It took me a while to come to terms with my Lymphoedema. For about six years I simply ignored the symptoms, as that seemed the easiest way to deal with it. As far as I was concerned, if I acted normal, I was normal. It was just one leg after all. There was no wheelchair or crutches and I could wear my jeans to hide my “fat leg”. Simple. Condition cured. Job done!
Except Lymphoedema doesn’t work like that. It requires constant attention, care and treatment, so ignoring it is just about the worst thing you can do. My stint in hospital taught me to accept the disease. It was as much a part of me as my extraordinarily long thumbs, or say, my enchanting brown eyes (don’t deny them).
It was ignoring my leg that put me in hospital. The reality is I don’t want to go back in there so the choice is clear for me: work with the Lymphoedema and live a healthy life, or work against it and let cellulitis linger around a little longer.
Not too long after I was discharged, I sat down with my leg raised and began to stroke my skin. Watching the trails of white that followed my finger it seemed odd how the rest of my body worked just fine, but I had this one limb that couldn’t quite keep up. I found myself looking at my leg and almost feeling sorry for it. Not myself, but my leg, as if it were a separate entity.
It might sound strange but with this mind-set I have found it easier to avoid self-pity. It’s enabling me to focus on looking after the condition proactively. You quite literally have to befriend your Lymphoedema. When my leg is sore, I tend to it. When it aches, I rest it. If the skin is tight, I cream it, treating it with the attention it requires.
There’s no use in negativity. That’s not to say you can’t have days where you feel deflated, exhausted or fed up – that comes with life’s ups and downs, and ignoring these emotions can be detrimental. But in my experience, you’ve got to show yourself some love. You haven’t asked for this condition but it’s not going anywhere too soon so you can’t afford to hate yourself for it.
When you enjoy something you’re more likely to do it and the same goes for your Lymphoedema. With this approach I now take pride in my routine. I enjoy self-massage, applying wraps and moisturising as it’s helping the part of my body that needs it most.
It means I can do the things I love doing. I’m twenty-four and at the peak of my powers, supposedly. So whether it’s a drink with friends or travelling the world, Life is for Living. There’s no point in dedicating your time to self-care if you can’t then enjoy its benefits.