Sarah's Health Notes: Beyond the Stoma

Sarah's Health Notes: Beyond the Stoma

I’ve never written the words ‘glamour’ and ‘stoma’ in a sentence before. But British fitness enthusiast and model Petrina Barber, founder of Beyond The Stoma campaign, and her five comrades in arms are not only knock-your-socks off gorgeous, they all live 24/7 with a stoma – that’s a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy bag. 

Bit of medical information here: stomas are fitted to allow bodily waste to be diverted and expelled from the body into a bag. The reasons for having one are numerous and commonly include bowel, cervical and bladder cancer as well as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel disease. 

Petrina, now 41 and married with a small son, was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 32. After years of aggressive treatment and a litany of appalling problems, Petrina had major surgery, which resulted in a permanent stoma. 

My brother had a stoma following surgery for colo-rectal cancer and I know girlfriends who have one, too. It’s not easy in any way. So Jo and I are truly in awe of what Petrina and her band of stoma-positive influencers have set out to do.  

Some 200,000 people in the UK live with a stoma, with an estimated 13.5 million people worldwide. The ‘Beyond the Stoma Collective’ sets out to ‘empower, encourage and support everyone living life with a stoma and to raise awareness about this hidden disability’. 

The website aims to be the world’s leading stoma resource hub where people can find unbiased information, access to resources and a supportive community network.

Please do visit the website and see Jody Wright’s stunning photographs, which celebrate the fabulous bodies of these stoma warriors. ‘You can be strong, sexy and confident despite facing health challenges and you can re emerge from battle even stronger and more beautiful than before,’ Petrina says. ‘We hope that by showing off our bodies in this way, the other 200,000 people in the UK with a stoma, many of whom are young, will feel empowered to unapologetically embrace their own bodies. Our stomas are part of us and we wear them with pride!’

You’ll see their magnificent bodies are adorned with gold leaf. That’s a reference to the Japanese art of kintsugi or ‘golden joinery’, where a broken vessel is restored and embellished with gold, silver or platinum dusted lacquer, transforming something broken into something beautiful. The philosophy of kintsugi celebrates the cracks and flaws, rather than hiding them. Just as Petrina and the Beyond the Stoma Collective refuse to hide their stomas but highlight them, alongside their strong, resilient bodies.

You can also follow the campaign on Instagram @beyondthestoma


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