Brave mum be­comes plus-size model hit

Southport Visiter - - Front Page - BY KATE LALLY kate.lally@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @kate­lal­lyx

ASOUTHPORT mum with a rare in­cur­able dis­ease has em­barked on a ca­reer as a plus-size model. Stephanie Hard­ing, 30, said she re­fuses to let her di­ag­no­sis con­trol her life.

She took part in her first pro­fes­sional shoot yes­ter­day (Thurs­day), af­ter win­ning a com­pe­ti­tion to model a curvy range for lo­cal store Sparkles Bou­tique.

Mum-of-two Stephanie suf­fers from Ehlers-Dan­los syn­drome (EDS), an in­cur­able hered­i­tary dis­or­der which af­fects the con­nec­tive tis­sues in the body.

At present, there are few EDS spe­cial­ists in the UK, and Stephanie wasn’t even di­ag­nosed un­til last year, de­spite show­ing symp­toms since birth.

She said: “I was con­stantly tired and/or in pain, I knew some­thing wasn’t right. You know your own body, don’t you?

“But when­ever I’d go to the GP, they’d blame my weight or de­pres­sion. I was made to feel silly and like a hypochon­driac.”

EDS, which af­fects around one in 5,000 peo­ple, weak­ens the tis­sue that holds the body to­gether. It causes hy­per­mo­bil­ity and fre­quent dis­lo­ca­tions of the joints, stretchy skin, prob­lems with in­ter­nal or­gans and con­stant pain.

Stephanie said she suf­fers dis­lo­ca­tions ev­ery day as well as “frag­ile skin” but does not ex­pe­ri­ence the stretchy skin el­e­ment of the con­di­tion.

“My an­kles con­stantly roll daily and I have a per­ma­nent hip in­jury be­cause of it,” she said.

Stephanie, who said she loses en­tire days of her life due to be­ing ‘wiped out with pain’, fi­nally saw a spe­cial­ist in London last year.

She con­tin­ued: “He made me feel like he be­lieved me, like he un­der­stood.

“He told me about EDS and it was like he was reading about my body.

“I know GPs can’t know ev­ery­thing but there are so many peo­ple with rare con­di­tions, and they shouldn’t be dis­missed.”

Stephanie told the Visiter she is go­ing to set up a blog com­bin­ing her love of fash­ion and beauty with rais­ing aware­ness for EDS and other ‘in­vis­i­ble ill­nesses’, as well as tak­ing part in more fash­ion pho­to­shoots.

Stephanie added: “I loved the pho­to­shoot. It was a mas­sive con­fi­dence boost and lo­cal pho­tog­ra­pher Craig Wilko was great. A year ago I’d never have imag­ined do­ing some­thing like this, but there comes a time when you have to stop car­ing what other peo­ple think and just do what you want.”

To find out more about EDS, go to www.nhs.uk/con­di­tions/ ehlers-dan­los-syn­drome

Picture: CRAIG WILCO

Stephanie Hard­ing: now mod­el­ling for a bou­tique

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