Beth is a lipoedema sufferer who is so typical of many of the ladies we see at The Karri Clinic. She spent decades without a diagnosis, and despite living an extremely active and healthy lifestyle, was left in debilitating pain and exhaustion which affected every area of her life. More recently, Beth had lipoedema liposuction surgery under Mr Karri, with 4.5 litres of fat removed. Read about her story and be inspired by her progress and positivity…
Your name: Beth W-B
When did you first notice there was something wrong with your legs or arms due to lipoedema?
I have always known my thighs were more wobbly than everyone else’s. I was on every sports team at school and very fit but I could never seem to get hard thighs like my friends! It was only when I stopped karate at the age of 42, due to extreme tiredness and working full time that my legs turned into rolls.
‘I was still a size 12 but my legs were hideous, painful and bigger by the end of the day and I couldn’t understand why. They looked like they were 10x the size they should be!’
I felt that I must be lazy to have let them get like that but if I was only a size 12 why did they look so horrible? I blamed myself.
How did or does the condition affect your life?
By the time I hit the menopause at 42 I was exhausted. My legs were swollen when I woke up and I started the day in agony, particularly around my ankles, which is a common sign. I couldn’t exercise like I did before as I was too tired and I would get home and collapse straight into bed as I was in agony and had to get my legs elevated. I started to feel hopeless as nothing I did helped. I couldn’t understand why someone who was so fit, could end up like this at 42!
My husband acknowledged that my legs weren’t the best but he never made me feel ugly and always supported me and loved me regardless which I am so grateful for. He was also very supportive of my constant exhaustion.
How long did it take to get a diagnosis?
I suffer from chronic kidney disease so I went to my GP explaining the swelling as I thought it was down to this at first, what else could it have been?! She put me on water tablets to see if it would help but they didn’t. I was told, as everyone is, that I should lose weight but I was a size 12!
I always looked after my health and fitness and I felt it was so unfair.
I was still running 5-10 k a week at this point when I could manage it, and believe me, keeping motivated to get through 5k was becoming a real feat as my legs felt like lead, I looked like a whale and my feet were starting to hurt too. I would often spend the afternoon after a 5 k in bed too exhausted to move, how could I do any more?
‘I told her straight that I couldn’t do any more than what I was doing, I was eating quite well and I was still getting bigger. I didn’t want her thinking I was unfit and unhealthy when all evidence was to the contrary. My pride was dented big time and I felt my body was shaming me.’
Thankfully she listened to me and examined me closely. She thought the swelling was not due to the kidneys, but Lymphodema. She looked at my legs, which had pitting from the seams of my jeans and she sent me to the Lymphodema clinic. I was fortunate that my doctor sent me to the clinic quite quickly but I had been in pain for a few years by this time. When I got to the clinic they immediately diagnosed lipoedema and prescribed me support tights.
How did it feel when you were finally diagnosed?
I felt a weight had been lifted. I have always been fit and active and more recently had been in the prime of fitness as I got my black belt in karate at 39 and my 2nd black belt at 42. I was so fit and I just could not understand why I simply couldn’t manage it anymore.
I was told by my gynaecologist that stress had brought on an early menopause at 42 and this had then triggered the lipoedema to take hold. I was ashamed of my legs as I had always worked so hard to keep fit. When I was diagnosed I felt so much relief! The tights were hard to get on at first but changed my life! I had no pain at all and the tiredness reduced dramatically. I could even get my knee boots back on! I was so happy!
If you have had surgery for lipoedema, please tell us how you felt about it, how much fat was removed and how it went)
After a few years grace with the support tights, the lipoedema continued to progress, and the tights no longer kept my ankles pain free. I would have to wear them at night sometimes just to get to sleep. I noticed the Karri Clinic on Facebook and the discussion around water assisted liposuction and spoke to my Lymphodema clinic about it. They were so encouraging and said it was the only way to help the condition and if I could afford it I would be wise to do it before it got worse.
I was a size 12 at the point but buying size 16 jeans to fit my poor heavy, tired and painful legs. Mr Karri removed over 4 litres or fat, and the results have been amazing.
Tell us about your recovery and importantly life after lipoedema – we want people to know what life can be like after surgery?
I am now nearly 6 months post surgery. I have had other medical issues which have slowed down my recovery but I am now getting there! I have pain free ankles and can go whole days without tights at all, I never imagined that could happen! I still wear them for work as I just want to play it safe but there will come a time where I can go completely tights free!
I can get my favourite stilettos on now and my ankles look amazing, I can also buy tapered trousers and look normal in them and the knee length dresses I was no longer comfortable wearing I have been wearing again.
‘Seeing my new legs has made me so happy and has been worth the expense and recovery. When I saw them immediately after surgery I felt myself welling up, I had ankles! The joy I felt at that moment is something I will never forget.’
What advice would you give those struggling to get a diagnosis or perhaps living with the condition?
I would go to your GP armed with the information out there on lipoedema. My GP told me I was tired because I should lose weight and this really crushed me, it made me feel lazy and ugly and I was so relieved when I was correctly diagnosed. Keep at them, ask to be referred for support tights, tell them that the correct diagnosis will help ease other issues that will cost the NHS in the long run, such as knee replacements. Try everything! Be a pain in their necks until they refer you.
Anything else you want to add?
Do not be ashamed. It is so hard to feel positive when you feel so bottom heavy with no ankles and huge legs, but you are who you are, regardless of what is on the outside. Celebrate yourself and make sure you get the right diagnosis so you can enjoy your life!
Every lipoedema sufferer is different, the story above is just one of many inspiring stories. Thank you so much Beth for bravely sharing what is an extremely personal issue.
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