Looking Good with Lymphedema.

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Looking Good with Lymphedema.

Postby patoco » Mon Sep 25, 2006 8:44 pm

Looking Good with Lymphedema.

I felt deformed and ugly and became extremely self-conscious...Eventually I looked differently at myself...I am not saying that I don’t have my bad days...

by Debbie Rahmoeller

Managing lymphedema requires lifestyle changes and definitely challenges the way you look at yourself. In February 1998 I was attending dental assisting school and had just remarried. My husband and I were immersed in the challenge of a new marriage and in helping the children also get used to living in our new family. It was a new and better life.

In June I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and needed immediate surgery. After surgery I had the usual postoperative pain, two catheters and a smiley face scar on my abdomen. I had to learn how to urinate again–talk about being embarrassed. While I was in the hospital, my pelvic area swelled and the doctor said that I was experiencing some lymphedema. When I was discharged, I still had one catheter. I knew I was lucky: the surgery had gone well, my cancer had been found at an early stage, and I didn’t need chemotherapy. While things weren’t the best, I was happy to be alive and I knew that I was going to be okay. Still, I was feeling self-conscious about my body. At home, I managed as best I could; but while my kids and husband were gone during the day and I was home by myself, I began to feel frustrated. Why couldn’t I just go back to the way I was before? That was the only time that I would let myself cry. Finally, I got the gumption to finish school and get on with my life.

One year later, we were camping when my right ankle swelled. I had no idea had caused it, but the swelling was painful. My husband rubbed my ankle and it felt better. A couple of months later I mentioned the incident to a co-worker and she suggested that I might have lymphedema. To learn about lymphedema I went online. Very little was available; but I did order a booklet from England that gave me the basics. I called my doctor, was diagnosed with lymphedema and was sent to a lymphedema therapist.

My treatment required having my leg bandaged from hip to toe. Going to work this way was not very encouraging. Then I was graduated to compression hose, which was like wearing pantyhose. It wasn’t too bad at first; but I quit wearing shorts because I felt self-conscious and thought everyone was looking at me. My self-esteem was extremely low. My husband kept telling me that he loved me for who I was and not to worry about my body. That helped some. When I was able to quit my stressful job, I joined a weight loss support group called TOPS. As I got control of so many aspects of my life including my weight, my self-esteem began to rise.

In 2003 my leg swelled more and become painful; my self-esteem plummeted. I felt deformed and ugly and became extremely self-conscious. My husband remained supportive and kept telling me that I still looked good to him. I continued with management of my leg, concentrated on a weight loss program and achieved my goal weight.

Eventually I looked differently at myself. I am young and I do look good. I wear a thigh-high custom made hose and wear shorts. I buy clothes that are complimentary and comfortable. When people look at me or comment on my garment, I use it as an opportunity to teach them about lymphedema. I am not saying that I don’t have my bad days, because I do. On those days I may not be able to get around as easily as usual or do my exercises. My husband and children understand; I do not dwell on it.

You have a choice: you can let lymphedema hinder you or you can make the best of what you have. Remember looking good is a state of mind more than a state of body. I look at the positive side. My lymphedema massage is my half-body massage every night! I also wear a night garment to manage my lymphedema; it looks like a soft gun case; my husband and I try to make jokes about it. Being positive is good medicine.

After major surgery you don’t want to think about something that will affect you in the future. You are already facing a dramatic change, I know because I’ve been there. If you keep a positive outlook with your surgeries or illnesses, you can keep a positive outlook on your lymphedema. Look into yourself, see the good and make the best of what you have. Play up your best attributes.

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About the Author:

Debbie Rahmoeller

Debbie Rahmoeller is a mother of two girls and wife to a wonderful husband. She resides in Springfield, Missouri where the weather is unpredictable. She has LE in her right leg and in the last year Debbie decided, to become an advocate for LE. She has appeared on local TV and radio stations and is the the LAF Community Network Leader for her area. Currently she is a stay at home mom and keeps busy with her parents and children. She enjoys doing sweadish weave and reads historical romance books, and is active in the TOPS group (take off pounds sensibly) and enjoys the lymph elist. drahmoeller@elymphnotes.org
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