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To the woman on the beach who thanked me for rockin' a bikini

You told me I was inspiring. That honestly meant the world to me.

I don’t know how hard it was for you to approach me on the beach. I know I have a hard time talking to strangers. You waltzed up to me with such conviction that nobody would've ever expected a self-confidence problem with either one of us — especially since I have to carry myself with such an aura of it.

You saw me for who I really was. A scared girl who was trying so hard to not let anyone see the fear in her eyes.

I don’t know if that’s why you came up to me or not, but I want to thank you.

Living with a chronic illness is no easy feat, and even harder when it changes your outer appearance as much as mine has. With clothes on, nobody can tell that I’m anything but a “typical” person but on the beach, it’s a whole different story.

Everyone is exposed on the beach, but I literally “let it all hang out.” I have an ileostomy, a G-tube and a J-tube — not something you see every day. I’m used to them, so for me, they’re normal... to everyone else, I’m something out of a science fiction movie. But you saw me as a person. You didn’t stare at my medical equipment, you looked me in the eye. And then... you thanked me.

I’m not sure you could tell, but I was stunned. I’ve had people approach me and call me gross or ask, “Are you really going in the pool like that?” So when you came up to me, I was preparing for the worst. But what came next still has me in awe.

You thanked me for rockin' my bikini.

Sara Gebert

My ileostomy, jejunal feeding tube & gastrostomy tube.

You 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.

When I was packing for this trip, I agonized for hours about what bathing suits to bring. I actually brought every bathing suit I owned and extra money to buy a new one because I didn’t think I had the perfect suit to hide everything. That morning I made a last-minute decision to wear my bikini as if I didn’t have any extra parts on my belly. I was so nervous. Since getting an ostomy, my body image issues have been multiplied by 100.

We hadn’t been on the beach long when you approached me, and I was already feeling uncomfortable, thinking all eyes were on my ostomy. But after speaking with you for those few short minutes, all my worries melted away. At that moment, I realized what I look like doesn’t matter, and for the rest of vacation, my only bathing suit issue was that I had severely over packed and probably didn’t need nearly as many as I had brought!

So thank you. Thank you for restoring my faith in the good of people. Thank you for allowing me to feel comfortable in my own skin. And finally, thank you for giving me the confidence to enjoy my vacation to the fullest extent.