‘I was so happy when the nurse told me my weight gain wasn’t my fault’

I first heard about Lipoedema three months ago, when I finally got a referral to a local Lymphoedema Clinic. I had been suffering from swelling and chronic pain in my legs for 10 years, which I put down to a serious car accident that caused extensive injury and scarring to my right leg. Every doctor, nurse and physio had said the pain and swelling were due to damage to my lymphatic system. I had nearly lost my leg in the accident, so what did I expect? A private physiotherapist got me an appointment with a nurse to measure me for compression garments, and I had to buy these privately as my doctor would not prescribe them.

But things did not seem right. I started the menopause, I gained weight around my bum and thighs, ate a healthy diet and exercised and still the scales went up. My compression tights no longer fitted and I started to get more pain in my legs, became less mobile and developed odd lumps, which I thought was oedema. In desperation, I reached out the the Lymphoedema Support Network, because trying to talk to my GP was mission impossible. Through them I then got an appointment at my nearest Lymphoedema Clinic.

At my appointment, the nurse asked to see my legs and said, ‘No wonder you are in pain; you have classic Lipoedema.’ They then described the symptoms. It was a lightbulb moment. I have always bruised incredibly easily, like my mum, and have hypermobile joints, like my dad. I’d always had on-and-off pain in my knees and hips, which was put down to growing pains around puberty and pregnancy. My skin started to change in my 40s – was it cellulite? I’d developed problems in my knees and feet and with my gait – insoles had been prescribed and I was told I had over-pronation and had probably always had it….but I knew I hadn’t. I had been a dancer and gymnast and it would have been spotted. I was asked if anyone else had large legs in the family, but couldn’t recall. Mum said her feet would swell in hot weather and blamed the extra weight around her middle on me (she was 45 when I was born), and I have no photos of her mother. My father’s sister was slim, but she died young, and his mother had been round but the photos I’d seen showed she had quite shapely legs.

I was so happy when the nurse told me my weight gain wasn’t my fault. I stopped stressing out over the number on the scales. I was able to tell my family to stop nagging me about my size, or making jokes about my big bum. I feel resigned about my shape, and though I’m still in pain and waiting for compression garments that fit, at least I feel like I am moving forward. I can explain the changes my body is going through and have ways to improve my mobility. I have found that reducing stress, water exercise and eating anti-inflammatory foods is helping. Now I just need to rebuild muscle in my legs and be pain free.

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