This young ostomate wants others to know they're not alone in their fears, and not to give up when life doesn't make sense.

At age nine, Shelby Hansen was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. For the next several years, she lived with chronic pain and endured numerous medical treatments. Ultimately, she had to have ileostomy surgery in 2011 when the disease progressed and medications stopped working.

In this post Shelby writes about staying hopeful in the darkest times, and shares the moments where she lost (and found) her faith.

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In 2008 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and since then my life has dramatically changed from being a healthy 9-year-old to now being 18 living with an ostomy. Every single day I face challenges – some from health, some from doubting God – but I've discovered my faith in a way that I never have before.

I remember very little from those years of suffering from Crohn’s, but I know that I am truly blessed: my younger brother trying to cheer me up, my dad crying from seeing me hurting and wishing he could take my pain, my mom helping me every day and crying with me, and my older brother’s sad face. We all prayed for a miracle that the sickness would stop. Crohn’s rocked our world and our faith.

Shelby at age 9 and 18

Shelby at age 9 and 18

After three years of constant pain I gave up on taking the vitamins that were keeping me alive, and now it was surgery or I was going to die. I chose an ileostomy and had my colon removed. I started to grow and gain weight almost immediately after the surgery, but still dealt with nightmares and fear for the next few years — finally I hit rock bottom. For three nights in a row I cried to God, and in truth, that’s when I really gave my life to Him and felt closer than ever to my faith. Now when I am stressed or worried I give it all to God. When I start to question things, I receive signs that remind me He is in control.

There are days where I just wish I wasn’t sick anymore, but I live one day at a time and always try to smile at the world. Through it all, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I am blessed to be alive. I am blessed with a wonderful family who are always there to help me. I am blessed with wonderful friends that I can talk to and encourage me. My life after ostomy surgery has never been the same, but I know that God is using my faith in Him to help other people.

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We're proud to feature this amazing photo taken by Shelby for January’s social media cover. It was hard to pick just one — check out the gallery below! She became passionate about nature photography years ago, and uses art as a way to express herself and release stress.

Winter nature landscape 1280

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