The #GetYourBellyOut campaign began in March of 2014 with the aim to raise awareness of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The campaign encourages people to take a photograph of their belly and post it to social media to showcase that whether you have an ostomy, scars or no visible signs at all we’re united in the fight against IBD.
Our initial aim was to simply raise awareness of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease) however we now strive to educate, support and inspire our #GetYourBellyOut campaign supporters from around the globe.From humble beginnings the campaign has blossomed with our supporters having raised over £53,000 for the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK by partaking in various fundraising activities, meet ups and charity evenings over the past two years.
#GetYourBellyOut is currently run by Lorna Haymes, Victoria Marie and Gem Wills alongside a team of admin which the founders couldn’t do without. Each of the team members has a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and have their own personal reasons as to why they’re so heavily invested in volunteering their time for such an important and much needed awareness campaign. Gem for example has been a keen fundraiser for Crohn’s and Colitis UK for many years, whilst Lorna and Victoria are keen to improve the standards of support and care offered to those affected by with IBD.
What does the campaign mean to us?
“The campaign means a great deal to me, it has helped me so much and I’ve made so many friends. It’s great to see people’s confidence grow and ‘bellies’ proudly showing their scars” -Gem.
“The campaign is hope during the hardest, most trying days with a chronic illness. It’s uplifting to see so many working hard to raise awareness, raise funds and the standards of care for those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It’s comforting to know that there are people working day in- day out on finding that cure”. –Victoria
What is it that we hope to achieve from the campaign?
“I hope that we are really changing lives with the work that we put in. My hopes for the future are to continue to help shape and improve the standards of care offered to those living with IBD and offer support to those affected by IBD. One of our aims is to eradicate the myths that are often printed in the media about Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis”.-Lorna
“I think that the campaign has surpassed all of our expectations despite not having any financial backing and being so heavily reliant upon the generosity of others who for example kindly sponsor our annual charity evenings. Due to the wonderful support that we have received we are now able to continue setting ourselves new goals and achieve more which we hope will benefit the ever expanding IBD community”. –Victoria
Has IBD changed our attitudes toward life?
“Before #GetYourBellyOut was founded I used to struggle a lot on the tough days. I had no friends or family that had Crohn’s Disease or anyone who had really heard of the illness so I felt somewhat alone. It was very difficult to explain how I felt and I struggled to make people understand my condition and the horrendous pain that I was in. Since we founded #GetYourBellyOut I have been able to meet other people with the condition, make fantastic friendships and not only give support to other but to be able to lean on people who really do understand what I’m going through.’ -Lorna
‘Having this illness has made me appreciated the little things in life that we sometimes take for granted, it’s also made me realise how precious life actually is. I grab each day with both hands”. –Gem
How do we think that our campaign has helped others?
“I would say that we have changed lives by rebuilding people’s confidence, encouraging them to learn about the illness and by reassuring patients that it’s okay to openly discuss the topic of IBD. Not only does this help those living with IBD but it’s also helps people without the condition to learn more due to the extra media coverage.’ – Lorna.
‘Supporters say how much the campaign has helped them and it’s wonderful to see friendships being formed. People are now comfortable in opening up and talking more openly about IBD and often provide support for others in their hour of need. There is a confidence which is building and in turn that’s creating more awareness”. –Gem
What have we learned from the campaign so far?
“I think what we’ve learnt most is how much the support and standards of care are lacking for those tackling Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Whether that’s how slow and longwinded the process is to receive an initial diagnosis or how lacking the follow-up care is for those who undoubtedly will return to the hospital time and time again in a bid to manage their symptoms. At times it’s incredibly frustrating to learn that even the basics aren’t in place or how standards of care are getting worse instead of better. We all have the opportunity to work together, to ask for better and to improve things overall. We shouldn’t leave this to the next person when we can make a stand ourselves”. –Victoria.
“When I was first diagnosed it changed my perspective in a very negative way. I felt very much like “why me” “what have I done to deserve this” and that my life was over. The first 5 years were a real struggle for me even after my first ostomy was reversed. I became very depressed, struggled with anxiety and had a very dim outlook on my future. However over the past 4 years I have started to embrace my illness and helped support people on twitter through my experiences of living with IBD and having an ostomy, this gave me a huge sense of achievement, it’s comforting to be able to help others. I never wanted anyone to feel as alone as I felt in those early days it’s a very hard place to be in. Starting the campaign has really helped me to see that no matter what gets thrown my way eventually I am strong enough to adjust, that life needs to be lived and to never let my Crohn’s Disease hold me back from my goals”. -Lorna
Undoubtedly the campaign has helped others and has changed lives. We receive messages thanking us for giving people hope, support and friendships.
The team take great comfort from thinking about the great strides that Get Your Belly Out has made in raising awareness of IBD. 3 years ago it was unusual or see or read anything in the media regarding people who were living with IBD or with ostomies. Get Your Belly Out has been the leading force in sparking interest from the media on these condition, not only in the UK but on a global scale.
The campaign champions long lasting friendships and has seen 3 engagements so far and numerous relationships which have blossomed from within our support group. Thinking of what the campaign has achieved keeps us going, it makes life a lot easier knowing that you have a support network of people who live and experience similar situations to you.
For more information on the campaign, visit the Get Your Belly Out Website here: https://getyourbellyout.org.uk/