Friends who bonded after having stoma bags fitted meet for defiant underwear shoot
A group of friends who formed an unbreakable bond over their shared stoma bag experience met up to pull off an incredible underwear shoot that flies in the face of expectation.
Sarah Anderson, 25, Beth Gallagher, 24, and Lydia Andrew, 23, connected on Instagram after all suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) since their mid-teens, each having to have a colostomy bag fitted to collect their intestinal waste.
But after connecting over their shared experience, the trio has found the confidence to show off their stoma bags with pride, and even met up for an underwear shoot to show the world just how far they've come.
Sarah Anderson, from Aberdeen in Scotland, had her stoma bag fitted when she was 23 years old. Sarah has suffered from a condition known as ulcerative colitis since she was 15 years old; the condition worsened over the course of the next seven years, to the point where she had to undergo a four-hour surgery to remove a part of her large intestine.
Due to her illness, Sarah recalled feeling very lonely, saying:
"It is very isolating to be a young woman with bowel disease as it’s the sort of thing you normally associate with older people. Especially being single it can be pretty tough as you really don’t want to have to go around explaining to every man you sleep with why you have a bag attached to you."
Suffering from anxiety and depression after her operation, Sarah posted to Instagram a week later to raise awareness of ulcerative colitis.
"It’s one week post op for me and it’s been the hardest week of my entire life," she wrote. "I got my colon removed to reduce my cancer risk and to live without pain but mentally living with an ileostomy isn’t as easy as I thought. Emptying my bag is a dreaded thought and I need help and support to constantly do anything. I know things will get better but this disease and what people suffer needs more awareness."
"I’m not ashamed of living with this and I never will be," concluded Sarah in a post that generated 89 likes. One of those likes came from Lydia Andrew, who was working as a design assistant in an art studio, and was going through a similar experience.
"Lydia contacted me out of the blue and said that she was going through a similar situation," Sarah explained. They quickly became friends, connecting regularly over WhatsApp, and were joined by teaching assistant Beth Gallagher in late 2017.
Beth has Crohn's disease but had her stoma bag fitted in a similar situation, and together, they helped to build one another's confidence. Eventually, the trio's friendship blossomed to the point that they decided to meet up for a shoot in Calvin Klein underwear - the ultimate show of confidence in the face of adversity.
Gathering at Beth's flat in Sheffield, Sarah admitted she was a little nervous ahead of the shoot. "Before we met up I was a bit nervous – because girls can get bitchy and two’s company, three’s a crowd," she admitted, but before long, they were getting on like a house on fire.
"But it was amazing. It felt like we all had so much to say to one another and we spent hours just sat indoors chatting about everything, from our health to relationships, and everything we’d been through over the years."
Posting the photos to Instagram, Sarah says she's not usually the type of girl to upload underwear photos online, but the show of solidarity with Beth and Lydia gave her a great deal of confidence. "With Beth and Sarah, I trust their judgement 100 per cent," she revealed.
"We aren’t just three girls with stomas who have posted underwear pictures – we are people with a very deep and strong friendship, developed by having all had a pretty rough time. Having them as pals means I don’t feel like I’m coping with this on my own any more."
Life is full of challenges and setbacks, but the joint stories of Sarah, Beth and Lydia prove that no matter what you're facing in life, there's nothing like a strong group of friends to help you through it.