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.