Med­i­cal shock – my legs wouldn’t stop grow­ing

Jamie thought she was des­tined to be over­weight, but it was some­thing far worse

that's life (Australia) - - Contents - As told to April Glover

Star­ing at the mir­ror, I felt tears well in my eyes. What’s hap­pen­ing to me? I thought.

I’d al­ways been a size six. But over the past few years, I’d gained a lot of weight on my thighs, stom­ach and legs.

The kids at school were so cruel.

‘No-an­kle bush pig,’ they laughed at me.

My mum Chris and I put the weight-gain down to pu­berty and stress.

When I was bedrid­den for two months with ap­pen­dici­tis in my early twen­ties, I blamed that.

But my body con­tin­ued to swell. And it was so dis­pro­por­tion­ate. I was now a size 18 on the bot­tom and a size 14 on the top.

‘Walk­ing feels like drag­ging around slabs of con­crete,’ I said to Mum.

It just didn’t make sense. I lived a very ac­tive life­style. I went to the gym of­ten and was al­ways on my feet.

Then, one day while work­ing as a mis­sion­ary in ru­ral Tas­ma­nia, I got the flu and went to see a nurse.

Tak­ing one look at my swollen legs, she raised her eye­brows.

‘I won­der if you have lym­phedema,’ she said.

She told me it’s when a block­age in the lym­phatic sys­tem causes swelling in an arm or leg.

I felt shocked. I’d never imag­ined my weight gain was a real med­i­cal prob­lem.

My GP put me on a wait­ing list to see a spe­cial­ist, but it was two long years be­fore I got an ap­point­ment. Once there, he re­fused to di­ag­nose me.

‘You’re just over­weight,’ he said. ‘Try diet and ex­er­cise.’ ‘I’ve tried for years!’ I said. ‘But noth­ing works.’

Feel­ing de­jected, I left in tears.

When I moved a year later, I de­cided to see a dif­fer­ent lym­phedema spe­cial­ist.

‘I don’t think you have lym­phedema,’ she said. ‘You might have li­pedema.’

I’d never heard of it, but do­ing some re­search on­line, it sounded ex­actly right.

Large swollen legs… bruises… dis­pro­por­tioned weight…

It oc­curs be­cause of an ab­nor­mal ac­cu­mu­la­tion of fat un­der the skin.

The doc­tor said I couldn’t be treated un­less I lost weight and ad­vised me to go on a liq­uids only diet for six months.

As the hunger pains gnawed at my tummy, I just thought of my legs and it spurred me on.

Af­ter nine days, my skin was grey and I ended up in hos­pi­tal with mal­nu­tri­tion.

So in­stead, I spent $20,000

I felt like a wa­ter bal­loon ready to pop

on cos­metic li­po­suc­tion, where the sur­geon sucked out 900ml of fat.

But a year later, I looked the same as I had be­fore. It was dev­as­tat­ing.

Go­ing back and for­ward to dif­fer­ent doc­tors though, I was al­ways told the same thing… ‘You’re fat. See a di­eti­cian.’

By this point, I’d tried so many diets. Work­ing out at the gym five times a week, I cried as the weight re­fused to drop off. Start­ing to be­lieve the doc­tors, I won­dered if I was just des­tined to be the ‘fat girl’.

But weigh­ing 151 ki­los and be­ing in pain, I knew some­thing wasn’t right.

Walk­ing around, I felt like a wa­ter bal­loon ready to pop.

Then this year, I was scrolling through Face­book when a friend shared a page for ‘man­ual lym­phatic drainage’.

It was a type of mas­sage that en­cour­ages nat­u­ral drainage of the af­fected cells.

Amazed, I quickly mes­saged the woman, Lisa, who spe­cialises in treat­ing peo­ple with li­pedema.

Dur­ing our ses­sion, she agreed I was suf­fer­ing from a very se­ri­ous case of it and she put me in touch with a sup­port group and a new spe­cial­ist, Dr Chris Le­kich.

As I walked into the room, it was ob­vi­ous to him what my is­sue was.

‘I think I know why you’re here, but why don’t you tell me?’ he said.

I ex­plained about the years of frus­tra­tion.

‘They told me I was just fat and I could fix it all with healthy eat­ing,’ I said.

Ex­am­in­ing me, he said, ‘I can tell you right now you have stage four li­pedema, as well as lym­phedema.’

Not only did I have it on my legs, but I was one of the rare few who have it all over my body – from my an­kles all the way up to my breasts. This time, I left cry­ing tears of hap­pi­ness.

Some­one fi­nally be­lieves me! I thought.

Dr Chris put me on a strict keto diet, high in fat and low in carbs to turn the body into a fat­burn­ing ma­chine. Amaz­ingly, it helped me lose 23 ki­los.

Lisa also told me about a lymph drainage pod, which I use at home ev­ery morn­ing and night. It’s like a big sleep­ing bag with a pump to mas­sage my body.

Now I’m a size 14 on top and a 28 on the bot­tom, but even­tu­ally, I will have lipo-ex­trac­tion, which I hope will make me feel nor­mal again.

The val­i­da­tion that I wasn’t just over­weight meant the world to me.

I wanted to raise aware­ness in the hope no-one else suf­fered as long as I did with­out an­swers.

So re­cently, I pulled on a lit­tle black dress and feel­ing a bit ner­vous, I posted the photo on Face­book.

Beau­ti­ful in­side and out, some­one com­mented.

You are beau­ti­ful and brave, another wrote.

Their sup­port meant so much. I wish I was di­ag­nosed far sooner, but I hope I can help other peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing alone.

A rare case, it af­fected my

whole body

Slen­der at 16 My mum with me as a kid The com­pres­sion pod helps My legs to­day

I was re­lieved when I fi­nally found help I want oth­ers to know they’re not alone Have you been di­ag­nosed with a rare con­di­tion? Tell us at tl.fea­tures@ paci­fic­mags.

I tried ev­ery­thing

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