By Denise Bennett
Did you know that being in water is the only place that gravity doesn’t affect the circulation in your legs, other than outer space or standing on your head? This is a good reason to get wet, especially at the end of the day.
I swim and exercise daily in the deep end of the pool. The weight of the water is “free compression” on my legs; the coolness on a hot day makes my legs and entire body feel great and it lessons any end of day swelling I may have from the heat, humidity and just life in general with lipedema.
While swimming this summer, I got to thinking. I have always been a swimmer and love any time that I can be in a pool or on the beach, but this summer was different. This summer, something unexpected happened.
Growing up in a quiet, middle class Chicago neighborhood during the 1960s and 1970s, we were fortunate enough to have a pool in our backyard. I think my mom and dad wanted us all to learn to swim and be comfortable around water. I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised if part the reason they bought us the pool was to keep us in our own yard and out of trouble during the summer months. Whatever the reasons, it worked. We can all swim, and none of us ended up in trouble or in jail.
From day one, I was all about the pool. I was there for the set-up, and would be the first one it, blue lips and all. I loved swimming and was a natural. My dad built us a deck off the back of the house that allowed us to jump or dive into the pool without ever leaving the house. But, there were a few obstacles in this fairytale, namely, my legs. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my legs were never intended for being airborne. Even as a kid, they just seemed heavy. Even when we got new shoes, and all my brothers could run faster and jump higher…I could not. I laughed and ran and jumped, but even back then I knew there was nothing faster or higher about it.
A childhood friend recalled to me recently about an evening in our pool where I tried repeatedly to dive into our pool from the deck. Every single time was a belly flop. He said, “you wouldn’t stop trying but your thighs just kept getting redder with each impact.” He told the story of how on one particular night my dad held onto my ankles as I was getting ready to dive off the deck, and as I jumped, he flipped my legs up so that I could get them over my head. Finally, a dive. Spectacular for the moment. But, in the big picture of life, my dad couldn’t follow me and help me make all the dive successfully.
What I learned was that I could swim, and I could float, and that I just needed to work with the gifts I did have. Forget about diving. And so, I did a lifetime of floating and swimming.
This summer was the first summer since my liposuction for lipedema. One day, I was relaxing in the pool and decided to just float for a while. I stretched by body out, laid my head back and waited for my legs to float to the top of the pool water. Didn’t happen. I tried again. Didn’t happen. Nothing I could do could stop my legs from sinking. Liposuction transformed my legs from bobbers to sinkers!
I started thinking about all the subtle changes that have taken place since liposuction surgery. I asked a group of fellow “liposuction for lipedema” women what changes they’ve noticed. I think it is important to be aware of things like this because there are so many days where each of spend our time thinking about what our legs look like that we overlook all the ways in which our bodies have changed.
Here’s a list of things women said about how their lives changed after being treated for their lipedema. Maybe you hadn’t noticed these changes, and maybe they have happened to you as well. Think about this for a while. It’s a great list of things to encourage ourselves with on those days that we still look down at our legs or stare at our arms in the mirror and contemplate our imperfections.
Real women have said…digestive issues have resolved, hair stopped falling out, feet are no longer freezing, knees don’t rub together when walking, able to wear boots, blood pressure cuff and tourniquets doesn’t hurt my arm any more, I am stronger, I have more energy, less bruising, feeling like myself in my body, self-confidence has improved, I can wear shirts without them squeezing my arms and skirts above my knees, I can run faster, reduction in hip pain, I am less puffy all over, it is easier to lose weight, I can walk all day long with no pain, I can wear “normal” jeans and pants, my legs feel lighter, it’s easier to get in and out of my car, I have ankles and knees for the first time in 40 years, I don’t feel like my fat is bouncing, I can bounce my grandchild on my lap without severe pain in my things, I can cross my legs while sitting, don’t get tired walking up the stairs, the soles of my shoes aren’t wearing down unevenly, increased hair growth on my legs, less swelling, I can wear capris, people don’t glance at my legs when I walk into a room, I can sit comfortably to watch a play or show at the theatre, easier to find clothing, more social and happy, I can wear a sleeveless shirt, heat is more tolerable in the summer, I am dating again, my psoriasis went away, and my dry eyes are no longer dry, and finally, my outside matches my inside.
I still can’t dive. Smile.
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