Cinders Fletcher, 35, Blackpool shares her story...
Deep crevices, rough, bumpy…red skin. No-one wants a bottom like that. Like mine…
‘It’s a reminder of how strong you are,’ my mum Janet, 55, said.
‘Still ugly, though,’ I sighed last September. ‘Crisscrossed with puckered, raised scars.’
However, it was better than the bottom I’d had before.
Aged 12, I’d been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – inflammation of the digestive system. Symptoms include tummy pains, diarrhoea, tiredness, weight loss…
Mine was so bad, I’d needed my large intestine and colon removed. I was fitted with a stoma bag instead.
But it’s better than suffering a life of constant stomach pain.
I was young, I learned to live with the bag. And my symptoms disappeared.
Then, when I was about 20, abscesses started to grow across my bottom. They were small at first, but each new one was bigger than the last.
All the doctor could do was operate, slice the abscesses off.
Every time, it’d leave a scar. Then, after a few weeks, the abscesses returned. Sometimes they’d grow to the size of a tennis ball. They were so painful, I could barely sit down.
Still, I did my best to get on with life.
I had my kids Paige, 13, Teejay, 12, Neeko, 9, Miqualer, 5, Charlie, 4, and two-year-old Frankie-Lou, although sadly I’m not with their dads any more.
With each pregnancy, the abscesses vanished, only to return afterwards.
By 2008, my bottom looked like a pepperoni pizza from all the scars.
Finally, I was transferred to a specialist at the Salford Royal Hospital.
‘It’s likely the abscesses are caused by the type of Crohn’s you have,’ the doctor said.
He drained the abscesses, and packed the channels they’d left in my skin with seaweed to draw out the poisons.
It was agony, but it worked. After six months, the abscesses stopped growing.
‘As for the scars, there’s nothing we can do,’ the specialist said.
After nine years of not being able to sit properly, I was just grateful the abscesses were gone.
Then, last September I’d gone to the Modz ’n’ Rockerz tattoo parlour in Blackpool.
‘Can you do me some flowers on my neck?’ I asked one of the tattooists, Bob Vallance. ‘To symbolise my parents.’
While he inked me, Bob showed me photos of his work.
‘I’m really proud of this one,’ he said. ‘This woman had a really nasty Caesarean scar, but I covered it up with these roses.’
Light. Bulb. Moment!
A few days later, I called Bob.
‘Can you help me?’ I asked.
Bob said he needed to see my scars before he could commit.
I was too excited to feel embarrassed, as I showed him my bottom.
‘I can cover those scars,’ he said.
We decided on flowers, to hide the scars under leaves and petals.
I was up for that – flowers to represent growth, beauty and new beginnings.
The tattoo took six hours. There were painful times, but I was so happy I didn’t care.
My best mate Charlotte held my hand when it got really bad.
It cost £280, but family and friends chipped in for my birthday, a week later.
When it was finished, I cried.
‘You’ve made me feel beautiful,’ I said, hugging Bob.
Mum loved it. So did the kids.
‘You’ll have to cut a hole in your jeans, so everyone can see it!’ Mum joked.
That gave me an idea. I took a selfie of my tatt and posted it on Facebook on the Crohn’s support group to which I belong.
The photo went viral. Within days, I had 1,900 messages from people worldwide.
All with Crohn’s, all inspired by my bottom.
Suddenly, I had new friends around the world.
I was even asked to be a speaker at a charity event in Birmingham this July, for Purple Wings, a charity supporting sufferers of bowel diseases.
I’m going to give a speech about positive body image. I might even show them my bum.
We all deserve to feel beautiful, and a bottom’s as good a place to start as any!