FOR fifty years Gemma Levine has been behind the lens, photographing some of the world's most famous faces.

But now the Chipping Norton resident is stepping into the spotlight to raise awareness of a little-known condition she suffers from called Lymphoedema.

Several years ago Mrs Levine was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery to remove a tumour.

Shortly after going through the trauma of chemotherapy and radiotherapy she discovered that her arm was swollen and reddish and it felt very heavy and painful.

She said: "I remember visiting my surgeon who just said you have Lymphoedema, that's unlucky.

"I did not even know what it was.

"The onset of Lymphoedema was gradual, now I cannot use my right hand to carry parcels or lift items from high shelves.

"I was given an iPad so I can still take pictures, because I could not use my heavy equipment."

Mrs Levine wants to raise as much awareness as possible about the condition and its symptoms following on from her own journey.

Together with Professor Peter Mortimer, a consultant dermatologist, she has penned a book: 'Let's Talk Lymphoedema'.

She added: "Lymphoedema is estimated to be as common as Alzheimer's disease and yet there has been no guide for those suffering from the condition.

"We want to spread the word and help as many people as we can with this guide.

"I hope it can be a powerful tool in the struggle to raise awareness.

"It has a powerful message for sufferers; you are not alone or forgotten."

According to NHS Choices more than 200,000 people in the UK are affected by the long-term chronic condition, which causes swelling in the body's tissues.

It affects approximately one in five women after breast cancer treatment.

The guide offers information and inspiration for dealing with its debilitating and lifelong effects, featuring contributions from international experts such as Miriam Stoppard and American actress Kathy Bates, who also suffers from the condition.

There are chapters on medical information, treatment advice and day-to-day support.

To maintain her quality of life, Mrs Levine has embarked on a rigorous exercise regime.

She said: "I swim every morning and have devised a routine exercise programme, which is at the end of the book.

"I visit a lymphoedema specialist who keeps a measurement check on my arm and changes my compression garments if needed.

"We also want sufferers to know that you can still live a rich and fulfilled life with the condition."

The guide, published by Elliott & Thompson, is £15 from book stores and also available on Amazon.