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Montreal model breaking down barriers posing with ostomy bag

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Model and advocate Sara Levitt's journey has been an emotional one.

At three years old, she was diagnosed with Colitis and by the time she was 11, it progressed into Crohn's disease.

"Little me was literally so young, I had no idea what was going on," she said in a recent interview.

"You experience excruciating stomach pain, difficulty with eating food, digesting food and eliminating waste, going to the bathroom. Number two specifically."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sara Levitt (@saralevs)

In 2008, she had a life-saving surgery, which removed two-thirds of her large intestine. She was given an ostomy bag, which allows intestinal waste to exit the body into an exterior pouch.

Levitt said there weren't any other options. "It was basically do or die."

While she initially didn't want it, it gave her her life back.

"People think that, you know, 'My ostomy is going to lead my life, my ostomy is going to control my life and dictate where I can go, what I can do.' And it's none of that. You learn to adjust," she said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sara Levitt (@saralevs)

But she says it wasn't easy.

"In my early days, I was like, 'OK, I don't want to tell anybody. I don't want to wear any clothing that is going to show it," she recalled.

Levitt's perspective changed on a family vacation. She challenged herself to wear bikinis with her ostomy bag out in the open. That's how she began reclaiming her power.

Last year, she shared her story on social media, and so a new chapter began. From there, she became a model.

"It's turned into this advocacy journey that I'm just so grateful of, working alongside brands fighting for representation within the fashion industry and just putting awareness on the forefront," Levitt said.

Kaitlyn McQuaid, coordinator of support programs at Crohn's and Colitis Canada, said Levitt's advocacy is needed.

"Having somebody like Sara being able to share her story and show that you can have a kind of big, full life with an ostomy can make a big difference in reducing the stigma associated potentially with getting an ostomy."

Levitt's full life shines a spotlight on her condition while having some fun, too. Now she and her ostomy bag, which she fondly calls "Liv," have done dozens of photoshoots, including Maxim Magazine Australis.

She's partnered with brands like La Vie en Rose, and soon, she'll be competing in Miss Bikini USA, where Levitt will continue fighting for representation.

"Me and Liv will be walking two stages, so we're walking a segment of Miami swim and we're walking the Miss Bikini US competition," she says.

Designer Olivia Sollazzo fashioned her bikini with her ostomy in mind.

"I wanted to not only focus on Liv, but for her have her moment," Sollazzo said.

Levitt is having her moment and said this is only the beginning.

"If I can just make one person feel less alone and become more accepting of their situation and more OK with their situation earlier on than I did in my journey," she said, "then it's like I feel my life is complete." 

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