A Canadian teen with a rare disease that causes one leg to permanently swell to double its size has captured the Internet’s attention for her positive body image.
Isa-Bella Leclair, 19, of New Brunswick, Canada, was born with Parkes Weber syndrome, a genetic disorder that leads to vascular abnormalities, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In Leclair’s case, it means she was born with a right leg that is double the size of her left leg and she must wear a compression sleeve on her right leg 24 hours per day. She also deals with heart complications that stem from the syndrome as well.
“Parkes Weber presents in different ways in different people,” Leclair told ABC News. “Some people have only one complication but I have all the complications that come with it.”
Leclair caught the Internet’s attention completely by chance, when, earlier this summer, she went online to research a new massage option for her leg.
Leclair, a rising sophomore at the University of Ottawa, stumbled upon a blog about Lymphedema, or chronic swelling, and after a few messages, wrote a guest post.
The photo she included in the post is one of herself on the beach in a bikini.
— the Lymphie Life (@TheLymphieLife) June 12, 2015
Written at the top of the picture are the words, “I WONT LET ANYONE DIM MY SUNSHINE BECAUSE THEY ARE BLINDED…ILL TELL THEM TO PUT ON SOME SUNGLASSES CAUSE I WAS Born This Way.”
I took the photo in 2012 in Florida,” Leclaire told ABC News. “It wasn’t to raise awareness but just to share my vacation photos with my friends.
“I sent that photo in because I thought it showed really well my leg,” she added. “The reaction has been amazing.”
Leclaire’s photo was shared on Facebook and has now made its way into the magazines Leclaire says she and her friends read.
“When it came out in Seventeen and Cosmo magazines, I knew it was making a difference,” she said. “People who have my syndrome contacted me and said they’ve been working on self-confidence and I helped them.”
“It’s really gratifying.”
Leclaire, who wants to pursue a career in the mathematics field, says confidence starts with loving yourself first.
“You don’t have to post a photo of yourself in a bikini to be confident,” she said. “For me, confidence is a choice, just like happiness.”
“It’s just being comfortable in your own skin and, for me also, loving yourself is the first step to loving others and respecting yourself,” Leclaire added. “It’s something you can do in your life to give it a more positive vibe."