By Gareth Shoulder @Garethshoulder
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Videographer / director: Juozas Cernius
Producer: Gareth Shoulder, Ruby Coote
Editor: Ethan Edwards
For 14 years Farah Khaleck, from Nairobi, Kenya, has been severely affected by scleroderma – a rare autoimmune disorder which causes hardening of soft tissue throughout the body.
As Farah’s condition began to worsen, the 32-year-old would shy away from posting pictures of herself online. Her life changed forever after a ‘spiritual experience’ left her feeling empowered and ready to love herself again.
While she struggles to find employment in Nairobi because of her limited movement – her positive outlook on life and love of social media mean her story is spreading worldwide and inspiring countless people.
Farah told Barcroft TV: “Scleroderma has changed my life immensely; it has done a whole 360. I used to hate seeing the mirror, I hated myself and I was like, ‘Who I am I?’
“I started social media very reserved at first, taking pictures from really far away and have a gazillion filters on it. I would never show my hands.
“But It was seven years ago, I had just started wearing my hijab and I actually loved what I saw. That’s when I was like, ‘This is me, you’re beautiful and you’re amazing.’”
Farah was just 17-years-old when she began experiencing symptoms - discoloured knuckles; facial swelling and general stiffness. Unbeknown to her and several doctors these were the early signs of scleroderma.
Several misdiagnoses followed over a two-year period before a doctor in India finally identified the condition correctly.
Farah felt a huge weight had finally been lifted from her shoulders as she began a difficult adjustment to her new life.
She told Barcroft TV: “Adapting to this new version of me has been a journey for me; and for my mum how to handle me now.
“It was a culture shock, trying to learn how not to do stuff, I can no longer comb my hair or if something falls down, I can’t bend down to pick it up.
“Being used to doing all this stuff and then all of a sudden you’re not able to. How do you teach yourself, I cannot do this or that?”
Farah slowly found herself becoming withdrawn and feeling alone. It was then she discovered blogging – a pursuit that would become her passion and give her a new lease of life.
She told Barcroft TV: “I was just at home, I didn’t have any friends and life was basically very boring for me.
“I found some blogs and I was just like, ‘Woah is this a thing? I want to blog as well’. That became my channel to express myself.
“There were some comments like, she looks different. But I was like, ‘You know what? This is me – take or leave it.’
“Now I get so many messages on a daily basis and people just send so much love. It makes me humble every single day.”
Farah cites her parents as a huge source of strength in her life – admitting both have been strong since day one.
Her mother, Tasleem Kosar told Barcroft TV: “When I see Farah, I have to be strong for her, so then she’s strong.
“If I just sit and cry every now and then, she won’t get the strength. I’m always there for when she needs me.”
With over 16,000 followers on Instagram, Farah is using her social media presence to encourage others to find their inner beauty.
She hopes one day she can start her own foundation to support people dealing with poverty and have access to expensive treatments for rare conditions.