We have so many amazing advocates in the IBD and ostomy community, but one team of advocates really stands out with a campaign they’ve been able to turn into an international sensation, and that’s the #GetYourBellyOut movement.
Started in March 2014, the #getyourbellyout team is made up of four incredibly hard-working ladies: Victoria Marie (twitter @colitisandme), Gem Gem (twitter @wales28), Sahara (twitter @Sahara88uk) and Lorna (twitter @lornamary_1981).
Victoria Marie, a friend of mine and the creator of the Colitis and Me blog, works tirelessly and spends countless hours on social media to get the word out about the campaign. Her efforts (along with the efforts of her teammates) have won the hearts of thousands of people with IBD; the campaign has also allowed shy ostomates to come out of their shell. As of Feb 2016, the campaign has raised over £46,000 (over $85,000 Canadian!) for Crohn’s and Colitis UK and there aren’t any plans to slow down! They’ve also recently started selling #getyourbellyout wristbands, vehicle stickers and more, and continue to pump out fresh new ideas to help raise IBD awareness.
— VeganOstomy (@VeganOstomy) July 10, 2014
But why is all this important? To me, advocacy should be more than just raising awareness for a cause or money for research; it’s an opportunity to show people who might be affected by these health challenges, that there’s a community of people just like them, and that community is strong. Advocacy allows us all to connect with each other through circumstances we never would have chosen otherwise. The #getyourbellyout campaign accomplishes those goals in one neat hashtag.
Flashing an ostomy pouch or a selfie in the name of IBD awareness isn’t anything new. We’ve seem some wonderful advocacy from the likes of Jessica Grossman from Undercover Ostomy, or from Sam Cleasby at So Bad Ass, but the #getyourbellyout campaign offers everyone an opportunity to partake as a community, and that opportunity was sorely lacking in the past; Everyone is invited to upload their belly selfie using the #getyourbellyout hashtag through the social media site of choice.
While my belly leaves a lot to be desired, it’s a belly that has gone to hell and back with me. It’s a belly that’s persevered through endless days of pain because of Crohn’s disease. It’s a belly that’s part of a body that once weighted 108lbs; 60lbs lighter than it should have been. It’s a belly that’s been cut open twice, and has endured the long recovery from two surgeries. It’s a belly that my stoma calls home; the reason I’m alive today. I am not ashamed of the scars I’ve picked up along the away, because I know that I’ve been faced with the same challenge as millions of others who are suffering from some form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease as I write this. For that reason, I will get my belly out in solidarity with my IBD and ostomy brothers and sisters.
You can also check out this beautiful GYBO campaign video:
Did YOU #getyourbellyout? Today’s a good time to start.
Updated: April 6, 2016