CARA CRUZ: What I would tell my younger self is, it’s going to be okay. No matter what hang-ups or issues are in your head or the voices from other people knocking you down, it’s more their issue than your actual own issue. CARA CRUZ: I have lipoedema in my thighs, hips and my upper arms; the whole like bingo wing thing is the drastic change here versus this is a sign of lipoedema. CARA CRUZ: The fat cells hold in the lymph fluid and they can’t be lost through diet or exercise, they are kind of like damaged. CARA CRUZ: Lymphedema, I have it in my lower legs. It’s where the lymph system is damaged. So the lymph fluid flows down properly, but it isn’t able to flow back up, it’s like blocked. CARA CRUZ: I had some weight issues as a child, I was always like the chubbier child throughout my classes. CARA CRUZ: I don’t think it was really noticeable, noticeable until I was in middle school when everybody else started to slim out. I got the curves but it was definitely like, disproportioned or definitely pear-shaped. CARA CRUZ: I realised I had lymphedema when I was junior-senior year of high school. I had fallen and I thought I had actually broke my leg or my ankle because I heard such a loud crack. But where I hit my leg on the step, I damaged tissue. I started to get a quarter-sized knot that would balloon up in the front of my leg. It would go down if I like massaged it away and then life happens and you forget about it and the next thing I know I had like the size of a football at the front of my left leg. I was affected a lot with it, I was teased for it. The whole fat nicknames when it was just all like, the skinny chicks going out, so I was left behind. Okay, so the compression stockings to put them on, we normally start with them inside out because it’s the easiest way to put them on. I have to wear compression stockings to help push the lymph fluid back up so that it filters through my system properly. And then just to make sure everything is in, I just push it down a little. I wear them to maintain my legs from swelling more. It helps keep the flow of the fluid back up. CARA CRUZ: To actually lose the weight and the damaged fat cells, the only real kind of way to go about that is through a special type of liposuction. Which of course the U.S. insurance doesn’t cover because it’s cosmetic in their eyes. CARA CRUZ: I started my Instagram in February. I started it on a dare with the boyfriend. We have been dating for about three years now, he is a great guy. He has fully embraced my condition from the negative comments I was getting about like, ‘Oh you are fat”; ‘You are a whale’; you are this, you are that, spurred into me mentioning the lymphedema and the lipoedema. CARA CRUZ: This pencil skirt from Torrid is one that I never would have tried on or worn before because it was way too hip hugging and curve hugging and I used to try to hide that and it is now one of my favourite items to wear because it hits the curves in all of the right spots. CARA CRUZ: When I started with some tattoos in my arms, I started the sleeve to kind of hide the upper arm lymphedema issues. I figured they are staring at me anyway, I’ll give them something to look at. I’m on the books for a tattoo once a month. Ursula was always my favourite growing up and originally it would just be her and Cruella, it’s just kind of like a half sleeve. He was like, I think you should go bigger and he was right. CARA CRUZ: I went with the thigh tattoos because again it was just, oh I like look of the arm, I like how it changes it. I have a fair amount of canvas on my leg, why not? CARA CRUZ: So I did it just to embrace it and show it off more. CARA CRUZ: Just because I have these conditions that make me more pear-shaped or bottom heavy doesn’t mean that I can’t put on a nice dress and still wear my compression stockings and go out and look great. I think a lymphedema warrior is someone that fully embraces it and shows the world out there that like, “Hey, this is part of me, this is a condition that I can’t control.” Social media has greatly helped with the body positive movement because there is a way to get it out there to connect with people from all over with your same anxieties and same issues and then you can help each other out. CARA CRUZ: The Yinz’s Bopo group, they are the most amazing group of women I have met, hands down. CARA CRUZ: I instantly felt welcomed. CARA CRUZ: When you can get together with a group of like-minded women that remind you to be like, yes I want you to wear compression garments, rock who you are. CARA CRUZ: It’s great to have that reminder that counteraction to the inner voice in your head that’s like, ‘You are not good enough.’ CARA CRUZ: This group of women instantly uplift you. It’s just amazing that how a mood change they are.