Sammy Nickalls
August 27, 2015 8:29 am

When Luke Bennett turned 16, he received news that no teen should ever have to hear. He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease of the large intestine that can cause severe abdominal pain and discomfort every single day. Ulcerative colitis can make day-to-day living incredibly difficult, and though it affects as many as 700,000 Americans, little is known about its cause. Last month, the disease forced Luke to make an incredibly tough decision and he was brave enough to share that choice and his journey on Facebook.

Luke, now 20 and a student at the Swansea University in the UK, has been living with the disease for four years. He recently took to Facebook to share a selfie that is not only brave, but inspiring for the thousands living with ulcerative colitis. Shared by the Crohn’s and Colitis UK Facebook page, Luke posed with his colostomy bag for the picture and wrote a caption accompanying the picture that is equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking, recounting his journey with the disease and the hard decisions he’s been forced to make. The post is now going totally viral after being liked by over 40,000 people and shared almost 9,000 times.

“At the start I didn’t know much about the disease except for the fact that both my cousin and my uncle had it,” Like writes. He goes on to say that for the first year after diagnosis, his symptoms were “pretty mellow”. . . but his condition worsened when he was on vacation in Cyprus in 2012, leading to him be hospitalized for five days out of the week vacation.

Although doctors have had him try various drugs and medications, nothing has worked. His body did not respond. “I was just about keeping my head above water when I made the brave decision to have elective surgery to have my large bowel removed,” he wrote.

Having a bag can be “terrifying,” Luke continued, because as a teen, it can make it seem difficult to feel confident about your body. “. . . [It’s] the time in a persons [sic] life when they should be enjoying life without any worries,” Luke explained. “However, life isn’t always kind to us and the decision for me was either to have surgery and live with a stoma bag, or continue with this disease until I was going to need emergency surgery in the future.”

Last month, Luke had a sub-total colectomy. “. . . ever since I had the surgery I feel like a different person,” Luke explained. “Yes the first 2-3 weeks of the surgery is all aches and pains, but nothing like the pain I had been experiencing before. This photo was taken just under 5 weeks after having the surgery and I’ve learned that living with a ‘bag’ isn’t as terrifying as I anticipated. It’s just another part of me which I have to learn to embrace.”

Luke ended the post by speaking to young people reading who may be suffering with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis “I hope. . . that my story helps you in anyway [sic] to not feel frightened if surgery is ever offered to you or if it [is] your only option. It has definitely changed my life.”

Ulcerative colitis can be an absolutely devastating disease that can cause chronic pain and inhibit your life. For Luke, it was either live with this crippling pain, or get a surgery that may set him apart from others, but would grant him the ability to live life to the fullest. Luke chose the latter, and his positivity and self-love is something we truly and deeply admire. Luke’s journey is so important not only for him, but for thousands all over the world who may be suffering with the very same thing.

Thank you, Luke, for bravely sharing your story. You are amazing.

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[Image via Facebook]