“Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that causes swelling when the lymphatic system is not able to drain fluid properly”.(Google search).
“Lymphoedema is a swelling that develops as a result of an impaired lymphatic system. This may be as a result of the lymphatic system not developing properly(primary lymphodema) or through damage or trauma(secondary lymphoedema). It can effect any part of the body but is most commonly seen in an arm or a leg……….a recent study has estimated that at least 240,000 people in the UK may be affected by this condition”(The Lymphoedema Support Network).
Not the most creative way to start a blog I grant you(above), but before I go on about my lymphoedema I wanted to inform you what this condition was just in case you had no idea. I have done blogs in the past about my lymphoedema and wondered if some of it did not make any sense to non-sufferers out there? I sadly am one of those 240,000 people at least, that suffer from lymphoedema in the UK. I have been told mine is primary lymphoedema. It has been a hellish year and a bit since being diagnosed. Nevertheless, I wanted to do this new blog to say how things might not be quite as bad with the lymphoedema as I first feared after all!
At the start of the summer this year(2015) I was in a really bad place mentally. One of the reasons I felt so depressed was because I had just been told that I DEFINITELY DID HAVE LYMPHOEDEMA. This was after being told wrongly that I did not have it, by a Vascular Consultant some months prior. I just been to see my GP to tell her about this news and how upset I was now feeling. On my walk home from this appointment I can recall some cheeky kids abusing me in the street about my weight and I nearly started crying in frustration as I walked past them. I was trying to be a fighter regarding the lyphoedema but I just felt so fed up about it all. There was nowhere left to run now you see, I now had ANOTHER LIFE-LONG health condition to put with for the rest of my days.
After a few days of feeling thoroughly fed up I decided that I needed to try and fight back. It was either that or give up I thought to myself and I am certainly not a quitter. I was devastated that the lymphoedema in my lower legs was confirmed, but at the same time it is not going to kill me or lead to an early death I kept repeatedly telling myself. I was bothered how odd my legs might look at times in a pair of shorts when say I am on holiday, however when I wear of socks it is barely noticeable at times. I did go through the stage though of looking at men with normal looking ankles and legs and being envious…..hope that does not sound too daft? The last Consultant who confirmed the bad news to me was really helpful unlike the previous ones. He gave me a leaflet that included information about certain leg exercises which can help lymphoedema. Nevertheless, the two key things he stressed that would help my lymphoedema the most were COMPRESSION GARMENTS and a thing called MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE!
Read any information about how to help alleviate lymphoedema and wearing compression garments will definitely come up. However, this is where I have a big problem. I have a spondylolisthesis(slipped vertebrate) in my lumbar spine with a compressed nerve, thus giving me daily severe sciatic pain from my left buttock to all the way down my leg. Currently, I also suffer with chronic pelvic pain due to a traumatic prostate illness that I had many years ago. All my pelvic floor muscles are inflamed with my right iliopsoas muscle/s in particular being very sore. Therefore, whenever I wear tight socks they make the sciatica a hundred times worse as well as giving me unbearable pelvic pain. Until I see a physio to hopefully help me with these two issues, then me wearing compression stockings that are extremely tight is a total non-starter. Trying to convey this to medical people though who are not experts in sciatica or pelvic pain has been a challenge and a half. It frustrates the hell out of me that here is a thing that will help my lymphoedema however I am unable to wear them….ARGH! Believe me, if I could wear compression stockings then I certainly would!
The second thing is a massage called MLD, Manual Lymphatic Drainage. This sounded a lot more promising after doing tonnes of research about it. Apparently, the therapist helps drain off the built up fluid by massaging it to pass through other lymph glands in the body that are perfectly healthy and functioning. For example, I have read you also have lymph glands in your groin, arm-pits and neck. The only issue was that this is a highly specialised technique and so at first I struggled to find a therapist near me that does MLD. Eventually I did find two women who did it. Disgracefully though in my opinion the NHS in my area does not offer this service, whether that be for free or not. Therefore, I will have pay privately to receive such help.
I was just about to go and have my first session of MLD when my OCD flared up quite badly. That really hit me hard and I got terribly depressed about things once again. I was fed up not having a career, girlfriend and much of a life whilst I try to sort my ONE MILLION HEALTH PROBLEMS OUT. I over exaggerate here of course but some days it does feel like I am fighting a losing battle, trying to get better from so many health conditions that I suffer from. Whilst I tried to re-group the MLD duly got postponed. This really frustrated me but I hope to go for my first MLD session in the next few weeks.
I did a blog recently where I explained how somebody I was talking too on social media, really helped snap me out of this very depressed state that I found myself in a few months ago. They were talking about their life and how it was going to change for the better in the forthcoming weeks. This as a result started getting me motivated about my life once more. They were going away from home to hopefully better themselves. It made me want to better myself too once again. I needed to get my fighting spirit back I thought. My chats with this amazing person really made me take a long hard look at myself in the mirror. I did not like what I saw either. I saw this guy who had really been unlucky in life with bad health issues but instead of fighting, he had now almost given up and seemingly accepted his SHIT LIFE. I had sort of resigned myself to now living a life that was unfulfilled on so many different levels. THAT IS NOT THE REAL ME. THIS IS NOT THE REAL ANDY THAT MY CLOSE FAMILY AND FRIENDS KNOW AND HOPEFULLY LOVE. I AM A FIGHTER, ALWAYS WILL BE, SO I NEEDED TO CHANGE MY MINDSET TO ONE THAT WAS A LOT MORE POSITIVE ABOUT THE FUTURE. I NEEDED TO START THINKING BIG ONCE AGAIN. I need professional help with my mental and physical health issues of course I do. I cannot get better by myself but having this new determined mindset not to just accept things the way they currently are, well it is a big breakthrough in my mind. I told my wonderful GP about this new sense of motivation that I had found. She said it was great to hear me talking about the future and my plans, it meant a lot.
With this new positive outlook in mind I decided that I needed to go on MY FIRST EVER DIET. I do not look fat but at the same time I have not liked my body shape for the last two years or so. I look a bit overweight and know if I lost some weight then I should look tonnes better. There are also the added health benefits to losing weight too. I therefore started reducing how much I ate at meals times. I looked at my diet and I was eating too much bread, biscuits and crisps.
Along with eating less I knew I needed to exercise more too. I used to be soooooo physically active, massively into the gym as well as played lots of sports. Getting physically fitter though is going be tricky with the pelvic and lower back pain that I now have. The pelvic pain from the age of twenty-one is why I stopped doing lots of exercise from that point. I could barely walk at first never mind run. A few years ago a physiotherapist said to me that my big tummy was not fat, rather it was due to not having any core muscles . With a non-existent core your pelvic problem has pushed this ‘ten pounds of sausages’ forwards she said. She further said how I needed to do lots of core exercises so that my tummy muscles sort of became retrained. I tried core exercises but they absolutely KILLED my inflamed pelvic floor muscles. Subsequently, whenever anybody else has suggested me doing core exercises I have been very resistant in doing anymore.
When I started this new diet I decided I should also try doing some gentle core exercises. I wanted to see if I could cope with it pain wise. I did some and even though they hurt my sore pelvis I was able to withstand the pain. Gradually I kept increasing how tight I pulled my tummy in. Some days I went too far which really hurt, but within about a four or five days of doing the core exercises I was staggered by how better my stomach looked. It looked so much smaller now. I no longer looked like a fat slob who could not be bothered exercising.
About two weeks after I had started doing the core exercises I walked to a local hairdressers which was about a good ten minute uphill walk. Walking anywhere for the last three years has really been an issue. I would feel so unstable and it felt like I was pulling a ten ton truck behind me. My legs felt so weak, like two pins trying to support a big stately mansion on top of them. However, upon walking to the hairdressers I was amazed just how good I felt pelvic pain wise. I had all this new power in my legs all of a sudden. On my way home I decided to go on a long walk due to my pelvis feeling so good. The day afterwards as expected my pelvis and legs did ache but they did not really hurt in an inflammation type way. I was overjoyed at not feeling so bad after the walk. I was now going to try and walk more I decided. Exercising more should really help me to lose some weight and get fitter.
I have not mentioned my lymphoedema for a bit I realise. It has taken me over 1800 words to finally get here, BUT I AM CONVINCED DOING THE CORE EXERCISES HAS TREMENDOUSLY HELPED THE LYMPHOEDEMA IN MY LEGS.
I started noticing that my legs and ankles looked tonnes better regarding how puffy they looked. For the first time in about two years my legs from the knees down were no longer red due to the fluid build up in them. I could see my legs returning to a fleshy colour and it felt really great. I had thin toes now all of a sudden, I had ankle bones. Of course there is still a bit of excess fluid in my legs but they have NEVER looked this good.
I cannot scientifically prove this but like I have said, I largely put down my lymphoedema improving so much due to me doing the core/tummy exercises. Walking more without a shadow of a doubt will be playing a role too. I have read numerous times on the internet how walking helps move the lymphoedema/fluid in your legs. Thing is though, I have looked at the state of my legs post ‘longish walk’ many times in the past and never have they looked as good as they do now. This is why I really think it is the core stuff that has led to such a vast improvement. I accept the cooler weather is also a factor too. Hot warm weather is known to greatly aggravate lymphoedema.
In the midst of feeling a lot happier about my lymphoedema, there has frustratingly been one negative development though. For about the last two weeks I have started getting a really nasty cramping sensation in my arms and hands. At first I put this down to my blood sugars being to high(type one diabetic). Then I felt like this when my blood sugars were fine so it could not have been down to my diabetes. I am not sure about this but I think this unpleasant feeling that occurs about ninety minutes after waking up at the moment, is due to the build up of toxins that I have in my system as a result of the lymphoedema. With the weather being colder I am not sweating as much as a result. This means I am not sweating as much toxins out of my body as I was say a month ago. I am not medically trained however so I could be talking rubbish. These cramps in my hands and arms might not be related to my lymphoedema but I think they are. I look forward to chatting ‘all things lymphoedema’ when I see this lady soon for manual lymphatic drainage.
I just wanted to write this blog to inform non-sufferers what it is like to suffer from lymphoedema. I also wanted to inform sufferers out there how me doing core exercises has really helped this condition in my legs. All I have done is EXERCISE MORE……….sounds simple BUT LATELY IT IS BEST THING THAT I HAVE DECIDED TO DO!