Every patient that I meet or read about who has lymphedema has a different fashion-oriented struggle. Because I have lower extremity plus truncal lymphedema my compression stocking is a 1.5. This means I have a full right leg stocking which meets a shorts component that extends halfway down my left leg. It’s basically like automatically wearing an ugly, ill-fitting pair of Spanx. But, I digress.
In a way I envy patients who “only have to worry about” wearing a thigh high, but I know that the grass is always greener. For primary lymphedema we apparently caught the condition early such that the actual amount of swelling isn’t terrible. But, due to the location of the swelling (my knee and thigh) the clothing that I would like to wear just doesn’t fit the way that I’d like it to. My style was/is: active, startup-friendly, yet professional (i.e. fun sneakers, skinny jeans, and the occasional flowy portofino blouse or a sharp tank, shorts, and the requisite fun shoes). I’m petite. The style worked. But, because I’m a small person, the size variation in my legs is noticeable.
At any rate, in looking at my stocking I decided that it was sufficiently ugly and needed to be covered… that is if I wanted to survive the uber hot Dallas summer.
As we already know, I struggled with looking in the mirror so changing my wardrobe wasn’t exactly one of those enjoyable tasks on my to do list… but, I persisted.
After a day at the mall and several evenings of online shopping, I found pants that I liked from Athleta: joggers. They were sharp. Tapered at the ankle, but otherwise loose(r) fitting in the thighs with a decent hug on the butt. Lucky for me, baggier pants for the summer were back in style and I was able to find two or three styles that I liked.
When I brought them home I tried them on for the love of my life and I didn’t feel ugly, nor overweight, nor like an alien in my own skin. That next day I wore a pair of them and allowed myself to look at my own reflection in a store window (an action that I had chastised myself for doing previously… I would only upset myself). I both looked and felt “normal”... happy… not miserable.
I don’t know if it was the pants, or the desensitization activity that I forced myself through by looking in the mirror. Either way, once I found a pair of pants that I liked, I found that the first words out of my mouth about my day weren’t “this is what’s going on with my leg today…” but rather “let me tell you how great I felt today”...
“Normal”? I don’t know. Tolerable? Yes.