'I'm in a wheelchair now, but I want to show how beautiful disabled people are,' says Dublin model Lana
Published 25/07/2016 | 07:28
A former Dublin model who was paralysed due to a brain tumour has posed for photographs for the first time since the illness changed her life.
Lana Kurasidze had a successful career as a model and nightclub hostess in 2006.
But she was left unable to walk and began to lose her sight and hearing as the tumour grew in size when she was just 21.
The tumour - a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) - is one of the most malignant and aggressive cancers and doctors feared the worst.
Against the odds, Lana, originally from Latvia, fought back. Now she says she is stronger than ever. The illness has left her with the neurological condition ataxia and she needs the use of a wheelchair.
With the help of physiotherapy, she is learning to use her legs again.
She said she was frustrated by how she is treated as a person with a disability and decided to arrange her own photo shoot.
"I got fed up with this unfairness towards people with disabilities," she said.
"Our society prefers to keep those people separate from able-bodied people.
"I was doing research about professional models with disabilities and I didn't see any in Ireland - a few in the USA, one male model in Germany. Maybe there are more out there, but they are not noticeable."
Lana (31), who lives in Ballymun, said building up the courage to do the photo shoot took about six weeks.
"The longest part was my step-dad travelling from Latvia to bring me mum's fur coat and my red dress," she added.
"We also had to figure out a suitable time for photographer David Frain, hair and make-up artist Deborah Leonard and my personal assistant Veronica Cuthbert."
Lana said that she is frustrated by how people treat her and that she particularly finds it difficult to date.
"I don't like to stay in my wheelchair on nights out and prefer to transfer to the sofa with my high-heels on. Once I let them know I'm in a wheelchair, they all quietly disappear. It's funny and sad at the same time," she told the Herald.
"Kids on the streets just stare at me, of course we can't blame kids, but we can blame the parents who don't educate their children."
Lana is attending the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire and said she is continually improving.
She remains determined to walk again and is growing in confidence.
"I've gained the ability to stand, holding on to something, and I'm planning to get back on my feet some day."