A woman with a dangerous leg swelling condition is inundated with rude comments from online creeps.
Cara Cruz has been battling stage four lipoedema and lymphedema since she was a child.
Doctors initially accused her of over-eating, before realising her condition has nothing to do with weight gain.
But when she sustained a leg injury at 17-years-old, Cara threw herself into physio and spoke to her physical therapist about her debilitating symptoms.
The 39-year-old, from Pittsburgh, PA, USA, finally got diagnosed in her 20s and started look into getting the lipoedema removed by a doctor.
She announced plans to go under the knife and booked in for excess skin removal surgery and a tummy tuck.
Cara said: "I've always been a chubbier person.
"As a baby, I had chubby legs, and that baby fat never seemed to go away. I always seemed to be the largest one in my classes at school.
"Everyone was surprised, because I barely ate and I was active, so they didn't understand why I was the size I was.
"When I was twelve, I went to the doctor with my mum, and the doctor told me to tell him what food I was sneaking. I told him I didn't, so he asked my mum.
"My mum said that I didn't sneak food and the doctor didn't even believe her.
"It was when I was seventeen, and I fell and injured my left leg, that the lymphedema started to get really bad, so I began treatment for that.”
She continued: "My physical therapist told me that I just wouldn't lose weight because I had lipoedema as well.
"I felt a mix of emotions – knowing I wasn't crazy, but also anger, because I had been having these issues since I was a child, and all I was ever told was to lose weight.
"I would tell my doctors that I don't eat much and I'm active, and they would just tell me to figure it out. There was never a solution given.
"I went to the doctor in my early twenties for a sinus infection and they told me that I needed to lose weight. I asked if that had anything to do with my sinuses, and he just ignored me.
"There were so many times where my weight was the main conversation, instead of what I was actually there for. It was really frustrating, as the medical community has a fatphobia bias. They wanted me to be smaller but wouldn't help me do it.
"Even going for the pre-op consultation for my lipoedema surgeries, I had to argue with the doctor, because he accused me of taking the easy way out by having surgery.
"Up until my last surgery, I've had to go to my doctor every time and justify why I need these surgeries. It's been such a struggle, and it shouldn't be."
Through a combination of four liposuction and manual lipoedema removal surgeries, Cara was able to remove excess weight from her legs and arms.
She also got a large-scale tummy tuck to remove lipoedema, where 20 pounds and over three feet of skin was removed.
Cara explained: "It has been a game-changer.
"My back pain is gone. I sit straighter. I walk better because my knees don't hurt. There are so many things that removing all that lipoedema and extra weight has changed.
"With lipoedema, the body makes excess lymph fluid, and the fat cells absorb it, creating those large nodules. They are filled with toxins, because that's what lymph fluid is.
"With every removal of those, my body gets healthier. My skin and breathing have improved, my brain fog has cleared up, and my joint pain has improved.
"In August, we did my arms, and the day before surgery, my arms measured 25 inches around. The other day, I measured them – and they're now 15 inches around."
The lipoedema sufferer has been sharing her journey on Instagram, where she boasts more than 100,000 followers.
She has received widespread support online – as well as pervy comments from men who said she’s removing “the best part of her”.
Cara explained: “So many women have messaged me who thought they were the only ones with legs like this. People have been encouraged to get a diagnosis and some have even taken the step forward to have surgery after seeing how much it's helped me.
"Of course, there's some creepy men in the process that view us as a fetish I'm having surgeries and being told that I'm getting rid of the best parts of me – my hips, stomach and legs.
"I have no problem shutting that down in the comments. I want someone to be with me for my personality, and for my body to be a bonus, but for them to also understand my shape might fluctuate as we don't know if my lipoedema will come back.
"It's been really great to help other women regain control of their health and body.
"One in eleven women have lipoedema – it's just not talked about. There's a great support system out there on social media, and there is hope.
"It's possible to get relief and live a full life, because we deserve that."
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