Jackie Zimmerman was diagnosed with a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) called ulcerative colitis in 2009. In the years that followed she had many procedures and complications, including a total colectomy and several J-pouch surgeries. When Jackie decided to blog about her experiences, she realized that she wasn't alone. Many others wanted to voice their unique experiences dealing with IBD and ostomies, and their openness gave Jackie hope. Jackie envisioned a powerful community of women coming together, sharing stories of confidence and promoting self-esteem. In 2012, she created the non-profit organization called Girls With Guts.
I wanted to be a part of Girls With Guts to show women and girls of all ages that you can break the stereotypes of IBD, not only by being confident and beautiful, but by turning the disease into a learning experience.
– Jackie Zimmerman
A quick check on the Girls with Guts Facebook page shows over 15,000 people have joined a vibrant online community. It’s truly inspiring to read stories on their blog and connect with women who’ve overcome medical, physical and emotional obstacles in pursuit of their dreams. What’s most impressive is that a group of five women and volunteers built this organization while juggling full-time jobs, families, volunteering and dealing with their own medical issues.
Each year the Girls with Guts team organize a weekend retreat with the help of their main sponsors, Coloplast and B. Braun, both top manufacturers of ostomy supplies. The retreat is a great way to connect with other women from all over the country, develop friendships and learn ways to improve their lives emotionally, mentally and physically. If you’re unable to attend the retreat, you can find online support with their outreach programs such as Butt Buddies to find meet-ups in your area.
In today’s society, many women face challenges with regard to their appearance, clothing and other issues. With the added pressure of living with chronic illness or an ostomy, it’s hard to imagine anyone having to go through it alone. Thankfully thousands of supporters are now connected, facing life’s changes together as a team because of this incredible organization.
Editor’s note: Edited April 7, 2017; this was originally published September 11, 2016.