As a young woman who has had an ostomy for nearly five years, I know the struggle of not feeling completely confident and beautiful. Ostomy or not, a majority of teenagers and young adults struggle with confidence and body image. That’s why I was so excited to see Aerie, a company that has a reputation for not touching up their photos and for representing women of all shapes, sizes, and skin colors, take their #AerieREAL campaign to the next level. In their latest set of images, Aerie is representing women with various disabilities and illnesses, including a beautiful woman with an insulin pump, a stunning woman in a wheelchair, a graceful woman with Down Syndrome, and many many more wonderful ladies.

What stood out to me that most, though, was the woman with an ostomy. When I look at her picture, I see a beautiful, happy and healthy young woman who appears so full of life. This image is important because it is a step towards shattering the stigma around ostomy bags, and maybe ending some of the stereotypes about ostomies. It’s normalizing ostomies.

Personally, I have always felt proud of and grateful for my ostomy; never really ashamed of it. After all, it saved me from a life of constant pain and suffering. I know it’s not gross. I know I am happier and healthier because of it. I know, even with an ostomy, I am still beautiful. But I don’t think society realizes these things because there is still a lack of knowledge and openness about ostomies. Here are a few of the most commonly misunderstood things I want to share with you about ostomies:

Ostomies are not gross. In fact, they’re quite beautiful. Each bag, each stoma - tells a story. In fact, they’re sort of like a tattoo. I look at and take care of my ostomy every day, and all I see when I look at it is where I was, where I am, and where I will be in life. It' shows my struggle. It shows how much I am able to thrive today, because of it. Most importantly, it shows me that I have so much potential and so much life ahead of me.

You can still love life and be happy with an ostomy. Because of my ostomy I am able to actively enjoy my life. I am so much happier now that I have it. Without it, I would probably still be so sick that I could not do any of the things I love. Today, I am able to attend college, travel a lot, and enjoy eating the foods I love.

Everyone with (and without) an ostomy is beautiful. This is something that I honestly struggle with sometimes. There are days where I look at myself and don’t always see a beautiful young woman, but this is why the #AerieREAL campaign is so important. It’s helping young women, just like me and different from me, realize that ostomies (or disabilities, or medical devices, or anything that makes a person unique) and the people living with them are beautiful.


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