As part of Lipoedema Awareness Month we asked some inspirational lipoedema ladies to share their lifelong journey with the condition. Fiona Cowles tells us about how lipoedema advertently and inadvertently limited the things should did and wore before finally getting the diagnosis that has begun to change her life.
* A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to our lipoedema awareness campaign *
LIFE WITH LIPOEDEMA – THE BEGINNING
My name is Fiona and I’m 36 years old, I first noticed that there was something wrong with my legs at the age of 12 in my first year of secondary school, I remember one of the lads in my class asking during a PE lesson why my arms were so small and my legs so big.
Looking back the condition has affected my life in so many ways, from making excuses not to go out with friends on hot summer days because you know they’ll be the questions as to why you’re wearing long trousers when everyone else is in shorts, saying you’re not feeling too clever when you go with friends to the outdoor pool, so you sit around and watch everyone else having fun longing to join in but the thought of people seeing your legs is just too much.
Making excuses after a few dates with guys because at some point you know that they are going to think you’re a freak for keeping your legs covered and never letting ANYONE see them.
‘In the end, I just found it easier to live a single life and then didn’t have to worry myself over it’
As I’ve grown older my outlook on life has changed and only in the last two years have I been comfortable enough in my own skin to let someone else into my life, it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me and it’s only because of the lipoedema that it’s taken this long for me to finally be happy.
Buying clothes has always been a challenge and there have been many occasions when I’ve broken down in a fitting room with trousers that wouldn’t go past my calf. Then when I found a pair that would fit my legs they would be so big on the waist they’d be gaping at the back.
‘even the slightest knock on my legs resulted in large black bruises’
I’ve been fortunate enough not to suffer any pain from the condition but even the slightest knock on my legs resulted in large black bruises that would stay for weeks. I ended up yo-yo dieting for a few years, after losing weight everywhere else my legs would always remain the same size so I’d then end up putting on weight again to make my legs look not so out of proportion.
LIFE WITH LIPOEDEMA – THE DIAGNOSIS
I was unaware of Lipoedema until I saw Hollie Gregerson’s story in a post on Facebook, every word she said pretty much described me and my life, I must have watched the video 5 times just to make sure it sunk in! I then started my own Google search on the condition and found so much about the condition, armed with my new information I visited my GP who was unaware of the condition, she examined my legs and I had a blood test that day. I made a follow-up appointment for the results and when I went back to get them my GP had done some research and agreed that I had Lipoedema. She also told me that the NHS wouldn’t help with any surgery but I was referred to the lymphedema clinic at my local hospital and the nurse that I see there has been brilliant.
‘Finding out that there was actually a reason for the size of my legs and that it wasn’t my fault was such a relief, I simply cannot find the words to describe it’
From Hollie’s video, I saw that she had surgery at the Karri Clinic so started my research into surgery options which covered the UK and Europe. I decided to book a consultation with the surgeons starting with Mr Karri, I went to his clinic in October 2017, after a lengthy discussion with him on the day I left there extremely happy knowing that if I was to make the decision to have surgery it would be Mr Karri who I’d want to do it. I went away to really think about the road I wanted to take, after 4 months the decision was made and I went back to see Mr Karri in February 2018 to book in for water assisted liposuction.
LIFE WITH LIPOEDEMA – THE SURGERY
I had my first surgery under local anaesthesia and sedation on 29th March 2018 at the Karri clinic. Mr Karri and his team were great and I was very well looked after, the procedure went very well and I had 6.1 litres of fat removed just from the front lower legs. After a couple of hours in the recovery room, we were on our way home.
Following the procedure, I never really felt any pain, just some discomfort now and again. I took paracetamol before the first couple of compression changes but that was it. I was driving again after 4 days and went back to work after 5 days. I’m 8 weeks post op now and apart from some small areas of swelling and numbness I’m back to normal.
‘The difference that just one operation has made to me is fantastic, my legs are smaller and I can already fit into trousers that were a ‘no go’ before, I’m even wearing shorts again albeit only in the house so far!’
I’ve been amazed and pleasantly surprised with the whole experience and am so looking forward to getting my next operation booked.