My passion for dance started at the age of seven.  Any opportunity to perform and express my personality through my feet was always a rewarding challenge.  It wasn’t until I started having symptoms bilaterally in my lower extremities that were literally slowing down my dancing career and transforming my body that I became determined to find answers.  What I once viewed as my greatest strength, was quickly becoming a weakness.

As time went on the symptoms worsened.  Frustrations and emotions were slowly taking a toll on my self-confidence and self-esteem.  My Family and I began searching for those answers at the age of fourteen.  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.  Not a glimmer of hope, just countless misdiagnoses.

Fast forward to 2007, I was still unaware as to what was happening with my body, yet I really wasn’t focusing on it either.  I was spending every waking moment planning what would be the wedding of my dreams to the Love of my Life, Ruben. My heart was focused on the new journey ahead, but I will admit that it was difficult for me because I was allowing symptoms to defeat my strengths and I had not a clue what I was dealing with.  I quickly realized that I had a huge support team between my husband and family and they were not going to allow me to face this journey alone.  Their encouragements to never lose hope and continue searching for answers instilled a greater determination within.

After eighteen years of being misdiagnosed, God placed me exactly where he wanted me in June of 2011.  Although I wanted answers, I was not prepared for the plans He had already set out before me.  I was diagnosed with Primary Lymphedema, which is a hereditary condition where lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired, causing swelling and discomfort that requires daily maintenance.

I have since turned my frustrations and defeat into a passion filled purpose by being the Voice of Lymphedema and the Voice of Significance, as an International Spokesperson and Global Ambassador for multiple organizations.  I am living out my dreams as an active dancer, makeup artist and currently hold the title of Mrs. Florida International 2016, but most importantly is my “why.”  Continue building awareness and giving voice to every door of opportunity that opens throughout my journey.  It has been the time that I have spent healing from the inside out, that has been a true testament of my life coming full circle.  My feet are still my greatest strength and I will continue to use them in such a way to encourage and inspire others to give voice to their story, rather than suffer in silence as I once did.

Live to Inspire,

Amy Santiago

Where you can find Amy:

Instagram: @lymph2inspire



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