for him to see and understand why it’s there”
“The whole point of these photos is to empower and take away any found shame about having a stoma! People will never ever feel the depth of pained shame to having a stoma and just how much it affects people’s lives and how it affects confidence in relationships and families. Complaining about such fickle things as people’s levels of decency is, to me, insulting! … and above all ignorant!”
“a stoma is like having an artificial leg you would never turn round to someone on the beach and say eeww put that away…I’ve not long had mine and at the start I was devastated as I had always been aware of my figure but my stoma saved my life and when anyone says anything negative about it…I just think I had hours to live and that was my only option…it saved my life”
“Amazing wonderful beautiful strong brave are just a handful of words I would use for these people. Much more than I ever will be! Some of the comments on here are just disgusting, but I dont expect anything less from uneducated morons who havent got a slightest clue on what a “real” issue really is! The models in these photos are heroes in my eyes!”
You can see more of my shoots here, here, here and here. All photos are by Timm Cleasby at The Picture Foundry and are copywrited, please don’t use my photos without permission as it makes us a bit sad. Get in touch and we can discuss usage terms.
Love Sam x