Blog: How to raise awareness in style

11 August 2020

Bethia wanted to address the lack of positive stoma awareness in a fun and creative way so she set about creating a clothing line with friends Hiraa, Clare and Zain. Now launched, and supporting Crohn's & Colitis UK alongside St Mark's Hospital Foundation, we caught up with Bethia to find out.

Conversations will be started, questions will be answered, and a positive light will be shone on Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

I was flicking mindlessly through the news when a headline caught my attention. Hoping that the case had been mis-represented, I searched for more information. After I’d finished reading, sitting in stunned silence, I knew that I had to do something to bring about change. If you also read the case where the judge granted the wishes of a man who would rather die than live with a stoma, what was your reaction?

I don’t feel angry with the judge, or cross with the man’s family for arguing in favour of their son’s death. Nor do I criticise the man himself for the decision that he made, for we should all have the freedom to make our own choices. My anger and sadness lie with a society that fosters so much negativity towards stomas and bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and Colitis. If society were more informed and accepting of stomas and bowel conditions, would this man’s thoughts have been different? In fact, would the experience of the 500,000 people in the UK living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease or a stoma be improved?

I knew that if I wanted to bring about change, I would have to choose something that was visible, positive and would appeal to as many people as possible.

This is how 'feel emPOWERed' clothing was born

Zain and Hiraa (pictured) came on board with Clare to support Bethia's vision

Having had the idea to design a clothing range but lacking in artistic ability, I knew that I couldn’t make it work on my own. Fortunately, when I approached my friend Clare she was also passionate about the idea and helped me to make the designs that were in my head a reality. Hiraa and Zain have also joined our team, and together we have been able to bring the vision to life.

By “Making the invisible Visible”, our clothing range aims to increase understanding and acceptance of Crohn’s and Colitis by giving these conditions a more obvious physical presence that will raise awareness through positive association. Our vision is for everyone, regardless of whether they have Crohn’s, Colitis, or a stoma, to wear our clothing.

For me life is brilliant because of, not despite, my stoma

Before surgery, Colitis completely dominated my life. Being in pain, malnourished, exhausted, and suffering side effects from medications made carrying out everyday tasks a struggle. When I was told that I needed a stoma I was anxious about the operation but excited about an option that would allow me to live life the way that I wanted to again. Unfortunately for me the path back to health was fraught with many complications, but despite these added challenges, it is a statement of fact to say that my stoma saved my life.

Six years on, the achievements and opportunities that my stoma has made possible for me are countless. Cycling, playing tennis and badminton, climbing, running, graduating and working full time as a doctor, swimming, hiking, traveling, falling in love and getting engaged. None of it would have happened had it not been for my stoma. Does something this amazing sound negative to you?

As for most people, Colitis is not a defining feature of my personality and is not something that I frequently talk about. Like my lungs and my heart, my stoma is a vital part of my anatomy. We all have differences, whether that be through genetic variation, disease processes or treatments and having Crohn’s, Colitis or a stoma should not be viewed any differently to having any other medical condition. The aim of our work is not to single out those who live with these things, but to educate those who have not had the experience, so that, like asthma or heart disease, they are viewed as a norm within society, and not something that is embarrassing or taboo.

Together we will change society’s view of Crohn’s and Colitis. Through our work we are supporting Crohn’s & Colitis UK and St. Mark’s Hospital Foundation for vital research and support for everyone affected by Crohn’s and Colitis.

Tag us in a picture on Instagram of you wearing your T-shirt with a description of what it means to you, and we’ll repost your picture on our pages.

Visit the shop