Tracey Devereaux used to have the same sort of body insecurities as a lot of other women.
“I used to worry that I needed to lose more weight, that I wasn’t perfect,” the Queensland mum-of-seven remembers.
Then she nearly died.
It was early October last year, and the 38-year-old was on a rare “date night” with her husband Bruce in their home town of Gympie. Going through the KFC drive-through, Devereaux felt a sharp stomach pain. Before long, she’d been diagnosed with an aneurism on a vein in her stomach. She was rushed to hospital in Brisbane.
In a coma, with most of her bowel gone, wracked by infection, there seemed little hope she would survive. The surgeon advised her family to put her into palliative care.
Her husband had to tell their seven children – the youngest aged just three – that it was time to go into the hospital and say goodbye to their mother. They did.
"That night, remarkably, is the night they gave me some extra antibiotics, a higher dose than they would normally give, because I was dying anyway," Devereaux tells The Motherish. "And at that point I turned the corner."
After 22 days she came out of her coma.
"I couldn’t walk, I couldn't sit, I couldn’t talk for a while there because I still had a tube in my throat," she remembers.
Finally, after almost three months in hospital, and just before Christmas, Devereaux came home to her family.
"The day I checked out of hospital I saw my surgeon and he said to me, 'I don’t know how you’re here.'"
Devereaux had gone through 10 operations. Her stomach muscles had been pulled apart and a skin graft put over the top. There were hernias in her belly, making it look even more swollen. She had two stoma bags attached to her abdomen, in places where the surgeon didn't have enough bowel to sew it together properly.
So how has she felt about her body since coming out of hospital?
"I love it," she says. "I’ll be like, 'I’m loving myself sick right now!' And then I’ll give myself a little hug. I definitely love my body a lot more. I appreciate it more."
She even loves her stoma bags.
"Without them, I’d be dead," she points out.
About six weeks ago, the couple decided to take a photo to document what Devereaux's body looked like after everything she'd been through.
"I’m a photographer – we just set it up in the studio," she explains. "We were mucking around. It was quite fun."
Devereaux wanted to publish the photo, with the hope of "breaking down a few walls" around stoma bags. She had to give her family, especially her father, a bit of time to get used to the idea. The photo went up on her husband's blog, Big Family Little Income, a few days ago.
"More people have the bags than you realise," she points out. "I do know somebody who was thinking about not going ahead with treatment for a condition they had because they didn’t want to end up with a bag, but it’s okay to end up with a bag, or two. It’s okay, no matter what your body looks like. It’s okay, because it’s you."
In another year or so, Devereaux is due to have an operation to remove the bags. That will be followed by one more operation, to pull her stomach back together and re-attach the muscles.
For now, she's happy to wear lots of fashionable "flowy" shirts, to accommodate her new body shape. But there is a side effect. People assume she has another baby on the way.
"You can hear them thinking, 'Oh my God, you’ve just got out of hospital and you're pregnant again?' So we have a bit of a chuckle."
Has a health crisis changed the way you see your body?