stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot #stomaselfie sam cleasby

#stomaselfie – going viral again!

I am very proud of the photographs I had done with my stoma and ileostomy bag and last week, they went viral!  Appearing in the Metro, Daily Mirror, BT online and The Independent as well as media outlets around the world including lots in Scandinavia, my photos went a little crazy under the hashtag #stomaselfie.

stoma ileostomy femininity #stomaselfie

The purpose of the photographs were to lift the veil, so to speak, on what is under the ileostomy bag.  When I was in hospital before my surgery to remove my colon, I googled images of stomas and I was horrified, all the images were very medical, many stomas that were having issues with prolapse or infection and my fear was intensified.

What I wanted was to show stomas in a way I hadn’t seen before.  To show that my stoma didn’t remove me of my femininity, sexuality or who I was.  I wanted to show the world that it was nothing to be ashamed of, that I was proud of my ostomy and that it really wasn’t as terrifying as I had once imagined.

stoma ileostomy femininity #stomaselfie woman with stoma ileostomy ostomy stoma images


I have received many messages of support of these photos, telling me that I am helping to reduce the taboo and stigma.  For that I am very proud and though I was afraid to first show these, I am happy to know that by sharing the images, that I am making a positive impact to the lives of those with stomas.

I know it is a little controversial and some people don’t think I should be showing my stoma, some think it is akin to photographing your bum hole and so it is inappropriate.  Some think it is just a little gross… But the truth is that millions of people worldwide live with a stoma, and if me showing these photographs help just a few of them, then I am happy.

stoma ileostomy femininity #stomaselfie stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot

Unfortunately, some media outlets have got the information wrong and say I have crohns, a colostomy and that these images were inspired by Bethany Townsend’s bikini shots, the truth is I have Ulcerative Colitis, I HAD an ileostomy (I now have a jpouch) and these shots were taken and shared in October 2013 well before the shots of others with ostomy bags went viral!

Thank you to the Metro, Daily Mirror, and especially The Independent for sharing the photos and spreading awareness, pride and support for people with ostomies around the world!

#stomaselfie sam cleasby stoma ostomy photo shoots sam cleasby


Unfortunately, there have been some nasty comments, but I know that putting yourself out there with images like this will always divide opinion.  I know that showing my stoma will bring out the worst in some, but it is so important to share to try and change the opinions of those who think it is “disgusting”.  I receive thousands of amazing comments filled with lovely words and I know I make a difference.  I don’t do this to get attention or for likes on Facebook!! Hahaha!!! I do it to make a difference and I believe that I do.

nasty Facebook comments trolling internet keyboard warriors #stomaselfie


Nice, huh? But then you get comments like this that make it all ok…  

“Certainly brave, and since the photos have popped up online I’ve shown my son – 4 years old why he has such a large scar across his tummy and what used to be there. It’s not something I’d ever Google to show him, but because it had popped up I thought it would be helpful for him to see and understand why it’s there”

“The whole point of these photos is to empower and take away any found shame about having a stoma! People will never ever feel the depth of pained shame to having a stoma and just how much it affects people’s lives and how it affects confidence in relationships and families. Complaining about such fickle things as people’s levels of decency is, to me, insulting! … and above all ignorant!”

“a stoma is like having an artificial leg you would never turn round to someone on the beach and say eeww put that away…I’ve not long had mine and at the start I was devastated as I had always been aware of my figure but my stoma saved my life and when anyone says anything negative about it…I just think I had hours to live and that was my only option…it saved my life”

“Amazing wonderful beautiful strong brave are just a handful of words I would use for these people. Much more than I ever will be! Some of the comments on here are just disgusting, but I dont expect anything less from uneducated morons who havent got a slightest clue on what a “real” issue really is! The models in these photos are heroes in my eyes!”

You can see more of my shoots here, here, here and here.  All photos are by Timm Cleasby at The Picture Foundry and are copywrited, please don’t use my photos without permission as it makes us a bit sad.  Get in touch and we can discuss usage terms.


Love Sam x



19 thoughts on “#stomaselfie – going viral again!

  1. Hi when did you have the j-pouch and how you getting on with it, please reply because I’ve got an operation Friday for my reversal


    • Hi I had my reversal in May 2014. It can be a tough recovery in the first few months and they say it’s 2 years for full recovery. But 11 months on I am doing really well with it!!

      I know it’s scary but it was the right choice for me.

      Best of luck xxxx


    • Hey Dawn, good luck for the op. I’ve had my j pouch for just over 4 years. Takes a while to settle down and for you to learn how to live with it but mine is good, nothing I want to do that I can’t do because of it, and that is, I think, most people’s experience.


  2. Wow Sam! You really are brave. Thank you for sharing your story. My mom had a Colonostomy and also wore a stoma bag. Her stoma looked a lot different to yours and was a lot higher up (closer to her breasts). She struggled to change her own bags because of the position of the stoma so I used to have to change the bags for her. After her Colonostomy she only showered because nobody told her she could bath with and without her stoma pouch until one of my friend’s wife (who is an ICU Sister) told my mom she could. Mom ended up taking her first bath with her stoma pouch three months before she died. Was unfortunately the only bath she was able to take. She was confined to bed soon after that and I gave her bed baths until she passed away on 27 October 2014.

    I really do admire your courage to speak out about this and your efforts to reduce the stigma.


  3. Hey Sam it’s 20 years since I had my j pouch, things keep improving over the years, we know it’s not a cure but it gave me my life back I was housebound before my ileostomy! Don’t let those people get to you with their negative comments, I for one think you are a very sexy lady.


  4. Well done Sam! You are courageous and determined to put an end to the shame that people continue to force onto each other. In the screenshot of people’s unhelpful comments, I noticed someone called Melina. She really needs to shut up with her unhelpfulness otherwise someone will point out that she is named after poo. Melaena (spelt differently but pronounced exactly the same as Melina) is basically black diarrhoea. Black tar-like poo that results from bleeding high up in the intestines. The blood turns black because it is partially digested. She of the nasty comment, might want to rethink her objection.


  5. I think you were very brave to do this and you have nothing to be ashamed of. A dear friend of mine just had this surgery Friday and he is scared to death. You given him another aspect of this surgery that he could really use right now. Thank you! I’m going to share your article with him and hopefully give him a brighter outlook on this procedure. God Bless you and you keep on rocking your Stoma!


  6. Good work Sam. You may or may not recall I’m the guy/advocate with hydrocephalus who found your blog on WordPress just about the time it wetn viral. You’ve made great strides in awareness and causes for intestinal disorders and surgeries. I’ve got some pretty narly photos of my brain surgeries with staples and all. But most around me have louded me after I posted even one. Let your efforts be an inspiration to others with disabilities, esp. the invisable ones.


  7. Hi Sam, I had my stoma created yesterday. Saw your pics in the run up to my surgery, you look absolutely fabulous! And you most definitely helped me, like you say, googling images online can be very medical are often ones with problems. So a big thank you from me. And ignore the haters. Xx


  8. Hi. I was diagnosed with Crohns back in 1984 and recently re diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis. Also told in the last month that I have to have my colon removed. Finding this difficult to come to terms with as wondering how it will affect my life style and the psychological effects. Reading these blogs has definitely helped and it has suddenly dawned on me how powerful the web can be in such a positive way. Well done Sam for putting your experiences together for many to benefit from and for those seeking inspiration and comfort! All the very best, John


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