Summer and Lymphedema: Relax and discover

31 May
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The departure board at Dulles airport, waiting for my flight to Paris.

Memorial Day in America is a solemn occasion, but it marks the unofficial start to summer in the United States. As most Americans shed heavy clothes and head for the beach with their family and friends, those of us with lymphedema brace ourselves…and feel isolated.

Our enemy – heat – has arrived.  We scour the stores (unsuccessfully) for summer pants that aren’t cropped or in some other way designed to reveal our compression stockings and swollen legs.  We seek shelter in air-conditioned rooms.  We hope and pray that our “summer swelling” will go back down when the cooler temps return in the fall.

Lymphedema can make us feel like a prisoner in our own bodies.  Especially in the warmer temps.  This summer – try not to let it.

It’s hard to believe that growing up (pre-lymphedema), summer was my favorite season.  But I didn’t love summer because of the heat.  I loved it because summer was freedom.  I could do what I wanted with my time.  Be with my friends.  Practice with my synchronized swimming team.  Go out on dates. Go to the movies.

This summer I have claimed a bit of freedom for myself and it makes me feel 16 again.  As I write this, I am on a flight to Paris for a  summer vacation. With myself.

Work has been an effective anesthetic for the pain of my lymphedema.  The more I work, the less I think about the discomfort in my legs and groin.  Focus, work, sleep, get up, repeat.

I enjoy working.  It brings me great satisfaction and I appreciate being able to work, when many with lymphedema cannot.

But my body needs to decompress every once in awhile, so that stress doesn’t exacerbate my lymphedema or bring on other health issues.

This summer, make time to relax and discover new things…even if it’s on a solo adventure.

Do what makes you feel free.  As Americans, it is our privilege.  As humans with lymphedema, it is our salvation.

 

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6 Responses to “Summer and Lymphedema: Relax and discover”

  1. Annie Navran May 31, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    How did you take care of your lymphedema for your international flight? I’m headed to France in a couple of days to study abroad for the summer.

    • brittavl June 1, 2016 at 5:51 am #

      Bon Voyage, Annie! My body endured the flight just fine. A few things helped. I got my packing finished early, so I could get plenty of rest the night before. Knowing my legs would be still for a long flight, I had a quick swim before heading to the airport, giving my lymphatic system a boost. Once I got through security, I purchased the biggest bottle of water I could find. I like staying hydrated and they never come around with enough water, especially if the plane hits turbulence. Of course travel with stockings on and keep them on for at least two hours after the flight. I walked the aisles of the plane every few hours to wake up my ciculation. Listen to your body. You will do just fine. Good for you not letting lymphedema “ground” your dreams.

  2. Althea Madigan May 31, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

    Summer! Relax! seems long since I could freely do that. Hope you have a good vacation with yourself. My favorite summer freedom is dancing in the rain. And compression stockings limit that, they have for 5 years. Yesterday, when it rained, i was so impatient, that i kicked off my shoes and danced in my stocking feet. It was a refreshing, freeing experience – stockings got wet and dirty, but my spirit felt uninhibited.
    Next i am going to find my old toeless stockings and walk in wet grass!

    • brittavl June 1, 2016 at 5:53 am #

      You are an inspiration, Althea!

  3. Elaine June 8, 2016 at 1:32 am #

    This is my fifth lymphedema summer, and I live in Tokyo, so it’s HOT and very humid, almost like DC. I have most missed wearing sandals outside, especially on my morning commutes (risk of damaged toes too high). So I wear sandals in the office to get my summer on and TOMS slip ons outdoors. This year, the first time I wore the TOMS, I actually tasted that summer freedom feeling. You DO adjust.

    I also fly back to the US once a year (13 hours non-stop). I wear my usual compression stocking plus an extra layer of a commercial compression stocking put out by Dr Scholl’s, get an aisle seat, drink a lot of water, and get up and move around often. I’ve flown to France too (just as long) and haven’t had trouble at all.

    • brittavl June 8, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Elaine. TOMS look nice. Good coverage and lightweight. Hope you manage well this summer in hot and humid Tokyo!

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