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Kristen DeAndrade Has 'Tiny Legs and a Big Heart'

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Kristen DeAndrade‘s mantra is “little legs, big heart.” It’s a mantra that’s been shaped by the 30-year-old’s life with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. “There is always going to be someone, somewhere who has something to say, ” DeAndrade said. “Even if I was pressured, it’s physically impossible for me to have another body type.”

DeAndrade views her body as a canvas reflecting her medical journey. “I’m not afraid to show the evidence of what I have been through,” she said. “It isn’t something I think twice about.” For DeAndrade, strengthening her self-worth has made it easier to drown out any unwanted opinions she may hear. “I don’t walk around reminding myself I am a woman with dwarfism who has an extensive surgical history,” she explained. “I’m Kristen. A woman with little legs and a big heart, lover of hugs and laughter, unafraid to show her sassy side.”

This summer holds significant importance to DeAndrade, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina. On May 2, DeAndrade underwent spinal surgery to reverse damage to her spinal cord due to spinal stenosis, a condition common among those living with dwarfism. “Hearing my surgeon describe how severe my spinal injury actually was – losing all motor function on the operating table and facing the possibility of living the rest of my life in a wheelchair – those words were a blow to my heart,” she said. “As a result I have been offered more perspective. This summer, more than ever before, I am grateful to be standing and moving on my own two legs.”

Read More: This Is What It Looks Like When You Feature Disabled and Chronically Ill People in Magazines

Next: Bekah Georgy Shares What Dressing for Summer With an Eating Disorder Is Like

Originally published: August 1, 2016
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