By Denise Bennett

Bad veins. Adipose tissue disorder. Legs.

photo of lipedema liposuction surgery on a legIt seems to be a whole new world focused on my legs. Having unknowingly lived with Lipedema since puberty, my legs have always been a focal point, but no more than they have been in the last year. Eighteen months ago I was diagnosed with Lipedema. It has been a whirlwind of activity since then. Multiple tests to confirm that all systems were “go,” were followed by 3 surgeries (liposuction on legs/arms/abdomen) and most recently, four procedures on the veins in my legs due to venous reflux. Thanks to Dr. Byrd for pointing this out.

Recently, I had the final laser venous ablation of the lesser saphenous veins and great saphenous veins in both legs. They were fairly simple surgeries. In most instances, the time span from walking into the vein clinic to walking out was less than 2 hours. I was awake, but under the influence of ATIVAN during the procedure. The surgeon and I talked the entire time. I had a few moments of discomfort while the catheter was being placed into my vein, and during the administration of the tumescent; and may have felt a few pinching, pulling and stinging sensations along the way, but in general, no pain to speak of.

The surgeon recommends taking it easy, wearing compression garments, and keeping your legs elevated as much as is reasonable for the first 48 hours. As with liposuction, the greatest discomfort I had was some swelling, bruising and itching.

I’m excited. This may be the last piece of the swelling and heaviness in my calves that I have faced for most of my adult life.

We must take care our all our body parts. They require maintenance, and in some cases, a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, we don’t come equipped with an owner’s manual, and no warning lights appear on our dashboard warning us of maintenance due, an impending stall, or a full breakdown. I learned from the vein specialist that there are many symptoms for vein insufficiency that are overlooked. Leg cramps, swelling in your ankles, tired legs after walking short distances, and even skin conditions can be attributed to vein issues. You do not necessarily have to have varicose veins or spider veins as evidence that something is wrong.

My vein issues are something that should have been addressed many years ago, no doubt. However, due to lipedema, I was extraordinarily self-conscious of my legs, and did not go to a vein specialist or vein clinic because I didn’t want to wear shorts for them to take a look at my legs. Since liposuction, my legs look better, and I have become more accepting of my own body and its flaws. I am now more willing to put my ego at risk to care for and do maintenance on the only body I will ever have.

This is the touchpoint. Neglecting your body due to wide-spread medical shaming and self-shaming can result in a generalized lack of care and be detrimental to your overall health. Recently, I read some comments about the need to change the categorization of lipedema as a fat disorder to an adipose tissue disorder. What’s in a name? A lot. Perhaps insurance companies and medical professionals would be less inclined to dismiss us in diagnosing and denial of insurance coverage for treatment if we stopped calling lipedema a fat disorder and instead used the words adipose tissue disorder.  I think there’s something to this. We have an adipose tissue disorder, and many of us have other medical issues that go along with it, such as venous insufficiency. We are denied medical coverage for a medical condition, and that is difficult enough. Why are we adding to our own burden by denying ourselves the opportunity to seek professional help because of shaming?

While contemplating spending money on myself for lipedema liposuction, I asked myself the question, “would I be agonizing over this expense if this was my heart, or my brain?” Of course not. Because our disease is about fat, we are shamed and we even shame ourselves into somehow thinking we don’t deserve to take care of our body.

Each of us needs to do whatever we can to advocate on our own behalf and get the treatments we need. I know many cannot imagine affording the medical costs, but in the meantime, do a mental check and make sure that you are doing all that you can. Don’t add self-shame to the list of challenges keeping you from your own health.

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