Woman with severe bone disease becomes a professional dancer
When Tiffany Geigel was born, doctors told her parents an awful truth: their daughter had a rare genetic bone disease, known as Jarco-Levin Syndrome (JLS). While their daughter grew, her bones would as well, but not in the usual way. Tiffany's spinal column would become arched, her ribs wouldn't let her breathe and she would probably have fewer vertebrae than normal. The pressure on her internal organs would become fatal. Nevertheless, despite the terrible diagnosis, Tiffany's parents refused to believe there were no other solutions. Their doctors were skeptical of the methods they adopted.
When Tiffany turned five years old, her mother put her in dance classes in her home city of New York. From that moment, she started dancing regularly, exercising her body and gaining flexibility. Tiffany grew up, and although her body wasn't like that of the other children, she could still do anything that they could do. Doctors were stunned by her strength and the excellent state of her health.
Defying all expectations, Tiffany is now 32. She has lived far beyond the age that was predicted, and has been catalogued as one of the healthiest people with her condition. She is only 4 ft tall, but that hasn't stopped her from following her dreams — Tiffany is a professional dancer.
She thinks dancing has made all the difference. She said, "Dance has saved my life, it has helped me to continue being mobile and has kept me active and healthy." Her website states that she does not allow what makes her different to define or hinder her in anyway.
"When people see me perform they are blown away in awe, most of the time when people see me they automatically think I can't do anything for myself — dance is my way of proving people wrong," she added. When performing, her goal is to make people forget that she has a disability. On stage, she transforms herself: she is not a woman with a bone disease, just a professional dancer.
"While I can't control people's stares in public, when I perform I know I can change their perceptions completely. People's faces fall to the floor, I love that it's such a shock to them and makes them feel stupid for their wrong perceptions about people with disabilities, you can never judge a book by its cover," she said. And from her pictures, her range of movement, flexibility and technical skill are obvious.
What lessons can we take from Tiffany's example? That we shouldn't let ourselves be limited by other's expectations. Some of us are born physically different, some of us may develop problems later, but sometimes — with enough self belief and hard work — it's possible to defy the odds and win through. Tiffany is living proof of that.