A YEAR ago, Sophie Howard was so severely ill with Crohn’s disease she could not eat, suffered painful stomach cramps and was bed-bound in hospital for three weeks.

Twelve months on she has made a full recovery and will run her first 10-kilometre race in support of forCrohns, the research charity that aims to find a cure for the illness.

The 20-year-old, who lives in Hartlebury, was inspired to raise cash by the viral social media campaign #getyourbellyout, which promotes awareness of Crohn’s by encouraging sufferers to post photos of their stomachs.

She said: “I was very, very poorly last year and it was quite severe. I could not eat at all and lost almost two stones and my stomach was extremely bloated, like a balloon. I had headaches, cramps and episodes of vomiting and barely left my bed for more than 20 days so, naturally, I was really quite worried but the nurses were absolutely fabulous and did all that they could to help me and I feel lucky now that I am better and can cope with the illness on a day-to-day basis.”

She still has to take immuno-suppressant medication daily and every eight weeks has infliximab infusion treatment. She published a blog about the #getyourbellyout campaign on a student website, writing: “You will see pictures of bellies, all shapes and sizes, some with scars, un-scarred, some with colostomy bags, some tattooed and some with nothing but all are equally amazing.

“The campaign is close to my own heart because it empowers people with what some call an invisible disease. It has moved me emotionally, it is giving confidence to those who might feel embarrassed and it is showing Crohn’s and similar illness Colitis in all its glory – even if the symptoms are not glamorous. For most they hide their symptoms behind the toilet door or hide their scars under t-shirts but now there is no more hiding, no more embarrassment.”

Through the campaign, which has raised almost £9,000 for the charity, Ms Howard has also become friends with other young people who have Crohn’s and is receiving advice and help from the new support group.

The ex-Stourport High and Sixth Form Centre pupil, who is now reading media and cultural studies at the University of Worcester, will complete her fundraising run at London’s Hyde Park in September and has already raised £250 for her chosen charity. To donate visit justgiving.com/SophieHoward1