A 19-year-old girl from New Brunswick, Canada shared a bikini selfie that's breaking the Internet in the best of ways. Isa-Bella Leclair posted a photo of herself smiling in a two-piece during a sunny beach day, like many other teens and young women do in the summer. What makes this pic a little different is that Leclair's right leg is swollen because of her Parkes Weber Syndrome. One of the side effects of the teen's illness is lymphedema, damage to her lymphatic system that causes fluid to collect in her leg.
It would be easy for the teen to hide the part of her that's different and not try things because of her condition, but the opposite is true. "My condition doesn’t define me and no way I will let it stop me from wearing a cute swimsuit or a cute dress. I don’t fit in skinny jeans or fancy shoes so I have to find alternatives, but I always end up still feeling good about my body," Leclair told The Telegraph. She even recently entered — and won — a beauty pageant in her hometown. "I wasn't suprised to win, I was more grateful to win," she said on Barcroft TV.
Leclair told her story on a the blog for people living with lymphedema, The Lymphie Life, and it's as inspiring as it is educational about the condition. She has lived with the rare, congenital disorder through her whole life, and lymphedema is simply a side effect. For Leclair, her visible side effects are a conversation starter and a way to raise awareness about her rare condition.
Leclair also says that her self-love and confidence have inspired others to look at her with admiration instead of pity when they see her disability. While people place a lot of focus on "health" when it comes to disorders such as these, Leclair thinks there's something else that they should be thinking about instead: "It's important for people who have health issues to not only work on getting healthy but to work on loving yourself and accepting who you are."
It's obvious in the video that Leclair has grown up in a supportive household and community. Not everyone with her disorder or other disabilities will have the opportunity to feel so supported and welcomed, but her experience is an important reminder of the power our words and interactions with people have.
It's also a great reminder that, even though sometimes things are tough and not ideal, it's how we look at and empower ourselves that matters most of all.