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No sickness, no hospital, no pain. Just me, in underwear.. healthy, happy and proud; AFTER YEARS OF HELL, CROHN'S PATIENT CELEBRATES HER BODY - STOMA AND ALL; Inspiring struggle of Ultimo model.

Byline: Jenny Morrison

When Crohn's disease sufferer Kate Lynch won a starring role in a campaign for a major underwear brand, she was more worried about showing a double chin than she was about exposing her stoma.

Kate, 33, was fitted with it four years ago after suffering more than a decade of crippling pain as a result of the digestive disease.

Since first falling ill with Crohn's, she has had several operations and long hospital stays. And her weight fell to four-and-a-half stone.

But she says the stoma - a bag that sits outside her tummy and collects bodily waste - has dramatically improved her quality of life.

And she hopes her appearance as a model for Ultimo's new Best Shape campaign will help inspire others.

Kate, who lives in Glasgow, said: "When I look back on all the pictures that were taken for the campaign, it's the one of me in my underwear where I look the most relaxed.

"I know a lot of people find it very hard to be told they need a stoma but I had been ill for so long that I was just pleased that having it fitted meant I was going to be pain-free.

"It has become part of my life and while until now it's only been my medical team and close family and friends who have seen my stoma or even known that I had one, I liked the idea behind this campaign.

"Everything I have been through has taught me how amazing the human body is.

"I'm at the happiest and healthiest I've been in a long time and I can truly say that, to me, Best Shape means being strong, healthy and proud of your body - stoma and all.

"In some of the photos taken for the campaign, I'm nervously giggling so much I have a double chin or I'm standing at an awkward angle. But the photo in my underwear is the one I like the best.

"I hope it inspires other people with stomas to be more confident about their bodies."

Kate first started to suffer the symptoms of Crohn's disease when she was 17.

Medics initially put her stomach pains and lethargy down to irritable bowel syndrome and stress.

When she lost more than 4st, they diagnosed her with anorexia. They were about to admit her to a ward for people with eating disorders when a new doctor requested tests that showed she had Crohn's.

Kate said: "When I first started having symptoms, I would be in so much pain I would be doubled up in the foetal position. But I was advised it could be an intolerance to wheat, or because I was overdoing things or even stressed about school exams.

"I was told I needed to relax and that I might have IBS.

"Over the next three or four years, the bouts of being ill would come and go. I would have a month or two of being absolutely fine, then I would be doubled up in pain again.

"I started losing a lot of weight and became so lethargic that I wasn't able to do anything day to day."

Kate travelled to Newhope photo Zealand but came back so thin and feeling so ill that her mother took her straight to the doctor.

"I knew I didn't have anorexia but I was so weak, I started to wonder if maybe I was just in denial", she said.

"I kept thinking, 'If this pain I'm having - and even the blood in my stools - is all my head, then my mind must be amazingly powerful.' "But when the fifth doctor you've seen tells you the same story as everyone else, you start to believe what you are told."

On the night before Kate was due to be admitted to a unit for people with anorexia, her aunt, a nurse, called to say she had arranged an appointment with another doctor to give his opinion on her ill health.

He ordered a colonoscopy which revealed her small intestine had been badly damaged by Crohn's.

She started taking medication which helped stabilise her condition.

But four years ago, when she was a student in Stirling, her health worsened.

Kate was admitted to hospital, where she spent six weeks in intensive care and high dependency. She stayed in hospital for the next five months.

Kate had operations to remove sections of her damaged intestine and was fitted with a stoma.

She has now had so much of her intestine removed she can no longer digest food and has to be tube-fed nutrients overnight to stop her becoming dangerously thin.

Kate, a trainee health psychologist, said: "Living with Crohn's disease for 16 years has not been easy.

"I have experienced numerous surgeries and hospital stays and seen my body become weak, malnourished and underweight.

"But it hasn't stopped me. I've met so many amazing people as a result of my illness. I was even a bridesmaid for one of my nurses."

Kate, who is under the specialist care of the gastroenterology team at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, applied to take part in the Ultimo campaign after the company said they were looking for inspirational women who celebrated their body instead of striving for the perfect shape.

She was flown to London where she was one of six women chosen for the Best Shape campaign.

Kate added: "I was in hospital recently and chatting to my medical team about what I'd done, when an older lady on the ward overheard and asked to see the photos. I took my iPad and showed her the picture of me in my underwear with my stoma on display.

"She had been crying herself to sleep since being fitted with a stoma two weeks earlier but seeing me being so positive had made her feel better about it."

"I hope my photo will help remove some of the stigma surrounding stomas."

Sharon Bell, head of product and design at Ultimo, said of Kate and the five others in the Best Shape campaign: "Hearing stories about their struggles with body confidence was hugely inspiring and we hope will encourage other women to celebrate their own shape".

Disease that can last for life Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut.

It can strike any part of the gut, although the most common area affected is the last part of the small intestine or the colon.

Crohn's is a chronic condition, meaning that it is ongoing and life-long, although patients may have periods of good health as well as times when symptoms are more active.

Symptoms vary from person to person. The most common are abdominal pain, diarrhoea, tiredness, loss of appetite and weight loss.

There are currently at least 115,000 people living with the condition in the UK.

I hope my photo will help remove some of the stigma about stomas

CAPTION(S):

DESPERATELY ILL Kate in hospital

DETERMINED Kate at home last week with her cat Cosmo

PROUD Kate, with her stoma, and the other models

BRAVE FACE Kate, second left, with friends in hospital
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 10, 2017
Words:1182
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