I'm out to prove disabled people can be sexy by posing in my pants

‘You don’t look disabled,’ one troll wrote in a private message to me after my latest Instagram post.  

I rolled my eyes. 

The post was of me in lingerie but also showcasing my life-saving catheter. 

I looked sexy, powerful – but little did trolls know, or bother to understand, the struggle behind my photos. 

Back in 2021, aged 28, I was diagnosed with Fowler’s Syndrome – it solely affects younger women, and means I can’t empty my bladder. 

By that point, I’d been battling with doctors for 14 years to prove there was something wrong with me before finally receiving my diagnosis.

I also have interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition that causes bladder and pelvic discomfort, and a long-term pain condition called fibromyalgia – most commonly found in women. 

Today, other than a suprapubic catheter – a tube used to drain urine from the bladder – my daily visual reminder of my horrific medical journey, my disabilities are invisible. 

Because of this, I don’t feel like people know the ‘real me’; they don’t know my struggles because they can’t see them. 

So, since my diagnosis, I’ve made it my mission to raise awareness of chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities, so others don’t have to go through a similar experience of years of fighting for answers. 

I also – controversially for some – post photos of myself half-naked. Disabled people can be sexy, too – so why not?

I was aged 14 when the nausea started. My mum would take me to our GP but after a few visits, they told her that the pain was in my head, and that I was doing it for attention and to get out of school.

Over the next few years, debilitating pain across my lower abdomen and back took over. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, and I felt angry that it couldn’t be diagnosed. 

In 2011, aged 18, I fell pregnant with my then-partner. I was young and focused on becoming a mum, so it didn’t cross my mind that my pain had stopped – albeit briefly. 

But two weeks after giving birth to my son Oscar in 2012, it returned with a vengeance. 

For the next three years, I was back and forth with my GP and had several hospital admissions where I was once told I’d wasted resources as there was nothing wrong with me. 

I tried to move on with my life, taking painkillers daily – but dealing with pain and a toddler was tough. 

At the end of 2019, I went back to the GP and demanded a urology referral. After having three UTIs in six months, I knew something was wrong and I refused to be ignored any longer. I was told that medical tests showed my bladder was inflamed. 

Then, in January 2020, aged 26, a biopsy diagnosed me with incurable disease – interstitial cystitis. 

It felt bittersweet as, for the first time in 14 years, I had proof that I hadn’t been lying. 

I was forced to give up my job in a supermarket as my health was declining, and my pain had reached new levels. 

Two months later, I was fitted with a urethral catheter – a tube that is inserted into the bladder to collect urine into a drainage bag. 

I felt relieved, but my mental health hit an all time low. I was crying all the time and in constant pain. I would wet myself by accident and I avoided leaving the house for fear of it happening in public. 

After more medical tests, that July, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and was fitted with a suprapubic catheter, which drained urine through a cut in my abdomen, later that year.  

It was weird to have a tube coming from my abdomen but it made me more confident than I had ever been before. 

Life felt like it was finally getting better as I became used to the suprapubic catheter, before I was diagnosed with Fowler’s Syndrome in 2021. 

Except, I didn’t know anyone else with a catheter, which made me feel isolated. At first I wasn’t able to go on nights out or go out to socialise but I was ‘lucky’ as this initially happened when lockdown started, so no one was going out anyway. 

Now the world is back to some form of normality, I am able to socialise. But my health is very temperamental so I have to live life hour-to-hour and it can get in the way of my plans – something others don’t necessarily have to think about.  

Raising awareness online has enabled me to make friends in the community. They know me for me, my bladder and ‘Cathy the Catheter’. I love going on nights when my health allows.

When it comes to dating, that’s been put on hold. I had to give myself time to come to terms with how my life changed. With my son becoming a young carer, I focus all of my time on him – he will always come first. I have been on dating sites over the past year but that’s as far as it’s gone.  

I always have a photo of me with my catheter so they can see from the offset that Cathy comes with me. If they’re too shallow to not date someone because of their health, then I would rather them swipe left! 

I went from a size 10 to a size 16 and that was hard to accept, but I knew I had to change my mindset and learn to love my new body.  

I learned to embrace it rather than being depressed and stressed as it only made my health worse.  

Having posted on Instagram throughout my recovery, to help those battling in silence, I had an idea on how to raise awareness of my condition.  

I posted a photo of myself in knickers to my then-200 followers, in order to show my catheter to the world and make a point of who I am and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I was terrified of being judged for taking pictures of myself in my underwear, but messages of support quickly came pouring in from strangers as well as friends.

People thanked me for speaking up, so I knew I’d done the right thing. I continued uploading photos in my underwear, and my confidence grew.

More strangers started messaging me, including ones with catheters and disabilities, and I realised if I could make one person feel less alone, it was worth it. 

I was first approached by brands around a year into raising awareness. It made me feel amazing.

In time, my follower count has increased to 9,500 and now brands like SavagexFenty, Ann Summers and Bra Stop send me free underwear to do social media collaborations. 

Now, I’m in a place where I feel confident in myself and have come to terms with the way I am. My catheter keeps me alive, makes me feel sexy, and I feel so proud to show that. 

Trolls may say my body is disgusting or I don’t ‘look disabled’ when I share photos in my underwear, but I’ve built up a thick skin. It says a lot more about them than me. 

The more followers I get, the more negativity there’s going to be – but the positives outweigh the negatives. I’ve still got a long way to go with my health but I’m happy and helping others. 

I’m more confident than ever and I hope I can inspire others to feel the same. 

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