Jackie Zimmerman was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2009, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the digestive tract. In the years that followed, she underwent several procedures and treatments, including a temporary ileostomy and J-pouch surgery. It was when she started blogging about her experience that she realized she wasn't alone. Jackie connected with other young women who wanted to voice their unique experiences with IBD and ostomies too, and their openness gave her hope. She envisioned a powerful community of women coming together, sharing stories of confidence and promoting self-esteem. So, in 2012, she created a 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 of their Facebook page shows that over 15,000 followers have joined their vibrant online community. It’s 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 (all volunteers) built this grassroots organization, all while juggling full-time jobs, families, and dealing with their own medical issues.
Each year, Girls With Guts organizes 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 body image. With the added pressure of living with chronic illness or an ostomy, it’s hard to imagine anyone having to go through tough times alone. The bond Girls With Guts has created carries a feeling of friendship and shared experiences that unite them.