By Francine Schwartz Schuler

Excited to be in size 14 jeans! Was once in size 30 jeans.

I have had a weight problem my entire life, starting as a baby, my mother was told to only give me skin milk. As a toddler, I had chunky legs and I started to become knock-kneed. My mother had me on diets from Weight Watchers, Scarsdale, OA, hypnosis, and others. I’d lose some weight, but never from my legs, especially once I started menstruation. As a young adult, I did the Medifast program and got down to 175 pounds. I was thinner on the top and 2 sizes bigger on the bottom, even with going to the gym daily, doing cardio and aqua aerobics. I had to stop because my liver enzymes elevated rapidly. I steadily regained weight though I was dieting and exercising.

In my 30s I rose to my highest weight of 425 before finally having WLS in 2016. I lost 120 pounds. Then started gaining weight primarily in my hips, thighs, buttocks and abdomen. I also was rapidly losing my mobility and was in intractable pain. I had been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome which was causing my arthritis to advance, chronic fatigue, and an immense amount of pain.

In 2018 I had trouble walking and doing other activities of daily living and was in pain constantly despite being treated by Pain Management. My quality of life was flying out the window.

In 2019, I could hardly walk, needing a rollator walker, mart cart and wheelchairs. I needed help bathing and toileting, and was hardly able to do any household chores. Little did I know I had started Peri-Menopause. My hip blew up on my right side and my calves and arms got bigger, my extremities were heavy, and I was in continuous pain and miserable.

I started searching the internet for my symptoms and came across images of legs that looked like mine. I immersed myself in learning about lipedema and was grateful that one of the most experienced and renown lipedema surgeons, Dr. Marcia Byrd, was local to me. She started on Complete Decongestion Therapy, including compression wrapping, Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage, supplements, and diet.

I worked with a certified Bariatric nutrition coach on a low-carb balanced food plan. I was able to lose more and currently weigh 195lbs., though my pain levels and advancing Sjogren arthritis are still extremely high and affect my activities of daily living and quality of life. I follow my food plan, work with a psychotherapist, fitness trainer, nutritionist, support groups, wear compression faithfully, use pneumatic pumping at least 3 days a week, exercise in a swim spa on the other days.

The worst part about this is the pain and dwindling quality of life. I am working hard and needed medical intervention and surgical intervention to change this trajectory.

If you have been diagnosed with obesity, you should contact Marcia Byrd, M.D. to find out if you have lipedema. She has helped thousands of women regain their quality of life.