I owe my lymphedema an apology. Over the past 60 days I have put it through the wringer. I’ve done just about everything we are told not to do as lymphedema sufferers. Work 12 hour days, 7 days a week? Check. Subsist on pizza, coffee and Halloween candy? You bet. Exercise? Nope. Meditate? Nah-uh. Wrap? Not a chance.
Why did I put my lymphedema though this abuse? My chosen profession is politics, which means that every September and October is a test of endurance. The last two months before election day are a sprint with much at stake. This year, the future of the county in which I live (as well as my own immediate financial well being) hung in the balance.
Thankfully, this time we came out on top. My boss handily won re-election, and I still have a job. My lymphedema, on the other hand, came in dead last. My body had been so neglected that my lymphatic fluid felt more like lymphatic solid. I was so stiff, I made the Tin Man seem like Stretch Armstrong.
Subsequently, my immune system surrendered to a cold that had been lying in wait for weeks. Getting my body moving and whole again would take more than an oil can.
I didn’t intentionally put my lymphedema on the back burner for so long, but life is messy. Life is an important work project that keeps you from going to the gym. Life is a child getting sick, leaving you less time to elevate your affected limb. Life is a family member or a friend in distress, making manual lymph drainage the last thing on your mind.
Events that make us neglect our own well-being are inevitable. What’s critical is how we recover from these periods. We can recover. Our bodies, though encumbered, are amazingly resilient. Lymphedema sufferers are a determined bunch.
The first thing I focused on in my personal recovery was my neglected surroundings and daily routines: cleaning my house, doing the laundry, getting groceries in, opening up the mail that had been piling up for weeks. I was determined to fix external things that had been neglected before fixing myself.
This solution filled my refrigerator, paid my bills and provided clean underwear, but did nothing for my actual health. New strategy needed. Time to get away. Where does a girl go to find unconditional love and attention in order to take a breath and reset her health? Her mother’s house, of course.
So a few days ago I took a train here, and already I feel more like myself. Mom has made me sleep, get back into the pool, and she shoots me a dirty look whenever I reach for my Blackberry. I am well on my way to making amends with my lymphedema.
When you are on the outs with your lymphedema, you may not be able to go to mom’s house. Just try to figure out what is standing in the way of your recovery and remove it. And try to surround yourself with the people who will help you heal. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up. Last time I checked, neglecting to wrap was not on the list of unforgivable sins.