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According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), inflammatory bowel diseases — including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis — affect as many as 1.4 million Americans. Yet most of us know almost nothing about them.

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Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract and which can cause abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, persistent diarrhea, and a number of other unwanted symptoms.

To many, Crohn’s can be completely debilitating and life altering, as in the case of Heather Grant, a 23 year old from St. Helens, Merseyside. After three years of agonizing pain, Heather was diagnosed with the condition in July of 2015 — a pain that hit its climax in December of that same year.

Heather then underwent an operation that removed part of her bowel and ultimately saved her life. Unfortunately, she began to experience complications that caused a deadly amount of fluid to build up in her stomach.

To combat this, Heather, like many other Crohn’s sufferers, was fitted with a colostomy bag, something that when she first woke up from her operation she found both disgusting and embarrassing. But now, nearly six months later, Heather has embraced her reality and is hoping to inspire others to do the same.

Rather than cowering from public attention, Heather has begun chronicling her beauty, colostomy bag and all, on social media.

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Heather has now booked her first holiday since the operation, and opened up about why she feels inspired to embrace it: “I hope other people diagnosed with Crohn’s disease can read my story and see that life does go on after the operation.”

While not all of us can relate to her particular struggles, her bravery offers a broader lesson about self acceptance that we could all benefit from hearing, serving as an important reminder for us to fully embrace who we are. We may live in a world where body shaming is the norm, thanks largely to social media, but we can’t let that bring us down.

A second takeaway is to let this impact how we treat others who may be faced with a condition like Heather’s. Remind yourself to respect everyone’s experience and to never cast upon them judgement that you would not like cast upon yourself.

Related CE Article:

15 Year Old Treats Crohn’s Disease With Cannabis & Gets His Life Back

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