"My stoma bag won't define me"

"My stoma bag won't define me"

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As advocates for doing the utmost to represent real women with real bodies and instead, embrace and celebrate difference, we’re incredibly lucky to work alongside our ever-growing community of inspirational women with remarkable stories, one of whom being Lauren Woodhall (@barry_stoma_bag). Determined to live by the motto that “my stoma bag is part of me but doesn’t define me”, Lauren is a true beacon of positivity who’s story is an inspiration to so many. 

Just a matter of weeks pre-pandemic, back in January 2020, following a sudden onset of Ulcerative Colitis, Lauren found herself in surgery undergoing quite the change, soon to meet “Barry” for the first time. Barry, the beloved stoma bag that would save Lauren’s life. 

As a healthy 22-year old at the time, Lauren began noticing a few symptoms, which quite quickly, became so severe and resulted in being signed off work and bed-bound for the majority of the day. Multiple hospital admissions and weeks of struggling, she was later formally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Three months later, Lauren underwent surgery to remove her large bowel and insertion of a stoma bag.

With the nature of both ex-military and young, female fitness instructor, inevitably this took a huge toll both mentally and physically on Lauren of which “body image has always been important”. Which to add, 12 weeks recovery in the height of lockdown communicating only via calls/FaceTime, was undoubtably another challenge in itself. 

She vividly remembers the stoma nurse telling her not to hide from her stoma bag; and this was the best advice Lauren received. Instead, proving it certainly doesn’t define her, and instead an extra part of her.

Milestones including being in a swimsuit again for the first time, was a challenging yet rewarding hurdle. “I dreaded the, you don’t look any different, you can’t see it, as I knew it’d be untrue”. But in no, way, shape or form has Lauren prevented this from chasing her dreams and adamant “A stoma bag doesn’t stop you from living a perfectly normal life”, instead embracing just what Barry has done for her appreciating for the life she’s been given back.

“Different doesn’t mean it’s not normal or beautiful” and here at RE.BORN Swim, we design pieces for actual, living and breathing bodies that keep us alive, regardless of what that looks like, to flatter each and every figure. Forget the mannequins, the shape nor size, our swimwear is inspired by you, and the stories that make you unapologetically, you. We’ve been incredibly lucky to work alongside Lauren on-set, not the once but the twice who without fail, not only stepping outside of her own comfort zone, but rewriting the industry rules, challenging “anomalies” yet celebrating differences. Long may it continue!

Here’s what Lauren had to say about our open-cast shoot as cover girl for our SS/22 shoot;

“The shoot was such a gorgeous and enjoyable day with an amazing atmosphere that was full of love, support and positivity. All of the swimwear have gorgeous deep colours and really compliment all skin tones. The fabrics are so so soft too!”

Read more on Lauren’s story below.