Anyone who knows me knows that for the last 10 months, I have been on a mission to find out why I am still suffering from excessive swelling in my lower legs after my pregnancy. Towards the end of carrying Cassidy, I started to notice severe swelling in my lower legs. Everyone boiled it down to water retention because it happened to me a few years ago. But after giving birth, it wasn’t going away.
I suspected that this was not water retention. Surely that would come to an end by now? I visited doctors, wore strange suits to promote lymph drainage, went for sauna sessions, saw physiotherapists and trained as much as I could, all in the hopes that it would go down. I even allowed a doctor to talk to me about liposuction! I was actually at my wits end. Not only was the swelling painful and sore if I stood or walked for too long, it wasn’t very nice to look at. My lower legs had lost its shape entirely and I felt so disproportioned. Because of training, my thighs and butt were toning up slowly but surely, yet nothing was happening from the knees down. I felt ugly, I felt big, I felt unattractive and incredibly unappealing! I did not feel comfortable wearing shorts or short skirts and dresses. I stuck to maxi dresses and longer skirts. I’ve always preferred them but I liked the option of putting on shorts without feeling self-conscious. My skinny jeans and boots were not my friend. I could not find wide calf boots anywhere and resorted to finding a tailor to add a piece onto my boot so that I could at least purchase and wear the boot I liked. I was living this restricted and confidence sapping life and just got to a point where I was like “I need to start accepting this now.”
Chad always told me not to give up and that if I feel it is something that can be solved, I should do it. And that my health comes first. Things like this just don’t happen.
So I didn’t give up.
By sheer luck, I stumbled on an article online about swelling in the legs. And you know when one article leads you to another and then another and then a website? I started identifying with the symptoms presented to me. And I made an appointment with a clinic that specialised in what I suspected I may have to make the final diagnosis.
By the time I got there and met the lady who would check me out, I was so used to showing people the swelling that I just sat there and let her ask the questions and make the assessment. But what shocked me was that for the first time ever, I could identify with what she was saying. She was answering each and every one of my questions. She didn’t look perplexed or look at my legs like I was some kind of alien. She explained that I have a condition called lipoedema. It’s a chronic disease. In a nutshell, it is a disorder of adipose tissue and lymphatic vessel dysfunction “described as a bilateral, symmetrical, flabby swelling of the legs that arises from deposition of adipose tissue. It can occur from your hips to your ankles and even your arms. And it can affect people differently and in different stages. It’s often misdiagnosed at weight gain or water retention. For me, this was from my knees to my lower legs and was in very early stages. Small but noticeable swelling. It is hereditary and lays dormant until an imbalance stimulates it. Some call it a childhood disease that is ‘awoken’ by hormonal imbalance such as puberty, pregnancy or menopause. Mine was brought about by pregnancy. And stress. (Post Natal Depression)
Honestly, I was shocked. But Isla assured me that it was treatable. It cannot be prevented or cured, but it can be managed. And just like other chronic disorders, it is something I am going to have to treat and manage for the rest of my life. The ways in which we will manage it includes massage by Isla (until I master the technique she teaches me) which really does work! I could actually feel this flowing feeling in my body as she lightly stimulated the lymph nodes and we saw visible results testing it out. My legs looked less swollen after ten minutes of it. I would need to wear compression stockings for a while because it takes at least 3 to 4 months to re-sculpt a body part. I need to change my entire eating plan, which isn’t that bad because I have been steering clear of junk (Abs by 30 remember?), and stick to leafy greens, less sodium intake and less red meat. I need to increase my exercise regime to four days a week as a matter of priority. Low impact cardio is a must. Basically, the way that some people take medicine to get better, I have to change my lifestyle to manage this disorder.
We also called an ex-patient of hers with the same symptoms as I have. Also brought on by pregnancy. She’s been able to manage her symptoms by doing all the things I described above. I found out that should I have another baby, the hormones will bring the excessive swelling back and there is a risk that it can get worse, but it can be treated in the same way. Consistency is key.
I’m really glad that I have answers. Now I just need to make this a priority. I know what to do and I will put my health first. I am in the very early stages and I’m lucky to have picked it up because untreated, it can really get worse.
If there is anything that this has taught me, it is to trust my instincts. I listened to the doctor a long time ago, even though there was this nagging feeling in my heart. Had I listened to it, maybe it could have been treated a lot sooner. But I know now and I’m equipped in making sure that I will be here for my little family for a very long time! (Lord Willing)
Happy Tuesday xxx