Being diagnosed with lipoedema

Being diagnosed with lipoedema

While I wasn’t much of a fitness enthusiast at school (the only time I was told off was to do with ‘get out of sports lesson’ notes), since moving to the UK over 20 years ago, I’ve pretty much always been a member of a gym. Last year I underwent some fairly hefty training for my Everest Base Camp trek, and one area that consistently gave me grief (apart from the hip) was the front of my legs above the knee. I hate my legs, and no matter what I did at the gym, they still kept getting bigger and flabbier. Worse of all, the more I trained and ‘built’ muscle, the more they hurt and felt constrained.  For all my massaging the cellulite away, the flabby thighs continued to grow.

It was during my trip that I noticed the circulation problems were worsening. On a long bus journey between Jaipur and Agra, my lower legs were so swollen that they’d doubled in size. I massaged them constantly, and I almost thought they’d explode, and my skin would rip apart.

So it was on my return that I did some research, and came across Lipoedema (or Lipedema depending on where you are in the world). All the pictures I saw confirmed that there was a reason that I, and my sisters, had ‘Mum’s legs’. More to the point, most of the women on my Dad’s side of the family had them too. A genetic condition that causes abnormal fat cell growth on the legs, and also upper arms.

Great….. Not.

So, I tried out the conservative treatment of MLD – that’s Manual Lymphatic Drainage. It helped, for all of about four hours.

Next stop was researching if it could be eradicated in me. Sadly there isn’t much you can do, other than specialised liposuction. I ummed, and I ahhed and got a whistle-inducing quote. Eventually a month later, when my delightful thighs had gained another inch and were stopping me from exercising all too often, I hit the press button on a bank loan for the surgery that would focus on the worst areas of growth.

The March Surgeries
I scheduled two surgeries, one on a Friday and the other on the following Monday, to ‘suck out’ the defective fat from my inner thighs and knee area. The procedures would be done under a local with Dr Gupta, of the Private Clinic on Harley Street. I followed all the pre-operative guidance, and also purchased a terry-towelling mattress protector, some cheap throw-away towels and a padded toilet cushion (definitely recommend that one, especially for the added height).

I found the surgery relatively easy and I carried on working through it on my smart-phone in the breaks (once they fill you up with the solution, you’re left for about 40 minutes for it to take hold). When Dr Gupta started the fairly vigorous removal of the fat, I just watched the canisters transfixed by the orange goo filling them. He removed about 3L from each inner thigh both times – so 6L of fat removed in total (although this does include the liquid).

I felt relatively fine and took an Uber home both times. The first time a friend met me there and helped out for a few hours, but after the second one, I was just independent.

The hardest thing was changing the compression tights. I was somewhat lucky in that the puncture marks sealed up within a day and stopped leaking out the fluid. Within a week of the first operation, I decided to have an Epsom Salts bath, and that was the first significant relief from the pain. I’d say the pain was predominantly from the compression though!

The bruising was spectacular, though and took about three weeks to start to fade. It went all the way down to my feet, despite only having the liposuction to just below the knee. I used Arnica a lot and supplements that improve circulation.

By week four, I could see the difference in shape, and I’ve lost about 2 inches on each thigh.

The aftermath
Sadly though, taking cells away from one area just seemed to make others grow, and I’ve gained an inch on each calf. The outer thighs haven’t got any worse, but they are more noticeable, which gives an odd shape. The areas around my knees have a little pouch of what was left and also loose skin, but on the whole, they aren’t too bad.

I did put on weight though, especially around my middle, and it took getting back into exercising to get rid of that – thankfully reasonably quickly.

I’m about to try out the Keto Diet, which is reported to be the only Lipoedema-Friendly eating plan. If not, I guess I will be saving for some calves, outer thighs and arms surgery next year!