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Amy Santiago: Mrs. Central Florida International, 2015

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My search began at the age of 14 when I found myself on the cusp of my dancing career. I was always noticing some type of swelling and it never occurred to me that I might have been dealing with something long term. I had convinced myself that the swelling was the trade off for dancing to the extreme as I was. 

As time went on the symptoms worsened. Frustrations and emotions were slowly taking a toll on my self-confidence and self worth. I was desperate to find answers as to what could possibly be causing my lower extremities to swell bilaterally.

My Family and I began searching for those answers about 18 years ago through various tests and appointments with primary care physicians, podiatrists, vein and vascular doctors, even cardiologists thinking maybe I was dealing with a heart issue or heart disease due to family history. The constant search had me physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. I didn’t have a glimmer of hope, just countless misdiagnoses.

Amy and Ruben

In 2007 I was still unaware of what I was dealing with, yet I really wasn’t focusing on it either. I was spending everywaking moment planning what would be the wedding of my dreams with the love of my life, Ruben. 

I will admit that it was very difficult for me to settle in as a newly wed because emotionally I was choosing not to deal with those personal issues that had me second guessing my self worth. I quickly realized that I had a huge support team between my family and husband. They encouraged me to never lose hope and continue searching for answers. 

It wasn’t until June of 2011 that God placed me exactly where he wanted me. Although I was searching for answers, I wasn’t prepared for the plans God had already set out before me. I was diagnosed with primary lymphedema, a hereditary condition where lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired. This causes swelling and discomfort and requires daily maintenance.   

I have  since turned my frustrations and defeat into a passion filled purpose! I am living out a childhood dream of pageants and competing for the Mrs. International 2015 title, and currently hold a local title of Mrs. Central Florida International 2015. Most importantly is my “why” which is my platform, lymphedema! Reflecting on my past and making connections with the present has instilled courage and strength within to no longer be a “victim” but a “victor” of lymphedema.

My hopes and prayers are for others to be encouraged and inspired through my journey of life with lymphedema.

Living beautiful with lymphedema, 

Amy Santiago

Amy raising lymphedema awareness