Sarah's story: breaking the stigma of stoma bags

My Stoma Photoshoot | Sarah's Story | Stand Up To Cancer


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Sarah Mills, 36, from Kent, survived stage 3 colon cancer and wants to break the stigma surrounding cancer patients' post-op stoma bags.

Look closely at these recreations of iconic celebrity images and you’ll see an unusual addition. Beyoncé, Marilyn Monroe, Venus, Elvis, Miley Cyrus and the Little Mermaid are all wearing a stoma bag.

Cancer survivor Sarah decided to celebrate, rather than cover up, the bag, which she has following her treatment for stage 3 colon cancer. Sarah never expected to be extolling the virtues of a stoma. But after life-saving treatment, she wants to tell the world, that stomas are OK. 

“I want to show other people who might be facing this treatment, that it’s going to be alright,” she said. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Yes, it will change your body but it’s not anything that you can’t overcome.”

Sarah, from Islington, North London, began posting the photographs, taken by her friend Veronika Marx, on her Instagram account and got an amazing response.

“People have been very entertained by them. But they’ve also told me that they wouldn’t have known this could be one outcome of having cancer,” she said. “I’m very happy to talk about bums and poo – it kind of came naturally anyway after all the conversations I’ve had with doctors who are very open and upfront about these things.”
“I want people to be diligent and raise awareness that: 1. You’re never too young to have bowel cancer. 2. Cancer can have a long shadow. Even though I have effectively been cancer-free for two years, I’ve been having treatment ever since, and my body has completely changed.”

Before she was diagnosed, Sarah also did stand-up comedy in her spare time. “I’ve been developing comedy material about my cancer journey, performing sets around bottoms and poo in comedy clubs.  As a comedian, it’s a sort of gift when your bum lets you down!

“However, what I really want to do is make sure people check their poo and continue to support organisations like Cancer Research UK, Stand Up To Cancer and the NHS.” 

Lynn Daly, Cancer Research UK, said: “We take our hats off to Sarah for standing up to cancer in such a unique, imaginative and powerful way. Every week 69 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in London, so we hope her incredible pictures will provide inspiration to many.”

Check out the full gallery of Sarah's iconic images.