Nicola Fletcher, a 36-year-old mother of six from Blackpool, England, had struggled for years with Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, and the significant scarring it left on her backside. So she found a beautiful way to reclaim her body and transform her scars into a work of art: with an intricate rose tattoo.
Fletcher told The Mighty she had always been a fan of body art (she has several other tattoos already) and was inspired after seeing a tattoo-covering a cesarean section scar. The rose design was created by tattoo artist Bob Valance at Modz ‘n’ Rockers Tattoo Studio in Blackpool, who suggested using petals and shading to hide the dips and bumps.
Fletcher first began experiencing symptoms of Crohn’s at 10 years old and had ileostomy surgery, which diverts the small bowel into an ostomy bag, two years later. When she was 19, she began developing painful sores on her bottom that prevented her from sitting. For the next 10 years, she got each sore removed one by one as they appeared. She was ultimately diagnosed with perianal Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation and abscesses filled with pus.
Immediately after this diagnosis, she began a six-week process in which doctors slowly removed the infection. However, the operation left large scars which Fletcher said led to questions and stares when they were visible in public. So in November 2016 she took the plunge and got her tattoo.
With her new tattoo, she’s found new confidence in her scar and hopes to show people with Crohn’s disease and other illnesses that they don’t need to hide away and be embarrassed.
“I want people to see that they are all still beautiful that we can stand up and be proud of our fight,” Fletcher said. “I’ve just had two more big surgeries and by no means live a perfect life, but I make the best of what I have and refuse to hide away just because I have an ostomy bag and inflammatory bowel disease.”
She shares photos of her ostomy bag and tattoos on her Facebook page, Beauty and the Bag, to help educate others and provide support for those struggling with chronic illnesses. People need to learn how severe these disease are, she said.
“I’ve suffered 26 years. I’ve worked many of those but now I can’t, yet I get abuse and called lazy. I have severe arthritis, osteoporosis, Raynard’s disease and I now have Crohn’s in my lady area and fistulas destroying my insides, but I won’t let this defeat me, never,” Fletcher said. “I want others to know there is support out here and I’m here for anyone who needs it.”