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US Beauty Queen Exposes 25-Inch Scar To Shed Light On Her Painful Illness

When Victoria Graham was a little girl growing up in Manchester, Maryland, she loved gymnastics, but her coaches noticed that something was wrong: she was "too flexible."

The 10-year-old girl injured herself in a gymnastics accident, but something wasn't adding up - her injuries weren't typical. By the time she turned 13, a geneticist finally pinpointed what was wrong.

Victoria has an invisible illness called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a rare genetic condition that affects connective tissues.

"Until I left school at 19, I hid my illness from others," she tells the BBC. "I would rather have my legs dislocate than someone see me in a knee brace."

Victoria Graham

Within two years, Victoria endured 10 major medical operations on her brain and spine.  She has limited range of motion, but the stiffness helps to relieve the pressure on her brain stem and spinal cord.

"I'm fused from skull to my bum - all the way down," she says. "Because I was able to move so much before, the vertebrae were dislocating themselves.

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Although she takes 20-25 pills every two hours for pain relief and to supplement normal body function, EDS hasn't stopped Victoria from doing the things she loves.

She won her first local title an holds the title of Miss Frostburg - a local title within the Miss America Organization.

She uses her title as a platform to meet and help out other people with the disease. In fact, she runs her own non-profit EDS support group: The Zebra Network.

Ross Lewin

Victoria fights for understanding. She endured her own social struggles with people who didn't understand that she had an invisible illness. She was dismissed and discriminated against because (unless she was wearing a brace or crutches) she appeared to be healthy.

Her message? Empathy: "If people are able to be empathetic to my situation in the same way - by recognising some illnesses aren't as obvious as others - it would make it a lot easier."

Victoria Graham

Like & Share if you think people should be more aware of invisible illnesses!

[Source: BBC]

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