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Sheppey's Shelley Lawes who was diagnosed with a life-changing illness strips off for photoshoot

By Times Guardian reporter

A woman who fought back from a life-changing illness has proudly bared herself and her ostomy bag to the nation.

Shelley Lawes, of Bluebell Close, Thistle Hill, Minster, was diagnosed with the bowel disease ulcerative colitis 11 years ago. It’s a painful condition affecting the colon and rectum.

In 2015 she had surgery to have both removed to create a stoma, a stomach opening which bypasses the bowel.

The Sun recreates the Loose Women image with real women who have overcome various health issues. Shelley Lawes is pictured second from the right. Picture courtesy of The Sun.

The ostomy bag attaches to the stoma to handle the waste products.

Since then the mum-of-two, who runs a support group on the Island, has modelled for a specialist underwear manufacturer called Vanilla Blush but when The Sun newspaper decided to recreate a photoshoot of ITV’s Loose Women in their underwear and bikinis featuring inspirational women dealing with disease and illness, she jumped at the chance.

Miss Lawes, known as Shell, featured alongside a woman who had a heart transplant, another with abdominal cancer and one lady had the skin condition vitiligo.

She said: “The photocall was amazing, a real dream come true and the best bit was lining up for the big group shot. It really is one of the best ways to raise awareness.”

The 33-year-old’s mission is to break down the barriers around having an ostomy bag and ensure people understand all the treatment options available.

Shelley Lawes during her photoshoot.

She added: “There are many different diseases that could mean someone needs an ostomy bag and there are several different types. I wanted to treat the pain and living with a stoma was the best option for me and my procedure was an ileostomy.

“I sometimes see people scared to make any decision and living with pain for several years.

“A lot of younger people are very accepting of me and the bag, but I notice among the older generation find it difficult talking about such things.

“How hospital staff treat you also has a lot to do with it. I have seen a look of disgust on the faces of some nurses.”

She now runs the Sheppey Ostomy and IBD Group, which she set up after noticing a lack of information about her condition. She also works with the Colostomy Association.

To find out more about her visit Facebook and search stoma in a teacup and to see her take part in The Sun's article, click here

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