Digestive Health

Updated 11 January 2018

Woman who almost died of bowel condition becomes world champion – while wearing ileostomy bag!

“After my surgery three years ago I never thought I’d be where I am today.”


A British woman who nearly died of a serious bowel condition has gone on to become a bodybuilding world champion.

Zoey Wright, from Cornwall in England, was recently crowned the world champion fitness model despite her long battle with ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The 25-year-old’s condition grew so severe that she had lifesaving surgery to give her an ileostomy ostomy bag – a bag that covers a stoma and collects waste.

According to New York Post, it all started in 2012 when Zoey noticed her rapid weight loss.

Doctors discovered that it was her body’s response to the lining of her bowel wall coming under attack from her white blood cells.

Zoey, who’s a former sports rehabilitation student, had ulcers on the lining of her large intestine and chronic pain.

After years of suffering, Zoey made the decision to receive ileostomy surgery - a surgical procedure that sees the small intestine brought out and stitched to the front of the abdomen – in November 2014.

Just ten months after her surgery, Zoey decided to start competing in fitness competitions for the first time in her life, reports Fitness Volt.

The 25-year-old, who turned to bodybuilding as a stress reliever, has since won the overall world champion title for the largest growing modelling federation.

And to top it all off, Zoey has won a countrywide competition to become the face of well-known sports nutrition brand, USN.

“After my surgery three years ago I never thought I’d be where I am today,” says Zoey.

“I’m so excited to work with USN and can’t wait to help promote their ethos, ‘challenge yourself’ – something I live by every single day!

“I’ve been through some extremely tough times accepting my illness. As a young female having the surgery had a massive impact on my body confidence, so when I chose to become a fitness model and step on stage it was really about stepping out of my comfort zone.”

The bodybuilder told Metro News that she’s perfectly healthy and has felt in tip-top shape since her much-needed surgery.

“Having surgery has enabled me to reach my full potential as an athlete, before my op it was a constant battle every single day just to get out of bed.

“I’m passionate about creating awareness by simply just doing what I love to do. Of course, I still want to create awareness for IBD but that isn’t who I am – I’m me.

“I’m a professional athlete just following my dreams ‘flaws and all’ because you only live once, right,” she says.

Zoey now encourages people who are struggling with health or mental issues to simply step out of their comfort zone.

“My message to anyone struggling in life whether that’s with IBD, other health conditions or mental health issues is to do one thing every day that scares you, something that challenges you to step outside of your comfort zone.”

Sources: metro.co.uk, fitnessvolt.com, nypost.com, healthline.com


Ask the Expert

Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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