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MN model shares struggle with bowel disease on social media, hoping to help others feel less alone

After having her large intestine removed, Caitlin Kimpton awaits two more major surgeries to help with her ulcerative colitis.

MINNEAPOLIS — Caitlin Kimpton's Instagram posts look a lot different than they did six months ago.

Typically, the Minneapolis-based fashion and runway model posts beautiful photos from photoshoots, adorned in sparkly dresses and gowns. On her page, you'll see a video of her walking the runway during Fashion Week Minnesota in March.

But nowadays, she dons a hospital gown and reveals her colostomy bag, in posts with images and videos of her journey with a bowel disease, ulcerative colitis. She hopes others feel seen and heard through her journey, whether they're dealing with a similar disease or something else entirely.

"I also share my struggles," Kimpton said. "Like, I’ll post a beautiful photo, but then the reality behind the photo. I was feeling really down this day. Or I had this going on, and we should always try to lift each other up. Not everything is perfect, like you think it is on Instagram."

Credit: Caitlin Kimpton
On her 30th birthday, Kimpton wore a dress and crown in her hospital room.

Kimpton, age 30, underwent surgery in August to have her colon removed. In nine months, she'll have a second surgery, to attach a J-pouch. Then, a third surgery is planned for several months later. 

She currently lives with a colostomy bag. 

"I’m still not used to seeing my insides on my outside. When I have to take this bag off and I see this big, fleshy thing on the outside of me… it’s really hard for me to just look," she said. "I literally have an anxiety attack. It’s hard for me to see."

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She says by openly sharing what she's going through on Instagram and TikTok, she's gotten a large response from people who say they feel less alone.

"I could do a TikTok dance and get a couple hundred views, but do my medical [posts] and get 16,000 immediately," Kimpton said.

Still, she deals with chronic pain. She also is faced with mounting medical debt. Her dining room table has stacks of medical bills, adding up to thousands of dollars. 

"I had insurance through my work and they cover so much, but then you have to cover the rest," Kimpton said. "I try to set up payment plans and stuff but really it’s like… you’re always behind."

Recently, Kimpton lost her insurance. Her position as a content creator at her previous employer was eliminated.

"So I’m currently looking for new employment," she said, adding, "I plan on taking this time to really shine and show what I can do for myself."

Throughout her journey, she's attempting to keep her head up. She said she has an "insanely good" support system. She started a GoFundMe to help her handle some of the costs, which as of Friday, had raised just over $3,400 of its $60,000 goal.

Meanwhile, she'll keep sharing her story as a means of healing for herself and others.

"There's people that are in darker places than I am, and this is bringing them light," she said. "That's honestly why I've been put on this earth. I've been made as a creative soul and to bring light."

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