A teenager with Crohn's disease is making headlines for sharing a series of moving photos on Facebook. In the pictures, which have racked up 88,000 likes, Aimee Rouski shows her surgical scars and ileostomy bag. She posted them to let others struggling with health problems know they are not alone: “I’ve wanted to do this for a while because I always see body posi[tive] posts for weight, but not many for disabilities/invisible illnesses,” she wrote on Facebook.
Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the lining of the digestive tract. Multiple surgeries have left Rouski without a large intestine, colon, rectum, or anus. Her inner thigh muscles were also removed, and used in plastic surgery to cover her wounds.
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In people who have Crohn's, the immune system attacks the digestive tract, leading to inflammation and tissue damage. The disease is tough to diagnose, and often mistaken for other illnesses. Symptoms include intense abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, and weight loss or malnutrition, because the damage to the digestive tract makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients. In severe cases it can be life-threatening. As Rouski noted, her Crohn's "nearly killed" her.
The images she shared on Facebook show the dramatic physical toll the disease has taken on her body, but also her resilience. In one selfie, Rouski sports a crop top despite her scars and the hole in her abdominal wall. "See, you can't tell that I have a stoma so don't worry about it!" she wrote in the caption.
But as Rouski pointed out, Crohn's is not something people should feel compelled to hide."People who know [you have the disease] will still love you and still find you beautiful. Your illness is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about."