Fitness

"We’re PROUD of our bikini bodies!" These women are determined nothing will stand between them and their cossies

If we can do it, so can YOU!

If you're planning to hit the beach next summer and you're anxious about showing some skin, take inspiration from these three incredible women.

Their bodies have been through the mill, but they're determined to let nothing stand between them and their cossies!

"I went topless with one boob"

From Madison Joyce, 25

I sat in the small consultation room, listening to the words no-one wants to hear.

'I'm afraid you have stage three breast cancer,' the doctor said.

I was 22.

Beside me, my mum Janet was sobbing, but I was too numb to react.

I had a mastectomy, plus high-strength chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Losing my left breast was devastating and the treatment left me drained. I spent a lot of time exhausted in bed and my self-confidence hit rock bottom.

With the support of my friends and family, however, I got through the heavy treatment and was given the all-clear.

To celebrate, I booked a holiday with my friends in Spain.

I couldn't wait to get away.

But I'd lost my hair to chemo and the steroids I'd been on had made me put on 19kg.

My confidence was extremely low.

Madison in hospital battling stage three breast cancer.
Pictures exclusive to Take 5.

I knew everyone would be walking around in bikinis and I started to worry.

Then I thought, If I can get through chemotherapy, I can get through this.

When we arrived, I put on my cossie and popped my prosthetic breast – nicknamed the chicken fillet – in the cup where my left breast should have been.

Then I lay back in the sun.

But, after a while, I started to feel uncomfortable.

The chicken fillet felt heavy and stuck to my skin.

'Take it out and go topless like us,' my friends said.

At first, I thought, No way.

Then I had another thought.

It wasn't like it was my fault I was missing a breast. Why should I feel ashamed about it?

"So, summoning up all my courage, I took out my chicken fillet and whipped off my top."
Pictures exclusive to Take 5.

So, summoning up all my courage, I took out my chicken fillet and whipped off my top.

It felt great.

Of course, a few people looked, but no-one made fun of me.

In fact, several people came over and told me how brave they thought I was.

I felt thrilled.

Since then, I've started fitness training and got my size 12 figure back.

I recently entered a local beauty pageant to raise awareness about breast cancer and came second.

I've also entered a national contest in the Most Inspirational category and met so many other cancer survivors whose stories are truly empowering.

My feelings of happiness aren't about what other people think.

Boob or no boob, nobody's going to tell me I can't wear a bikini.

"Scars won’t stop me"

From Sylvia Mac, 49

I dashed into the bathroom and hid behind the door, my heart thumping. Aged three, I was playing hide and seek with my big sister Sheila and I reckoned I'd found somewhere she wouldn't find me.

Our mum had warned us to keep out of the bathroom because there was a big pot of boiling water in there for our nightly baths.

I thought, Sheila will never come looking for me in here.

I crouched behind the door, but just then it opened. In the next moment, I flew backwards.

I felt intense pain and then everything went black.

Sylvia with Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies
Pictures exclusive to Take 5.

When I opened my eyes, Mum was sitting beside me.

'Oh, Sylvia!' she said. 'Thank goodness you're awake.'

She'd been told I wouldn't survive. I'd been in a coma for a week, but I wasn't out of the woods.

My body was badly scalded and, over the next seven years, I was in and out of hospital for skin grafts.

At school, the kids teased me for looking different. The adults weren't much kinder.

'She's lucky it's not on her face,' parents told Mum.

My self-confidence plummeted and I hid away.

I'd loved swimming, but now I hated people looking at my body.

I remained that way until I was 48.

"I'd loved swimming, but now I hated people looking at my body."
Pictures exclusive to Take 5.

Then I went on holiday with Mum.

One day, we were relaxing by the pool when I noticed a man staring at me. He was clicking on his phone and I knew he was taking pictures of me.

I told Mum.

'Let's go down to the beach instead,' she suggested.

I put on my sarong and we set off, but I could see she was upset.

And something inside me snapped.

I had nothing to feel ashamed of and neither did Mum. I couldn't stand seeing her distraught, so, before I could change my mind, I ran down to the water, whipped off my sarong and posed with my hands on my hips.

"I had nothing to feel ashamed of and neither did Mum."
Pictures exclusive to Take 5.

'Look at me!' I said.

Mum beamed.

'You look great,' she said.

All my life, I'd hidden away, but no more. I set up a Facebook group called Love Disfigure, where people with physical disfigurements could show off their bodies without worrying.

And I started a little swimming group to give people confidence to get in the water. Former UK Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies got in touch to support it.

Today, I'm proud of my scars. They tell people that I'm a survivor.

"I wear my bag with pride"

From Lorna Haymes, 36

Looking in the mirror, I bit back the tears and thought, I can still see it and I hate it.

I had just been fitted with an ostomy bag after being diagnosed with the inflammatory bowel condition Crohn's disease and couldn't stand how it looked.

No matter what I wore, I could always see the bag bulging under my clothes.

At the age of 24, I felt it had taken my life away from me.

But worse was to come.

My Crohn's flared up again and I had to have the ostomy reversed, leaving me in pain.

Over the years, I watched as my friends got married and started families. Meanwhile, my life was on hold.

"Over the years, I watched as my friends got married and started families. Meanwhile, my life was on hold."
Pictures exclusive to Take 5.

I spent so much time in hospital and even when I was at home, I couldn't go out because I always needed to be near the loo.

So I made a decision.

I had my ostomy bag refitted.

It took away a lot of the pain and, that summer, I went on holiday with my friend Kelly. I'd packed a bikini, but I was worried that everyone would stare at me.

But then I realised something.

Every single person sitting by the pool had a hang-up about some part of their body. But they weren't hiding away.

I was no different.

So I put on my cossie and Kelly said, 'I'm so proud of you!'

"So I put on my cossie and Kelly said, 'I'm so proud of you!'"
Pictures exclusive to Take 5.

Back home, I put a picture of myself with my bag on show on Facebook and Twitter.

The feedback was incredible.

You look amazing, someone wrote.

I wish I had your confidence, someone else said.

I spoke to some other women with inflammatory bowel disease and set up #GetYourBellyOut, a campaign encouraging everyone to post pictures of their bellies – whether or not they had an ostomy bag.

Thousands did it.

One woman told me, 'You've given me the confidence to wear a bikini for the first time.'

We've since raised more than $125,000 for charity.

I'm not ashamed about my bag – it's given me a new chance at life.