Tennessee model Mahogany Getter spent her childhood avoiding mirrors.
“I felt terrified. I was like a freak of nature,” says 25-year-old Geter. TODAY.com.
Getter was born with lymphedema in his left leg, which eventually swollen him to 100 pounds.
“People stare at me when I’m out in public. There’s a lot to point out, but I’m talking about adults here,” says Geter. “Kids have the courage to ask me questions.”
mayo clinic Describe the condition as swelling caused by the accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissues of the body. It usually affects the arms and legs, but can also affect the chest wall, abdomen, neck, and genitals.
“Some cases are mild. Mine is very noticeable,” says Getter.
Getter’s lymphedema was discovered shortly after she was born.
“My mother told me that one of the footprints was bigger than the other, so the doctor could see it,” she says.
For years, Geter wore nothing but pants and long skirts. But that changed for him in 2017. Geter was approached by a professional photographer who wanted to help her build her modeling portfolio.
“I was completely skeptical,” recalls Geter. “I remember thinking, ‘Why would anyone want to take a picture of me?'”
However, a few days later, with the encouragement of his family, Geter called the photographer.
It was a decision that ultimately changed her life.
“I discovered that I had this confident badass bitch inside me,” she reveals.
Geter started booking jobs and posting pictures of herself on social media to raise awareness about lymphedema. She says there are many misconceptions about chronic illness.
“People often think that lymphedema only affects plus-sized people, but lymphedema is not all body types,” she explains. “I have also been told that the devil gave me this disease. I get messages about healers to work with in other countries.”
According to Lauren Gressley, a nurse practitioner in the Department of Vascular Surgery at Corewell Health in Michigan, lymphedema is irreversible. However, it can be managed with complete decongestion therapy (CDT). CDT includes compression and manual lymphatic drainage, a kind of gentle massage that moves the lymph fluid in the right direction. Gresley is not involved in caring for Getter.
Geter says he manages lymphedema with manual lymphatic drainage. She also wears compression socks that help move fluids to areas where they are properly drained.
Getter dreams of a photoshoot with supermodel Winnie Harlow. Harlow has vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that causes patches of skin to lose color. Getter, like Harlow, wants to redefine beauty.
“She’s definitely an inspiration,” says Getter. She said, “She would cry if she ever did her work with her.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com