"I'm just a girl who can't eat."
These are the words written on Sara Gebert's website. The 19-year-old from Pittstown, NJ lives with Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction (CIP) and Gastroparesis, two chronic conditions that together cause intestinal failure in Gebert. She has severe pain and nausea whenever she tries to eat, so the only way for her to get the nutrients she needs to live is through an IV feeding tube. To prevent frequent vomiting, an ostomy bag drains her stomach of its contents. There's no cure -- CIP is extremely rare -- but various medications and intensive surgeries help control symptoms. Basically, this is what's going on inside Gebert's body, according to her Instagram:
But Gebert won't let a few tubes prevent her from rocking her bikini at the beach this summer. While she was initially worried about wearing the bathing suit, she ultimately decided not to give a f--k about the haters.
"Living with a chronic illness is no easy feat, and it gets even harder when that illness changes your outer appearance as much as mine has," Gebert wrote in a personal essay for The Mighty. "With clothes on, no one can tell that I’m anything but a 'typical' person, but on the beach it’s a whole different story."
"That morning I made a last minute decision to just wear my bikini as if I didn’t have any extra parts on my belly," she explained. "I was so nervous. Every teenage girl can have body image issues, and since getting my ostomy, mine have been multiplied by 100."
Gebert, as badass as she is, wrote this essay to thank an equally badass stranger who came up to her at the beach and thanked her for wearing a two-piece. You can read her full story here.
"[T]o everyone else, I’m something out of a science fiction movie," Gebert's essay continued. "But you, you saw me as a person. You didn’t stare at my equipment, you looked me in the eye ... You thanked me for rocking my bikini, told me about how you used to have an ileostomy as well and how you no longer have a large intestine. You told me I was inspiring. That honestly meant the world to me."
Gebert and this kind stranger both deserve ALL the handclap emojis (???) for their bravery and awesomeness. Want a handclap of your own? Check out Sara's Army, Gebert's nonprofit organization that raises awareness for CIP and fundraises for medical treatments and research.
H/T The Daily Dot